United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
DAVID PROCTOR, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the court on Defendant Judicial Correction
Services, Inc.'s (“JCS”) Motion for Summary
Judgment. (Doc. # 181). The Motion has been fully briefed.
(Docs. # 183, 192, and 202). For the reasons discussed below,
the Motion is due to be granted in part and denied in part.
The Rule 56 Evidence and the Undisputed
2006, the City of Columbiana entered into a contract with JCS
under which JCS was to provide probation services to the
Columbiana municipal court. (Doc. # 157). Municipal court
Judge Mike Atchison first learned of JCS from other
municipalities that used JCS's services. (Docs. # 160 at
24, # 158 at 38-40). Joanna Seale, a municipal court
magistrate and the court clerk, had also heard about JCS
during continuing education programs taken in connection with
her magistrate position. (Doc. # 158 at 37). Seale called
Susan Fuqua, a magistrate in Hoover, Alabama, to ask about
that court's experience with JCS. (Id. at
38-40). The Columbiana municipal court explored using JCS for
probation services in an effort to save the municipal court
from having to hire another full time employee. (Id.
marketed itself as an offender-paid system which did not
charge a municipality any money for its services. (Doc. #
180-31 at 193). It claimed that: (1) it could provide an
incentive for probationers to pay their fines at a higher and
faster rate, (2) its system increased partial payment rates,
and (3) under its system, partial payments averaged eighty to
ninety percent of the total fine. (Doc. # 193-2). Offenders
placed on probation were generally ordered to pay JCS a
one-time $10 set-up fee and $35 for each month of probation.
(See, e.g., Doc. # 168 at 16).
Contract with JCS was signed on behalf of Columbiana by
then-Mayor Allan Lowe, and on behalf of JCS by the President
of JCS Alabama, Kevin Egan. (Doc. # 183-2). The Contract
provides for compensation to JCS of a “[p]robation fee
of $35.00 per month” and a “[o]ne-time
probationer set-up fee of $10.00.” (Id. at 5).
However, Exhibit A to the Contract provides that,
“Probationers who pay their entire fine and Court costs
within one week of the sentencing date will not be charged a
probation supervision fee by JCS, although they would be
responsible for $10 set-up fee.” (Id. at 3).
the Contract, JCS agreed to “supervise all probated
cases sentenced by the Court” and “supervise
indigent cases when determined by the Court.”
(Id. at 4). JCS agreed to “comply with the
Court's ruling in reference to sentencing or possible
revocation of probation” and that “[a]ny
modification to the original court sentence will be decided
by the Court.” (Id. at 4-5).
April 15, 2015, Columbiana Mayor Stancil Handley terminated
Columbiana's JCS Contract. (Doc. # 157-1 at 58). JCS no
longer operates in Alabama. (Doc. # 80).
JCS Operations in the Columbiana Municipal Court
municipal court generally held two monthly court sessions.
(Doc. # 183-1 at 38, 55). Magistrate Seale sat at a table
next to Judge Atchison during court. (Doc. # 183-26 at 1). At
the beginning of each court session, Judge Atchison read
prepared remarks. (Id. at 1, 5-6).The prepared
remarks informed defendants, among other things, that they
had a right to be represented by counsel and that, if jail
was a possible punishment and they were unable to pay for an
attorney, one may be appointed. (Id. at 2, 5-6).
During court, defendants were given a copy of Unified
Judicial System form C-44B, Explanation of Rights Plea of
Guilty. (Id. at 3, 8-9).
Atchison was responsible for investigating a person's
ability to pay a fine, and this indigency review was to occur
prior to any involvement by JCS. (Docs. # 158 at 93-96, #
158-1 at 53, 74, 93-94). Magistrate Seale gave defendants an
affidavit of substantial hardship, another state form, when
Judge Atchison told her to do so or when an attorney was
appointed at a bond hearing. (Doc. # 183-1 at 96). However,
Plaintiffs Woods and Douglas both testified that they told
Judge Atchison that they were unable to pay the fines he
imposed, but he nonetheless imposed the fines and referred
them to JCS. (Docs. # 183-8 at 54-55, 86, 212-14, # 183-27 at
71, 75-76, # 193-4, # 193-5). Magistrate Seale testified
that, if a defendant could not pay a fine in full, the normal
procedure was to sentence them to either probation with JCS
or to jail. (Doc. # 183-1 at 121-23). There were a few
occasions where Judge Atchison instructed Seale to accept
periodic payments. (Id.). Despite the fact that they
explained their inability to pay, Woods and Douglas were not
offered any options other than probation with JCS or jail.
