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Case Name Wilkins v. Aberdeen Enterprises CJ-OK-0007
Docket / Court 4:17-cv-00606-CVE-JFJ ( N.D. Okla. )
State/Territory Oklahoma
Case Type(s) Criminal Justice (Other)
Special Collection Fines/Fees/Bail Reform (Criminalization of poverty)
Attorney Organization Civil Rights Corps
Case Summary
On November 2, 2017, individuals facing arrest because of their inability to pay their court fines and costs filed this putative class-action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma. The plaintiffs sued the Oklahoma Sheriff’s Association, every Oklahoma county ... read more >
On November 2, 2017, individuals facing arrest because of their inability to pay their court fines and costs filed this putative class-action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma. The plaintiffs sued the Oklahoma Sheriff’s Association, every Oklahoma county sheriff, and Aberdeen Enterprises, a private collections company. The plaintiffs sued under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and Oklahoma state law. The plaintiff, represented by Civil Rights Corps, the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection at Georgetown Law, and private counsel, sought preliminary and permanent injunctive relief, declaratory relief, compensatory and punitive damages, and attorney’s fees and costs. The plaintiffs also asked the court to certify the class as all people living in poverty, found to be indigent by the Courts of Oklahoma Counties, who were victims of an extortion scheme by defendants.

Specifically, the lawsuit alleged that Aberdeen Enterprise on behalf of, and in concert with, the Oklahoma Sheriff's Association, violated RICO by operating an extortion scheme targeting indigent individuals who have been assessed fines in criminal and traffic court in Oklahoma. The plaintiffs claimed that the defendants, motivated by a desire to extort, threatened plaintiffs that if they did not pay money to Aberdeen, they would have a warrant issued, be arrested, face testimony from Aberdeen about non-payment, face additional fees, and be sent to jail. According to the complaint, collected fines were then split between Aberdeen and the Sheriff's Association, and this scheme made the Sheriff's Association $829,075 in 2016 alone. In addition, the plaintiffs challenged the constitutionality of defendants’ actions, arguing violations of their rights to due process and equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment and Fourth Amendment. Plaintiffs claimed that the policies of keeping debtors in jail and placing them on onerous probation supervision solely because of their wealth status and inability to pay violated the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses. Additionally, plaintiffs alleged abuse of process by Aberdeen in using the justice system to accomplish ulterior motives in the form of profiting at the expense of these individuals.

Aberdeen Enterprises filed a motion to dismiss on January 8, 2018, but the motion was denied as moot, when shortly after the plaintiffs filed an amended complaint on February 1, 2018. In the amended complaint, six new plaintiffs joined the suit, some county sheriffs were dropped as defendants, and the additional allegations focused on the collections systems in Tulsa and Rogers counties. Two of the plaintiffs also sought preliminary injunctions to prevent Tulsa and Rogers Counties from jailing them for unpaid court debts.

By the end of March 2018, all defendants filed motions to dismiss. The plaintiffs responded by seeking leave to amend the complaint for a second time. On March 26, 2018, the court found good cause to delay starting discovery until the motions for preliminary injunctions and motions to dismiss were resolved.

On September 20, 2018, the court granted the plaintiffs' motion to amend the complaint and denied the motions to dismiss as moot. The second amended complaint clarified certain allegations in response to the motions to dismiss, added the allegation that Tulsa County stopped using Aberdeen when the lawsuit was filed, and added an additional plaintiff. The defendants subsequently filed new motions to dismiss. Throughout the end of 2018 and 2019, the parties engaged in briefing on the motions to dismiss and for preliminary injunctions.

On August 24, 2020, the plaintiffs filed a motion to open discovery. In response, the defendants urged the court to delay the opening of discovery pending the resolution of the plaintiff's motions for preliminary injunctions and future motions to dismiss by the defendants. On August 26, 2020, the court lifted the stay on discovery, but on September 11, 2020, the court granted the defendant's motion to reconsider. The court then referred the motions for a preliminary injunction to Magistrate Judge Jodi F. Jayne on September 26, 2020. On September 30, 2020, a motion hearing was held for the plaintiff's seeking preliminary injunctions. As of February 5, 2020, the motions for preliminary injunctions are still pending and no discovery has taken place. This case is ongoing.

