United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Columbia Division
Twanda Marshinda Brown; Sasha Monique Darby; Cayeshia Cashel Johnson; Amy Marie Palacios; Nora Ann C; and Xavier Larry Goodwin and Raymond Wright, Jr., on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
Lexington County, South Carolina; Gary Reinhart, in his individual capacity; Rebecca Adams, in her official and individual capacities as the Chief Judge for Administrative Purposes of the Summary Courts in Lexington County and in her official capacity as the Judge of the Irmo Magistrate Court; Albert John Dooley, III, in his official capacity as the Associate Chief Judge for Administrative Purposes of the Summary Courts in Lexington County; Bryan Koon, in his official capacity as the Lexington County Sheriff; and Robert Madsen, in his official capacity as the Circuit Public Defender for the Eleventh Judicial Circuit of South Carolina, Defendants.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
V. Hodges United States Magistrate Judge
have been convicted of magistrate-level offenses in
Lexington, South Carolina, and received assessments of fines
and fees. Plaintiffs' cases include convictions for
misdemeanor offenses such as simple possession of marijuana,
assault and battery in the third degree, and traffic-level
offenses such as driving on a suspended license and uninsured
status. Plaintiffs are represented by the American Civil
Liberties Union (“ACLU”) and name as defendants
Lexington County, the current and former judges for
administrative purposes of the Lexington County summary
courts, the county sheriff, and the county public defender
(collectively “Defendants”). Plaintiffs request
damages and declaratory and injunctive relief against
Defendants for alleged constitutional violations, including
lack of due process, denial of equal protection of the law,
failure to provide assistance of counsel, and unreasonable
seizure. Plaintiffs also seek certification pursuant to
Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(a) and (b)(2) of a proposed class of
“all indigent people who currently owe, or in the
future will owe, fines, fees, court costs, assessments, or
restitution in cases handled by Lexington County magistrate
matter comes before the court on the following motions: (1)
Plaintiff's motion to certify class [ECF No. 21]; (2)
Defendants' motion for summary judgment on
Plaintiff's claims for declaratory and injunctive relief
[ECF No. 29]; and (3) Defendants' motion for summary
judgment on damages claims [ECF No. 50]. These matters having
been fully briefed [ECF Nos. 30, 35, 36, 39, 66, 70], they
are ripe for disposition.
pretrial proceedings in this case were referred to the
undersigned pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. §
636(b)(1)(B) and Local Civ. Rule 73.02(B)(2)(f) (D.S.C.).
Because the motion for summary judgment is dispositive, this
report and recommendation is entered for the district
judge's consideration. For the following reasons, the
undersigned recommends Plaintiff's motion to certify
class be denied, Defendants' motion for summary judgment
as to injunctive and declaratory relief be granted, and
Defendants' motions for summary judgment for damages be
granted in part and denied in part.
second amended complaint is the now operative complaint
(“Complaint”). [ECF No. 48], which consists of
122 pages with 535 paragraphs of factual allegations and
asserts eight counts.
County is a municipal governmental entity whose policies,
practices, and customs Plaintiffs allege deprived them of
their constitutional rights. [Compl. ¶ 26].
Reinhart, Rebecca Adams, and Albert John Dooley III
(collectively “Judicial Defendants”) are South
Carolina magistrates for Lexington County summary courts.
Reinhart served as Chief Judge for Administrative Purposes of
the Summary Courts in Lexington County until June 27, 2017.
Id. at ¶¶ 27-30. Adams succeeded Reinhart
as Chief Judge and was formerly the Associate Chief Judge.
Dooley was appointed as Associate Chief Judge upon
Adams's promotion to Chief Judge. Id.
Koon is the elected Lexington County Sheriff, chief law
enforcement officer for the Lexington County Sheriff's
Department (“LCSD”), and the chief administrator
for the Lexington County Detention Center
(“LCDC”). Id. at ¶ 30.
Madsen is the Public Defender for the Eleventh Judicial
Circuit of South Carolina that includes Lexington County.
Id. at ¶ 32.
Twanda Marshinda Brown
March 15, 2016, Twanda Marshinda Brown (“Brown”)
was ticketed by an LCSD officer for driving on a suspended
license (DUS, 2nd offense) and for driving with no tag light.
Id. at ¶ 141. On April 12, 2016, Brown appeared
before Judge Adams in the Irmo Magistrate Court and pled
guilty to both charges, id at ¶¶ 141, 142,
144, and was assessed $237.50 for the tag light conviction
and $2, 100 for the DUS, 2nd conviction. Id. at
¶ 145. Brown alleges she told Judge Adams she had no
money to pay that day and that Judge Adams established a
$100/month payment schedule. Id. at ¶ 146.
