United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Montgomery Division
DAVID PROCTOR, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
case is before the court on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss
Second Amended Complaint (Doc. # 49), Plaintiffs' Motion
for Partial Summary Judgment (Doc. # 85), and Defendants'
Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. # 109). The motions have
been fully briefed. (See Docs. # 52, 99, 104, 116,
118). The court held oral argument for the motions on July
24, 2017. After careful review of the parties'
submissions and the Rule 56 record, the court concludes that
while Plaintiffs' motion for partial summary judgment is
due to be denied, Defendants' motion for summary judgment
is due to be granted.
Plaintiffs' Second Amended Complaint, Plaintiffs Linda
Thurman and Courtnee Carroll raise four categories of claims
against Defendants Judicial Correction Services, Inc.
(“JCS”) and Correctional Healthcare Companies,
Inc. (“CHC”). (See Doc. # 53 at
¶¶ 30-41). First, Plaintiffs claim that they are
entitled to declaratory judgments against Defendants.
(Id. at ¶ 32). Specifically, Plaintiffs ask the
court to declare that: (1) JCS violated state and federal law
by commanding probationers to pay fines and fees pursuant to
documents that were not lawful orders of probation; (2) JCS
violated state and federal law by commanding or coercing
monetary payments from individuals above the relevant
statutory maximums; (3) JCS violated state and federal law by
imposing probation for periods longer than the relevant
statutory maximum; (4) JCS was unjustly enriched by its
conduct; and (5) JCS obstructed justice and violated
Plaintiffs' equal protection rights. (Id.).
Second, Plaintiffs allege that Defendants were unjustly
enriched by their collection of fees without legal authority
and “should be ordered to disgorge the ill-gotten
gains.” (Id. at ¶ 35). Third, they allege
that Defendants unlawfully obstructed the administration of
law, in violation of Alabama Code § 13A-10-2, by warning
the named Plaintiffs to not contact the municipal court about
probation matters. (Id. at ¶¶ 20, 39-41).
Finally, Plaintiffs allege that Defendants violated their
rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth
Amendment. (Id. at ¶¶ 40-41).
January 2013, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the Second
Amended Complaint. (Doc. # 49). In that motion, Defendants
argue that: (1) the Second Amended Complaint fails to state a
claim for relief; (2) the Second Amended Complaint fails to
allege a causal connection between Defendants' conduct
and Plaintiffs' alleged injuries; (3) Defendants are
entitled to absolute quasi-judicial immunity; (4) JCS did not
act under the color of state law; and (5) the Second Amended
Complaint does not plead fraud with particularity. (See
generally Doc. # 50).
April 2013, Plaintiffs filed a motion for partial summary
judgment. (Doc. # 85). In their summary judgment motion,
Plaintiffs seek a declaratory judgment that JCS was not
authorized to collect probation fees from orders that had not
been signed by a municipal court judge. (See Id. at
2). In turn, Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment
in September 2013. (Doc. # 109).
claims arise from their traffic cases before the Municipal
Court for Montgomery, Alabama (“Municipal
Court”). The court addresses the material facts
regarding each Plaintiff's claims, in turn.
April 2010, Montgomery police issued three tickets to
Plaintiff Carroll for failing to use a child restraint,
switching tags, and driving without a license. (See
Doc. # 99-14 at 2, 5, 8). When Carroll received the tickets,
she called the Municipal Court and asked them how much she
would be required to pay for the tickets. (Doc. # 85-3 at
6-7). A Municipal Court employee told Carroll that she would
be required to pay approximately $500 for the three tickets.
(Id. at 7).
2010, Carroll pled guilty to all three charges. (See
Doc. # 99-14 at 3, 6, 9). Carroll went to the Municipal Court
on the assigned court date. (Doc. # 85-3 at 6). She informed
an employee at the Municipal Court's window that she
wanted a payment plan, and the employee instructed her to
wait by a door. (Id. at 9). Carroll has testified
that she wanted to admit that she was guilty of the offenses
so that she could pay off the fines and not wait.
(Id. at 10). Moreover, she desired to pay off the
fines and fees levied against her. (Id.). The
Municipal Court imposed $25 fines for the child-restraint and
switched-tag offenses and a $75 fine for driving without a
license. (See Doc. # 99-14 at 3, 6, 9). The
Municipal Court also charged Carroll $113 in court costs for
each offense. (See id.). The Municipal Court's
orders regarding the tickets state that it referred Carroll
to JCS. (See id.) (statement stamped onto the
14, 2010, Carroll signed an “order of probation,
” issued on the Municipal Court's letterhead.
(See Doc. # 85-2 at 2). The order placed Carroll on
probation for 12 months. (Id.). It directed her to
pay a $10 set-up fee and a $40 per month fee to JCS.
(Id.). It also directed her to pay $140 per month
towards the amounts she owed to the Municipal Court and JCS.