(Docs. # 193-4, # 193-5). Douglas was told that she either
had to “go on JCS or go to jail.” (Doc. # 193-4).
At one point Woods asked Judge Atchison if community service
was an option, but he responded that it was not offered.
(Doc. # 193-5 at 2).
Atchison expected JCS to follow his orders. (Doc. # 183-7 at
16, 19, 68). Judge Atchison signed pre-printed Probation
Orders provided by JCS in blank before court, and JCS's
probation officer, Lisha Kidd, completed the Orders afterward
based on the Judge's notes on the ticket. (Doc. # 158 at
99-100). Judge Atchison wrote the fine amount on the back of
a defendant's ticket, signed it, and the ticket was given
to JCS. (Doc. # 183-47 at 535-36). The Probation Orders were
three-part forms: one copy for the court, one for JCS, and
one for the defendant. (Doc. # 158 at 99). Following the
court session, Magistrate Seale reviewed the tickets and the
Probation Orders to make sure the information matched. (Doc.
# 183-1 at 100-01).
Probation Orders specified the amount of the fine imposed and
the required monthly payments. (Doc. # 183-11). A probationer
also indicated on the pre-printed Orders if they waived the
right to counsel. (Id.). The Orders instructed that
the probationer was to “make a full and truthful report
to your probation officer as instructed” and pay JCS
“$35.00 for each month on probation” and “a
one time $10.00” charge. (Doc. # 183-11). When a
probationer paid off his or her fine and fees, probation
ended. (Doc. # 183-8 at 125-26). Judge Atchison occasionally
referred a defendant who submitted a substantial hardship
affidavit to probation with JCS, but instructed JCS to waive
their fees for that individual. (Doc. # 160 at 28-29).
However, the Rule 56 evidence indicates that procedure was
not followed with respect to Plaintiff Woods. (Docs. # 165 at
13-14, # 183-8 at 128-29).
2011, Judge Atchison ordered that all individuals on
probation attend a compliance hearing ninety days after their
initial appearance. (Docs. # 183-1 at 90-91, # 146-47, #
183-46 at 130). At the compliance hearing, Judge Atchison
established a date certain for full payment. (Doc. # 183-46
at 134). A revocation hearing was then set for a future date.
(Doc. # 183-46 at 134-35).
kept the court informed regarding the status of
probationers' payments and appointments with their
probation officers. (Docs. # 66-7, # 66-1, # 66-12). When a
probationer missed a payment or a meeting, JCS attempted to
contact the probationer using the numbers provided. (Doc. #
183-46 at 233-34). If a probationer failed to appear for a
meeting after a telephone call, JCS sent a letter.
(Id. at 233-34). JCS informed probationers that if
they continued to miss appointments or payments, they could
be jailed. (Doc. # 183-27 at 17, 302-03).
offenders repeatedly failed to meet with JCS or make the
required payments, JCS informed Magistrate Seale and/or
prepared a petition to revoke the probation informing the
court of the missed appointments and/or payments. (Docs. #
183-46 at 131-32, # 183-28 at 10, 15). After receiving
non-compliance information from JCS, Judge Atchison decided
whether to revoke probation. (Docs. # 183-7 at 19-20, #
183-46 at 131-32). For a period of time before mid-2012, when
Shelby County Judge Harrington issued a scathing order
regarding the Harpersville municipal court, JCS provided
notice of court hearings to probationers. (Doc. # 183-1 at
83). At some point after June 2012, the court began to issue
summonses for probationers to report for compliance hearings.
(Doc. # 183-1 at 83-85). After that time, notices of court
dates all came from the court. (Doc. # 183-27 at 283).
JCS requested that the court issue arrest warrants for
non-compliance. (Docs. # 66-7, # 66-10, # 66-12). The
warrants were issued by either Judge Atchison or Magistrate
Seale. (Docs. # 183-1 at 21-22, 78, # 183-7 at 67-68). The
bond amount was set at the time a warrant issued by a
state-issued schedule. (Doc. # 183-1 at 21-22). JCS policy
did not allow payments from probationers on warrant status.
(Doc. # 183-50 at 512-13).
