St. Louis Record

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Ferguson denied dismissal of case filed by plaintiffs alleging they were jailed indefinitely because they couldn't pay citations

Federal Court

By Marian Johns | Sep 17, 2019


ST. LOUIS – The city of Ferguson has been denied its fourth attempt to dismiss a class action lawsuit filed by people claiming they were jailed indefinitely for their inability to pay traffic and other minor offense citations in violation of their constitutional rights. 

According to an order entered last month, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri Eastern Division, the city of Ferguson has attempted to get the four-year old case filed by the plaintiff Keilee Fant and others dismissed. Among the city's arguments is that the plaintiffs' claims involve the Ferguson Municipal Court, a separate entity, that should be joined as a co-defendant.  

"The city asserts that, as a matter of law, it cannot be held liable for the municipal court’s conduct," U.S. District Judge Audrey Fleissig stated in the court's decision. "If the city is correct, and if the actions complained of were caused by the municipal court, then as explained above, plaintiffs’ claims may fail on the merits. But resolution of these issues does not require the municipal court’s joinder. Because the municipal court is not a required party under Rule 19(a), the court need not address whether dismissal is required under Rule 19(b). The city’s motion must be denied."

The plaintiffs claim that they were "not afforded counsel" or asked about their inability to pay their fines to the city and were "jailed in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions" until friends or family could make payment. They allege the city's actions are part of a "revenue-generating scheme."

According to the order, in its appeal, the city also argues there "is a potential for injury to the interests of the municipal court" and that the municipal court is "immune from suit."

The plaintiffs seek damages, a declaration from the city of Ferguson that their constitutional rights were violated and an injunction against the city in relation to its policies.

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