(Id.). The order listed the fines and costs Carroll
owed for her April 2010 offenses. (Id.). But, the
probation order also stated that Carroll owed $341 from an
earlier case. (Id.).
with the financial obligations, Carroll's order of
probation directed her to report to a probation officer as
instructed and to notify the probation officer of any change
in residence or employment. (Id.). It instructed
Carroll to work during her probation, unless she was a
full-time student. (Id.). The order warned Carroll
that she could be arrested for violating any term of
probation and that her probation could be revoked
“accordingly.” (Id.). Carroll and a JCS
employee each signed the order. (Id.). But, the
signature block for the Municipal Court remained blank.
to Plaintiffs, Carroll also received a document from JCS with
additional probation instructions. (Doc. # 85-4 at 2).
JCS's document directed Plaintiff to not contact the
Municipal Court. (See Doc. # 85-4 at 2)
(“Do not contact the Municipal Court they will
be unable to help you.”) (emphasis in original).
Instead, JCS directed Carroll to contact her probation
officer, Elizabeth Allen, with any questions. (Id.).
has conceded that no one forced her to sign the probation
order. (Doc. # 111-1 at 5). Nor did anyone coerce or command
her to make monthly payments to JCS. (Id. at 12).
But, she has testified that she was unaware of the probation
sentence and believed that the forms she signed were
“the process of the payment plan.” (Doc. # 85-3
at 13). Carroll paid off her financial obligations for the
three offenses by January 2011. (See generally Doc.
to the Municipal Court's electronic records, in January
2012, Plaintiff Thurman received a citation for failing to
possess or display insurance. (Doc. # 99-8 at 1-2). Thurman
has testified that she was guilty of the offense and agreed
to plead guilty to it. (Doc. # 99-3 at 5). She pled guilty to
the offense by signing her traffic ticket. (Id. at
5-6). Thurman wished to pay the fine imposed by the Municipal
Court “over an extended period of time.”
(Id. at 7).
February 10, 2012, Thurman signed an “order of
probation, ” issued on the Municipal Court's
letterhead. (Doc. # 85-11 at 2). The order directed Thurman
to pay $279 in court costs for failing to possess or display
insurance. (Id.). It instructed her to pay
$140 per month towards the amount she owed. (Id.).
It also contained the same probation conditions as those in
Carroll's order, including the obligation to pay a
one-time fee and monthly fees to JCS. (Id.). Thurman
and a JCS employee signed the order of probation.
(Id.). Judge Les Hayes's last name was
handwritten into the order, along with a set of initials.
to Thurman, she voluntarily agreed to the conditions of
probation. (Doc. # 99-3 at 8-9). Although she agreed to sign
the probation order, she recalled that she did not have an
opportunity to choose whether to pay the $40 probation fee to
JCS. (Id. at 9). She did not consider challenging
the ticket before one of the Municipal Court's judges.
(Id. at 10-11).
has testified that a JCS employee instructed her to bring $35
or $40 with her to scheduled probation appointments.
(Id. at 7-8). JCS employees threatened to issue
arrest warrants against her if she did not bring “at
least $5.00” with her to a probation appointment.
(Id. at 13). Thurman paid off the amounts owed for
the citation on August 3, 2012. (Doc. # 99-8 at 1). On that
same day, the Municipal Court entered her guilty plea and the
sentence against her. (Id.).
Other Material Facts
Hamby, a JCS employee, has testified that the Municipal Court
had an unwritten policy for placing individuals on probation
at the Municipal Court. (Doc. # 99-12 at 5-6). If a defendant
appeared at the clerk's window and agreed to be placed on
probation with JCS, a JCS intake specialist would sign the
defendant up for probation, write the judge's name on the
probation order, and initial the order. (Id. at 6).
Judge Hayes memorialized the Municipal Court's probation
policy with JCS in a 2013 standing order. (Doc. # 99-11). The
standing order explained that, if the defendant owed less
than $250, the Municipal Court would grant a 30-day extension
to pay the amount owed. (Id.). The Municipal Court
placed defendants “with JCS” if they owed less
than $1500 to the Municipal Court and requested a payment
plan for the amounts owed. (Id.). If a defendant
owed more than $1500 and requested a payment plan, the
Municipal Court held a hearing before a judge to determine
whether the defendant should be placed with
(Id.). According to the general order, the Municipal
Court instituted these policies in June 2009. (Id.).
Summary Judgment Standard
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c), summary judgment is
proper “if the pleadings, depositions, answers to
interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the
affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to
any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law.” Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The party asking for
summary judgment always bears the initial responsibility of
informing the court of the basis for its motion and
identifying those portions of the pleadings or filings which
it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of
material fact. Id. at 323. Once the moving party has
met its burden, Rule 56(c) requires the non-moving party to
go beyond the pleadings and - by pointing to affidavits, or
depositions, answers to interrogatories, and/or admissions on
file - designate specific facts showing that there is a
genuine issue for trial. Id. at 324.
substantive law will identify which facts are material and
which are irrelevant. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)
(“Anderson”). All reasonable doubts
about the facts and all justifiable inferences are resolved
in favor of the non-movant. See Allen v. Bd. of Pub.
Educ. For Bibb Cty., 495 F.3d 1306, 1314 (11th Cir.
2007); Fitzpatrick v. City of Atlanta, 2 F.3d 1112,
1115 (11th Cir. 1993). A dispute is genuine “if the
evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a
verdict for the nonmoving ...