Seale generally conducted bond hearings for arrestees within
forty-eight to seventy-two hours of arrest. (Doc. # 183-1 at
24-25). At the bond hearing, she or another magistrate
discussed the charges, the required bond, the defendant's
rights, and the potential need for an attorney to be
appointed for the defendant. (Doc. # 183-1 at 27-28). The
factors Magistrate Seale covered during the bond hearings are
listed on a standard form issued by the state. (Doc. # 183-1
at 27-28). At the bond hearing, the standard bond amount can
be reduced. (Doc. # 183-1 at 24). Judge Atchison determined
whether to award credit against fines and fees for time
served in jail. (Doc. # 183-1 at 272-73). As a general rule,
Judge Atchison awarded a $20 credit per day spent in jail
against the amount of a fine. (Doc. # 183-1 at 272-73).
Plaintiff Hali Woods
Hali Woods's employment history was sporadic because she
was unable to make enough money to cover the cost of going to
work. (Doc. # 183-8 at 43-56).
27, 2013, Woods, a sixteen year old, was ticketed for failure
to wear a seat belt while driving. (Docs. # 183-8 at 74, #
183-9, # 193-5). On August 13, 2013, Woods appeared in court.
(Doc. # 183-8 at 81). Woods spoke with Magistrate Seale, who
asked her how she wanted to plead. (Id.). Woods
pleaded guilty. (Docs. # 183-8 at 78-79, # 165 at 3-4). She
signed an Explanation of Rights Plea of Guilty form. (Doc. #
165 at 3-4). Her fine and court costs totaled $41. (Doc. #
183-9). Judge Atchison asked Woods if she had the money to
pay the fine. (Doc. # 183-8 at 81). Woods explained that she
did not have the money, that she lived with her mother whose
only source of income was disability income, and that she did
not have a job. (Docs. # 183-8 at 81, # 193-5). Atchison
instructed her to sign up for a payment plan. (Id.).
Atchison placed Woods on probation, and ordered her to pay
$51 per month until her financial obligations were met. (Doc.
# 165 at 5). The Order of Probation required Woods to pay JCS
$35 for each month of probation and a $10 registration fee.
(Id. at 5). The August 13, 2013 Order required Woods
to return to court on November 12, 2013 to show
“completion of compliance.” (Id.).
with the August 13, 2013 Order of Probation, on October 24,
2013, Magistrate Seale signed a Summons to Appear requiring
Woods to appear in the municipal court on November 12, 2013.
(Id. at 6). As of November 12, 2013, Woods had only
paid $20. (Id. at 7). Half of this amount was
credited against Woods's fine; the other half was
credited towards Woods's JCS set-up fee. (Doc. # 193-17
at 4). Judge Atchison told Plaintiff to pay the balance of
her fine and fees in full or he would see her back “in
orange.” (Doc. # 183-8 at 115). Atchison signed another
Order of Probation which reinstated Woods to probation and
required payment in full by January 22, 2014. (Doc. # 183-16
at 2). Judge Atchison's signature on the Probation Order
is dated November 11, 2013, the day before Woods's
November 12, 2013 court appearance. (Doc. # 193-20).
prepared a violation report dated January 8, 2014, indicating
that Woods had missed six of her twelve probation
appointments and had paid only $10 on a balance of $181 in
fines and fees. (Doc. # 183-18). Also on January 8, 2014,
Magistrate Seale signed another Summons to Appear requiring
Woods to appear in the municipal court on January 28, 2014.
(Doc. # 183-17). The January 28, 2014 court date was
rescheduled (Doc. # 183-19), and on February 10, 2014,
Magistrate Seale signed another Summons to Appear requiring
Woods to appear in the municipal court on February 25, 2014.
(Doc. # 165 at 9). On February 25, 2014, Woods appeared and
presented an Affidavit of Substantial Hardship on State of
Alabama Unified Judicial System Form C-10. (Id. at
13-14). Woods told Judge Atchison that she had filled out the
Affidavit and had $41 to pay off her fine. (Doc. # 183-8 at
128-29). Judge Atchison told her “it's not [his]
problem and she could put that money toward what she
owed.” (Id.). The Affidavit was marked
“not approved.” (Doc. # 165 at 13-14). Judge
Atchison signed another Probation Order which noted
Woods's $41 payment and instructed her to return to court
on May 27, 2014. (Doc. # 183-21).
April 14, 2014, Woods paid JCS $130. (Doc. # 193-19). On
April 22, 2014, less than one year after she was ticketed,
Judge Atchison signed a Successful Termination of Probation
form for Woods. (Doc. # 165 at 17).
fines and court costs did not exceed $500. (Doc. # 183-8 at
168). Woods never asked for an attorney to be appointed, she
was never arrested in relation to her June 2013 offense, and
a warrant for her arrest was never issued. (Docs. # 165, #
183-8 at 202-03).
