University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
new search
page permalink
Case Name Evenson-Childs v. Ravalli County Sheriff's Office CJ-MT-0004
Docket / Court 9:21-cv-00089 ( D. Mont. )
State/Territory Montana
Case Type(s) Criminal Justice (Other)
Special Collection Fines/Fees/Bail Reform (Criminalization of poverty)
Attorney Organization Equal Justice Under Law
Case Summary
Plaintiff, a homeless resident of the state of Montana, filed this putative class action against Ravalli County Sheriff’s Office on August 9, 2021 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana. She challenged the Office’s practice of charging pre-trial arrestees released on bail for ... read more >
Plaintiff, a homeless resident of the state of Montana, filed this putative class action against Ravalli County Sheriff’s Office on August 9, 2021 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana. She challenged the Office’s practice of charging pre-trial arrestees released on bail for various forms of pre-trial supervision, such as ankle monitors and breathalyzers, and of requiring pre-trial arrestees to sign a contract stating that they can be criminally charged with felony theft and criminal mischief if they do not maintain contact with their pre-trial officer or if they damage the supervision device. Plaintiff had already accrued more than $5,000 in pre-trial fees. She brought claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of her Fourteenth Amendment procedural due process and equal protection rights and her Eighth Amendment right to be free of cruel and unusual punishment. She also brought state law claims alleging violation of equal protection and social condition discrimination, false imprisonment, and coercive contracts in violation of due process. Plaintiff, represented by Equal Justice Under Law and Upper Seven Law, sought declaratory and injunctive relief, damages, and attorneys’ fees and costs. U.S. District Judge Dana L. Christensen was assigned.

In particular, plaintiff alleged that the Ravalli County Sheriff’s Office’s pre-trial release program functioned to push pre-trial arrestees further into the criminal legal system and to entrap them in a cycle of debt because of non-refundable, expensive supervision fees and the threat of further criminal charges for non-compliance. Pre-trial supervision, she alleged, was imposed without consideration of necessity or ability to pay, with fees set at the discretion of the pre-trial supervision unit of the Sheriff’s Office. Although the pre-trial fees operated as an extension of bail, she argued, no procedural protections or findings of guilt governed their imposition, as required. Moreover, the fees were imposed arbitrarily, without assessment of individual risk or ability to pay, and without judicial supervision or apparent limit. Those without houses, like plaintiff, were required to wear an ankle monitoring device or pay an expensive cash deposit before they would be released from jail, which plaintiff challenged as status-based discrimination. Finally, she challenged the practice of revoking bail based on inability to pay pre-trial fees as criminalization of poverty and a violation of due process, as well as wealth-based discrimination.

Plaintiff sought to represent a class of “all persons who have been or will be: accused of a crime in Ravalli County, Montana, arrested, incarcerated, placed on pre-trial supervision, and charged pre-trial fees without ever being convicted for the crime for which supervision was ordered.” She further sought to bring the action as a representative of the following subclass: “All indigent persons who have been or will be: accused of a crime in Ravalli County, Montana, arrested, incarcerated, placed on pre-trial supervision, and charged pre-trial fees without ever being convicted for the crime for which supervision was ordered.”

As of September 30, 2021, the case is ongoing.

Jonah Hudson-Erdman - 09/12/2021
Tessa Bialek - 09/30/2021


compress summary

- click to show/hide ALL -
Issues and Causes of Action
click to show/hide detail
Issues
Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Due Process
Due Process: Procedural Due Process
Equal Protection
Defendant-type
Corrections
General
Fines/Fees/Bail/Bond
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Ex parte Young (federal or state officials)
State law
Defendant(s) Ravalli County Sheriff's Office
Plaintiff Description A homeless resident of Montana, on behalf of “all persons who have been or will be: accused of a crime in Ravalli County, Montana, arrested, incarcerated, placed on pre-trial supervision, and charged pre-trial fees without ever being convicted for the crime for which supervision was ordered," and a subclass of all indigent persons in that category.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Equal Justice Under Law
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status outcome 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 08/09/2021
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
click to show/hide detail
  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
  Evenson-Childs v. Ravalli County Sheriff’s Office
Equal Justice Under Law
Date: Aug. 9, 2021
By: Equal Justice Under Law
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Court Docket(s)
D. Mont.
09/20/2021
9:21-cv-00089-DLC-KLD
CJ-MT-0004-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
D. Mont.
08/09/2021
Class Action Complaint [ECF# 1]
CJ-MT-0004-0001.pdf | External Link | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Christensen, Dana Lewis (D. Mont.) show/hide docs
CJ-MT-0004-9000
DeSoto, Kathleen L. Court not on record [Magistrate] show/hide docs
CJ-MT-0004-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Baker, Natasha (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
CJ-MT-0004-0001 | CJ-MT-0004-9000
Sommers-Flanagan, Rylee K (Montana) show/hide docs
CJ-MT-0004-0001 | CJ-MT-0004-9000
Telfeyan, Phil (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
CJ-MT-0004-0001 | CJ-MT-0004-9000
Van Kley, Constance (Montana) show/hide docs
CJ-MT-0004-0001 | CJ-MT-0004-9000

- click to show/hide ALL -

new search
page permalink

- top of page -