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Jenkins v. The City of Jennings

United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri
4:15-cv-00252 (2015)


Facts

The City of Jennings (defendant) put Samantha Jenkins and other impoverished individuals (plaintiffs) in jail for failure to pay fines related to traffic tickets and other minor violations. The impoverished individuals were not provided counsel or any opportunity for an inquiry into their ability to pay prior to being jailed. Given the impoverished individuals’ financial situation, they could not afford to pay the fines in full. Nevertheless, the impoverished individuals were told they would be jailed indefinitely unless they paid their debts. The amount of money the impoverished individuals needed to pay to bail them out of jail changed by the day, usually decreasing while an individual was incarcerated. Once a week, the city held a “confined docket” at which the impoverished individuals were brought before city clerks, the city prosecutor, and a city judge. The individuals were not afforded counsel or advised of their constitutional rights prior to or at these proceedings. Further, the city locked the doors of the court, ensuring the public could not view the proceedings. During a confined docket, the impoverished individuals were again told that they would be jailed until they paid a certain amount of their debt. The impoverished individuals filed a class action civil complaint against the city, alleging several constitutional violations, including violations of their procedural due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning

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