Plaintiff Susan Douglas
Susan Douglas has never held a valid driver's license.
(Doc. # 183-27 at 231). She has only held a learner's
permit, which has been repeatedly suspended or revoked.
(Id. at 9, 231). Douglas's permit was initially
suspended because she received a ticket and she did not
appear in court or pay the ticket. (Id. at 231-32).
To have her permit reinstated, Douglas was obligated to go
six months without receiving a ticket. (Id. at
Douglas originally moved to Alabama, she moved in with her
grandmother, who resided on Highway 46 in Shelby, Alabama.
(Id. at 32-39). In 2010, Douglas moved to a group
home, where she remained until approximately 2011.
(Id.). From the time Douglas moved out of the group
home until the summer of 2014, Douglas lived with her
grandmother on Highway 46. (Id.). Douglas moved to
Austin, Texas for three or four months in or around the
summer of 2014. (Id.). Douglas returned to live with
her grandmother again from the fall of 2014 until August
2015. (Id.). Since 2015, Douglas has lived in
Alabaster, Alabama. (Doc. # 183-27 at 24-25).
has a cell phone, but her service has been “cut off
quite often” because she did not have the money to pay
the bill. (Id. at 16-17). Therefore, she provided
her grandmother's and sister's contact information to
JCS so that she could be reached. (Id. at 17). On
one occasion in 2013, when there was a warrant out for
Douglas's arrest, her sister was pulled over by
Columbiana Police to ask where they could find Douglas.
(Id. at 18).
Nos. TR12-18 and TR12-19
January 14, 2012, Douglas was cited in Columbiana for driving
while her license was suspended, a misdemeanor (No. TR
12-18), and for operating a vehicle without insurance,
another misdemeanor (No. TR 12-19). (Docs. # 165 at 19-40, #
165-1 at 2). Fine and court costs for these citations were
$390 and $340, respectively. (Id.). In its Probation
Tracker system, JCS erroneously listed the fine and court
costs for these offenses as $390 and $540, respectively.
(Doc. # 149-11 at 1).
February 14, 2012 hearing, Douglas pleaded guilty to both
charges. (Doc. # 183-27 at 71-72). She signed an Explanation
of Rights Plea of Guilty form for each charge. (Docs. #
183-28 at 2-3, # 183-29 at 2-3). Judge Atchison asked Douglas
if she had the money to pay the fines in full. (Doc. # 183-27
at 71-76). Douglas responded that she did not have a job and
did not have the money. (Id.). Atchison told Douglas
that she could either pay the tickets in full, sign up for
JCS, or go to jail. (Id.). Douglas asked what JCS
was, and Atchison told her it was a payment plan. (Doc. #
183-27 at 76). JCS prepared an Order of Probation that
required Douglas, among other things, to pay her fine and
costs in monthly installments, to pay a monthly probation fee
of $35, to pay a one-time set-up charge of $10, and to meet
with a JCS probation officer regularly. (Docs. # 183-28 at 5,
# 183-29 at 5). The Order also required Douglas to return to
court on May 8, 2012. (Id.). The original Order of
Probation for these offenses was not signed by Judge
Atchison. (Docs. # 183-28 at 5, # 183-29 at 5).
March 29, 2012, JCS's Lisha Kidd prepared a Petition for
Revocation of Probation listing the total due from Douglas as
$1, 080. (Doc. # 183-28 at 10).
April 3, 2012, $270 was paid on Douglas's account. (Doc.
# 149-11 at 5). From that payment, $10 was credited to
Douglas's JCS set-up fee, $70 was credited to
Douglas's monthly probation fees, and $190 was credited
to her court fines. (Id.).
8, 2012, Douglas appeared in court and was reinstated to
probation. (Doc. # 182-28 at 9). Again, the Order of
Probation was not signed by Judge Atchison. (Id.).
On May 8, 2012, $280 was paid on Douglas's account. (Doc.
# 149-11 at 5). From that payment, $35 was credited to
Douglas's monthly probation fees, and $245 was credited
to her court fines. (Id.).
in May 2012, in a matter unrelated to the Columbiana cases,
Douglas was arrested for failing to pay a traffic ticket from
Shelby County, and she was jailed for a month. (Doc. # 183-27
at 91-92). On May 21, 2012, someone called JCS to report that
Douglas was in jail. (Doc. # 183-30 at 7).