Michael Cronin - 02/05/2021


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Equal Protection
Unreasonable search and seizure
Defendant-type
Law-enforcement
General
Fines/Fees/Bail/Bond
Over/Unlawful Detention
Poverty/homelessness
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), 18 U.S.C. §§ 1961 et seq.
State law
Defendant(s) Aberdeen Enterprises II
Numerous County Sheriffs of Oklahoma
Oklahoma Sheriff's Association
Plaintiff Description Plaintiffs are all people who were found to be indigent by the courts of Oklahoma and assigned public defenders, who were later issued warrants and/or incarcerated for failure to pay criminal court fines and costs
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Civil Rights Corps
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Pending
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None yet
Source of Relief None yet
Filed 11/02/2017
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
Court Docket(s)
N.D. Okla.
01/05/2021
4:17-cv-00606-TCK-JFJ
CJ-OK-0007-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
N.D. Okla.
11/02/2017
Complaint [ECF# 2]
CJ-OK-0007-0001.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Okla.
09/20/2018
Opinion and Order [ECF# 211] (2018 WL 4517468)
CJ-OK-0007-0002.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Okla.
09/21/2018
Second Amended Class Action Complaint [ECF# 212]
CJ-OK-0007-0003.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Jayne, Jodi F. Court not on record [Magistrate] show/hide docs
CJ-OK-0007-9000
Kern, Terence C. (N.D. Okla.) show/hide docs
CJ-OK-0007-0002 | CJ-OK-0007-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Blakemore, Robert Murray (Oklahoma) show/hide docs
CJ-OK-0007-0001 | CJ-OK-0007-0003 | CJ-OK-0007-9000
Downer, Ryan Chasce (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
CJ-OK-0007-9000
Friedman, Robert D. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
CJ-OK-0007-0003 | CJ-OK-0007-9000
Hubbard, Katherine (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
CJ-OK-0007-0003 | CJ-OK-0007-9000
Karakatsanis, Alec (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
CJ-OK-0007-0003 | CJ-OK-0007-9000
Letter, Douglas (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
CJ-OK-0007-0003 | CJ-OK-0007-9000
Lopez, Marco Antonio (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
CJ-OK-0007-0003 | CJ-OK-0007-9000
McCord, Mary B. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
CJ-OK-0007-0003 | CJ-OK-0007-9000
Mikkilineni, Tara (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
CJ-OK-0007-9000
Rossi, Elizabeth Anne (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
CJ-OK-0007-9000
Smolen, Donald E II (Oklahoma) show/hide docs
CJ-OK-0007-0003
Smolen, Molly (California) show/hide docs
CJ-OK-0007-0001 | CJ-OK-0007-9000
Smolen, Daniel (Oklahoma) show/hide docs
CJ-OK-0007-0003
Wayne, Seth (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
CJ-OK-0007-0003 | CJ-OK-0007-9000
Webb, Jill Elizabeth (Oklahoma) show/hide docs
CJ-OK-0007-0001 | CJ-OK-0007-0003 | CJ-OK-0007-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Applegate, Robert Earl (Oklahoma) show/hide docs
CJ-OK-0007-9000
Betts, Robert Lamar (Oklahoma) show/hide docs
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Chilcoat, Kelsey Ann (Oklahoma) show/hide docs
CJ-OK-0007-9000
Ellis, Isaac Robertson (Oklahoma) show/hide docs
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Etherington, Aaron (Oklahoma) show/hide docs
CJ-OK-0007-9000
Freeman-Burney, Melodie (Oklahoma) show/hide docs
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Hall, Kimberly Majors (Oklahoma) show/hide docs
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Heggy, Rodney J (Oklahoma) show/hide docs
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James, Robert Dale (Oklahoma) show/hide docs
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Jeter, Jo Lynn (Oklahoma) show/hide docs
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Jones, William Caleb (Oklahoma) show/hide docs
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Kelso, April Danielle (Oklahoma) show/hide docs
CJ-OK-0007-9000
Kosmider, Emily Brooks (Oklahoma) show/hide docs
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Lafferrandre, Robert Stevens (Oklahoma) show/hide docs
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Lawson, Stefanie E. (Oklahoma) show/hide docs
CJ-OK-0007-9000
LeBlanc, Thomas Adrian (Oklahoma) show/hide docs
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Parker, David Graham (Oklahoma) show/hide docs
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Parrish, Harry Anthony (Oklahoma) show/hide docs
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Powers, Barrett Lynn (Oklahoma) show/hide docs
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Remillard, Carri Ann (Oklahoma) show/hide docs
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Shouse, Michael (Oklahoma) show/hide docs
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Wagner, Todd Michael (Oklahoma) show/hide docs
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Warzecha, Chris M (Oklahoma) show/hide docs
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Wilson, Douglas Allen (Oklahoma) show/hide docs
CJ-OK-0007-9000
Wohlgemuth, Joel L. (Oklahoma) show/hide docs
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Wood, Randall J (Oklahoma) show/hide docs
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Wood, Scott Boudinot (Oklahoma) show/hide docs
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Woodard, John R (Oklahoma) show/hide docs
CJ-OK-0007-9000
Woods, Maurice Glenn (Oklahoma) show/hide docs
CJ-OK-0007-9000

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