The City of Ferguson jails people when they cannot afford to pay their traffic debt and cash bonds for other minor offenses. No inquiry is made into the person’s ability to pay, no alternatives to payment are offered to the individuals, and no counsel is provided. Jail officers arbitrarily set amount for relatives to pay in order for the individuals to be released. According to the complaint, “In 2014 the City of Ferguson issued an average of more than 3.6 arrest warrants per household and almost 2.2 arrest warrants for every adult, most in cases involving unpaid debt for tickets.”
On January 10, 2019, the Eighth Circuit dismissed the City’s interlocutory appeal for lack of jurisdiction, observing that the principle that an order denying a claim of sovereign immunity is subject to interlocutory appeal under the collateral order doctrine does not apply where the appealing party disclaims any immunity of its own and instead seeks to invoke the immunity of a nonparty. The District Court then lifted the stay that it previously ordered.
On August 6, 2019, the District Court denied the City’s motion to dismiss all but one of the claims, finding that the municipal court was not a required party to the action under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. On August 28, 2019, the City appealed the order to the Eighth Circuit.
On September 5, 2019, Plaintiffs’ motion to compel the production of certain documents was granted in part and denied in part; to the extent that the motion was granted, however, it was quite minimal. The Court granted Plaintiffs’ motion to unseal, noting the City failed to demonstrate good cause for sealing the documents at issue.
On September 19, 2019, the Court denied the City’s motion to stay the proceedings pending interlocutory appeal of the Court’s August 6, 2019 order.
On October 10, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit granted Plaintiffs’-Appellees’ motion to dismiss the appeal for lack of jurisdiction and denied City’s motion to stay the proceedings in the District Court as moot. On November 15, 2019, the Eighth Circuit denied the City’s petitions for a rehearing en banc and a rehearing by the panel. On February 13, 2020, the City petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari.
In the interim, the parties will proceed with discovery in the District Court, which ordered the parties to file a status report setting forth their agreed upon procedures and timing for discovery, or if they cannot agree, separate status reports setting forth each sides’ proposals for completing discovery, by March 13, 2020.
You can read the full text of relevant documents via the Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse.