Fowler v. Johnson

Plaintiffs allege that the Michigan Department of State’s automatic suspension of driver’s license of persons who owe court fines and fees, regardless of their ability to pay violates due process and equal protection. A person with an outstanding court debt for 28 days, receives a notice informing them that failure to pay the debt within 14 days will result in automatic suspension of their license. Before the suspension is lifted, drivers are also required to pay a $45.00 suspension fee which may be multiplied if multiple debts are owed.  Anyone caught driving with a suspended license faces an additional 30-day suspension and a reinstatement fee of $125.


Court issued a preliminary injunction enjoining the defendants from suspending license of individuals without a hearing on their ability to pay. Several appeals, stays and remands were issued by the 6th circuit, including one requiring the district court to address standing. Plaintiffs attempted to amend the complaint to add two other parties but the motion was denied. The district court found one plaintiff has standing to pursue the lawsuit. Case is pending.

You can find a detailed summary and case documents via the Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse and the Equal Justice Under Law site. You can also read more about one of the plaintiffs, Kitia Harris. 

42 USC § 1983 (alleging due process and equal protection violations)
4:17-cv-11441 (E.D. Mich.)
May 2017
Equal Justice Under Law and Maurice and Jane Sugar Law Center