12, 2012, Judge Atchison signed an Order of Modification of
Probation changing Douglas's status to “jail
hold.” (Doc. # 183-28 at 11).
2 and 3, 2012, Kidd e-mailed Magistrate Seale informing her
that Douglas had failed to make a payment. (Doc. # 183-29 at
12-13). Douglas had reported to JCS on June 29, 2012, but she
had no money to make a payment. (Doc. # 183-30 at 6). Kidd
requested that Seale issue a warrant for Douglas's
arrest. (Id.). On July 5, 2012, Magistrate Seale
signed a warrant for Douglas's arrest. (Doc. # 183-28 at
15). That warrant was executed and Douglas was committed to
jail on November 27, 2012. (Id.). Douglas remained
in jail until December 12, 2012, after a hearing on December
11, 2012, and after her sister made a payment on her behalf.
(Docs. # 183-27 at 105-08, # 183-28 at 16-18).
March 7, 2013, JCS notified Magistrate Seale that Douglas had
paid in full on these cases and, in fact, had overpaid $15.
(Doc. # 183-30 at 4). JCS terminated Douglas's probation
on March 27, 2013. (Id.). Judge Atchison signed
notices of Successful Termination of Probation in both cases
on April 9, 2013. (Doc. # 165-1 at 23).
Nos. TR12-64, TR12-66, and TR12-67
February 5, 2012, Columbiana police stopped and ticketed
Douglas for having an expired tag (TR12-64), driving without
insurance (TR-12-66), and driving with a suspended license
(TR12-67). (Docs. # 183-27 at 123-24, # 183-31 at 2, # 183-32
at 2, # 183-33 at 2). Douglas did not appear for the March
13, 2012 hearing on those tickets because she did not have
the money, and the court reset the hearing. (Doc. # 183-27 at
124-25). Before the next hearing, Douglas's sister paid
off two of the three tickets, and the third ticket was
dismissed. (Doc. # 183-27 at 125-26). Douglas was not placed
on probation in relation to these three tickets.
Nos. TR13-95, TR13-260, TR13-262, and MC13-39
February 28, 2013, Douglas was cited for driving while her
license was revoked, a misdemeanor (No. TR 13-95). (Doc. #
183-34 at 2). Her fine and court costs totaled $416.
(Id. at 5). On April 9, 2013, Douglas pleaded guilty
and signed an Explanation of Rights Plea of Guilty form.
(Id. at 3-4). At the hearing, Douglas again told
Judge Atchison she did not have the money to pay her fine,
and he told her she could either sign up for JCS or go to
jail. (Doc. # 183-27 at 133). Judge Atchison placed Douglas
on probation and ordered her to pay $110 per month until her
financial obligations were met. (Doc. # 183-34 at 5). Judge
Atchison's Probation Order also ordered Douglas to pay
JCS $35 for each month of probation and a $10 registration
fee. (Id.). Douglas was also ordered to return to
court on July 9, 2013 to show “completion of
compliance.” (Id. at 5).
April 8, 2013, the day before her court appearance in No. TR
13-95, Columbiana police stopped and again ticketed Douglas
for driving with a revoked license (No. TR13-262). (Doc. #
183-40 at 2). At the hearing on No. TR13-262, Douglas pleaded
guilty, signed an Explanation of Rights Plea of Guilty form,
but again could not pay her fine. (Id. at 3-4).
Judge Atchison signed a Probation Order requiring Douglas to
pay a fine and costs of $366. (Id. at 5).
April 10, 2013, the day following her initial appearance in
No. TR-13-95, and two days after receiving the ticket in No.
TR 13-262, Douglas was arrested for attempting to elude a
police officer, a misdemeanor (Case. No. WA 13-38). (Docs. #
183-27 at 180-82, # 183-42 at 3). Concurrently with this
arrest, Douglas was ticketed yet again for driving with a
revoked license (No. TR-13-260). (Docs. # 183-27 at 178, #
183-39 at 2). Douglas was bonded out on these charges within
an hour. (Docs. # 183-27 at 181-83, # 183-42 at 8-9).
28, 2013, Douglas pleaded guilty to attempting to elude and
signed an Explanation of Rights Plea of Guilty form. (Doc. #
183-42 at 14-15). Judge Atchison signed a Probation Order
requiring Douglas to pay a fine and costs of $713.
(Id. at 16). However, that Probation Order ...