The City of Sherwood established a special “hot check” court to hear cases involving bounced checks. Plaintiffs alleged that the court routinely jailed indigent persons unable to pay court fines and fees without any inquiry into their ability to pay. One defendant was arrested seven times, and jailed for over 25 days because she wrote a bounced check for $28.93. Despite having paid $640.00, she was incarcerated because she was unable to pay the remaining $2656.93 of fines and fees.
Settlement: November 2017
Although the Court granted defendants’ motions to dismiss, the parties entered into a Stipulated Settlement Agreement in November 2017.
- Judge will inquire about the defendant’s ability to pay.
- Defendants will not be jailed for their inability to pay.
- Defendants unable to pay can do community service instead.
- Defendants will only be jailed if their failure to pay or complete community service is willful.
- All arrest warrants for failure to pay, failure to appear, and to comply with probation issued by the Sherwood District court prior to November 1, 2016 were recalled and purged from the City’s warrant database system.
You can find a detailed summary and case documents via the Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse.
Causes of action: 42 USC § 1983, alleging due process and equal protection violations.
Docket Number: 4:16-cv-00602-JM (E.D. Ark)
Date of Complaint: August 2016, amended September 2016
Counsel for the Plaintiff: Betinna E. Brownstein Law Firm and the Koch Law Firm on behalf of Arkansas Civil Liberties Union Foundation, Inc., Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and Morrison & Foerster LLP