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Case Name Morales v. The City of Indio CJ-CA-0024
Docket / Court RC 1803060 ( State Court )
State/Territory California
Case Type(s) Criminal Justice (Other)
Case Summary
On February 14, 2018 a property owner in the City of Indio filed a putative class action complaint in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Riverside. The plaintiff was represented by the Institute for Justice. The complaint challenged the city of Indio’s code enforcement ... read more >
On February 14, 2018 a property owner in the City of Indio filed a putative class action complaint in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Riverside. The plaintiff was represented by the Institute for Justice. The complaint challenged the city of Indio’s code enforcement system. The plaintiff claimed that the law firm of Silver & Wright LLP, which the city delegated its powers of criminal prosecution for code enforcement cases to, had a financial conflict of interest in these prosecutions. The law firm was recovering lawyers’ fees from those who had committed code violations. The plaintiff brought the claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, asserting that the defendant had violated her Due Process rights under the U.S. Constitution and the California Constitution.

The plaintiff was a property owner whose tenant was raising chickens, which is against the law in Indio. She pled guilty and paid a $225 fine, but nearly a year later received a bill for $3,030.33 in lawyer's fees associated with the proceedings. The class comprised of all individuals who pled guilty or no contest in a criminal case where Silver & Wright LLP, or one or more of its agents, acted as prosecuting city attorney(s) for either the City of Indio or the City of Coachella.

On April 9, 2018, the plaintiff, along with two additional plaintiffs, filed the First Amended Class Action Complaint. On May 4, 2018, counsel for the City sent the plaintiffs' class counsel a settlement offer. Additional settlement discussions ensued, and eventually the parties agreed to settlement terms.

The settlement terms included the city paying back all fees that were collected from named plaintiffs and class members who were criminally prosecuted by Silver & Wright, and relinquished claims to outstanding fees, removing any leins placed on them as a result of being criminally prosecuted by Silver & Wright LLP. The city agreed to no longer seek to recover its attorneys' fees in criminal prosecutions.

The court retained jurisdiction over the parties, the class members, and the settlement with respect to the future performance of the terms of the settlement agreement, and assured that all payments and other actions required by the settlement were properly carried out.

Additionally, legislation was later enacted eliminating the ability of cities to charge defendants for the cost of prosecuting violations of local ordinances.

Anna Brito - 02/06/2019


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Due Process: Procedural Due Process
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
General
Conflict of interest
Fines/Fees/Bail/Bond
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
State law
Defendant(s) City of Indio
Plaintiff Description a property owner in the City of Indio
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Damages
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Filed 02/13/2018
Case Closing Year 2019
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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  Class Action Lawsuit Challenges California Cities' For-Profit Prosecution Scheme
https://ij.org/case/indio-fines/
Date: Jan. 1, 2020
By: Institute for Justice
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Court Docket(s)
No docket sheet currently in the collection
General Documents
State Trial Court
02/13/2018
Complaint
CJ-CA-0024-0001.pdf | Detail
Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
State Trial Court
12/12/2018
Settlement
CJ-CA-0024-0002.pdf | Detail
Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
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Plaintiff's Lawyers Strong, Sabrina H (California) show/hide docs
CJ-CA-0024-0001

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