Brown alleges she stated she could not afford a monthly $100
payment and that Judge Adams threatened to jail her for 90
days. Id. at ¶ 150. Brown made five payments of
$100 through October 4, 2016, which satisfied the fines and
fees for the tag light conviction and contributed toward her
fines and fees for the DUS, 2nd conviction. Id. at
¶ 159. After Brown failed to make any payments after
October 4, 2016, id. at ¶ 160, Judge Adams
issued a bench warrant on January 12, 2017, for her
nonpayment on the DUS, 2nd conviction, id. at ¶
163. The warrant stated that Brown had a “sentence
imposed/balance due of $1, 907.63 or 90 days” and that
she would be jailed “until he/she shall be thereof
discharged by due course of law.” Id. Brown
was arrested on the bench warrant on February 18, 2017,
id. at ¶¶ 165-67, and was advised that she
could pay $1, 907.63 or serve 90 days in jail. Id.
Brown served 57 days in jail. Id. at ¶¶
claims she did not know, and that Judge Adams did not inform
her, that she had the right to request the assistance of a
court-appointed attorney before pleading guilty and the right
to seek a waiver of any public defender application fees due
to financial hardship. Id. at ¶ 143.
Sasha Monique Darby
August 4, 2016, Sasha Monique Darby (“Darby”) was
ticketed for assault and battery in the third degree after
she hit her roommate. Id. at ¶¶ 184-85.
She appeared in Irmo Magistrate Court on August 23, 2016, was
given a “Trial Information and Plea Sheet, ” and
instructed to “check a box.” Id. at
¶¶ 186-87. Darby checked the statement, “I
waive my right to have an attorney present, ”
id. at ¶ 188, and “Not guilty, ”
id. at ¶ 189.
Adams found Darby guilty of assault and battery in the third
degree, id. at ¶¶ 193-95, and asked her
whether she wanted to serve 30 days in jail or pay a fine,
id. 196. Darby stated that she would pay the fine,
id. at ¶ 196, but after learning the fine was
$1, 000, id. at ¶ 200, she returned to the
courtroom and told Judge Adams she could only pay $100 to
$120 a month. Id. at ¶¶ 201-02. Judge
Adams ordered her to pay $150 a month. Id. at 202.
Darby paid $200 on the date of the hearing and $150 on
October 4, 2016. Id. at 205. After Darby failed to
make any further payments, id. at ¶¶
205-06, a bench warrant issued for Darby on December 8, 2016.
Id. at ¶ 208. Darby was arrested on the bench
warrant on March 28, 2017. Id. at ¶¶
209-12. Darby was advised that she could pay $680 or serve 20
days in jail. Id. at ¶ 213. Darby served 20
days in jail. Id. at ¶ 215.
alleges Judge Adams did not engage in a colloquy with her to
determine whether her waiver of the right to counsel was
knowing, voluntary, and intelligent. Id. at ¶
Cayeshia Cashel Johnson
having an accident on August 21, 2016, while driving her
mother's car, Cayeshia Cashel Johnson
(“Johnson”) was charged with simple possession of
marijuana and the following traffic offenses: (1) operating a
motor vehicle without license in possession; (2) improper
start of vehicle; (3) violation of beginner permit; (4)
failure to return license plate and registration upon loss of
insurance, 1st offense; and (5) uninsured motor vehicle fee
violation, 1st offense. Id. at ¶¶ 218-20.
alleges that the week before her court hearing on September
22, 2016, she called the Central Traffic Court and informed
someone that she could not attend the hearing because she
lived in Myrtle Beach and lacked transportation. Id.
at ¶ 223. Johnson says she was told lack of
transportation was not a valid reason for missing a court
hearing and that her case would be tried in her absence.
Id. at ¶ 224. Johnson states she inquired about
arranging a payment plan for the fines, but was told she
needed to talk to a judge about arranging a payment plan.
Id. at ¶ 225. Johnson states she left her work
and cell numbers and was allegedly assured that the court
would contact her, but that no one did. Id. at
September 22, 2016, the Central Traffic Court tried Johnson
in her absence and found her guilty of all six charges.
Id. at ¶ 228. On September 26, 2016, a bench
warrant issued for Johnson to pay $1, 287.50 or serve 80 days
in jail. Id. at ¶ 230. On February 13, 2017,
Johnson was arrested in Myrtle Beach, id. at
¶¶ 231-33, and jailed for 55 days, id. at
June 2015, Amy Marie Palacios (“Palacios”) had
her driver's license suspended for failure to pay an
earlier speeding ticket. Id. at ¶¶ 250-51.
On October 28, 2016, she was stopped by state troopers at a
roadblock and ticketed for driving on a suspended license
(DUS, 1st offense). Id. at ¶¶ 253-54. The
day before her November 10, 2016 court hearing, Palacios
called the Central Traffic Court to request a different court
date because of her work schedule. Id. at ¶
256. Palacios was tried in her absence on November 10, 2016,
and found guilty of DUS, 1st offense. Id. at ¶
260. On November 15, 2016, a bench warrant issued, requiring
payment of ...