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Parga v. Board of County Commissioners of County of Tulsa

United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma

March 15, 2019

MICHAEL PARGA, RICHARD FELTZ, TARA O'DONLEY, and CHRISTOPHER WOOD, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS OF THE COUNTY OF TULSA; VIC REGALADO, Tulsa County Sheriff, in his official capacity; TERRY H. BITTING, TAMMY BRUCE, MARTHA RUPP CARTER, STEPHEN R. CLARK, THERESA DREILING, OWEN EVENS, JAMES W. KEELEY, DEBORAH LUDI LEITCH, J. ANTHONY MILLER, DAWN MOODY, MILLIE OTEY, KIRSTEN PACE, APRIL SEIBERT, CLIFFORD SMITH, and SARAH SMITH, in their capacities as Tulsa County Special Judges; and WILLIAM MUSSEMAN, in his capacity as Tulsa County District Court Judge, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          Claire V. Eagan, Judge

         Now before the Court is the motion to alter or amend judgment or for relief from judgment (Dkt. # 42) filed by plaintiffs Michael Parga, Richard Feltz, Tara O'Donley, and Christopher Wood. On June 6, 2018, plaintiffs filed a class action complaint (Dkt. # 2) alleging that defendants violate: plaintiffs' equal protection and due process rights by jailing them because they cannot afford a monetary payment (count one); plaintiffs' right to pretrial liberty by jailing them without procedural due process (count two); and plaintiffs' right to counsel by not providing them with counsel adequate to challenge their wealth-based pretrial detention (count three). Id. at 30-31. That same day, plaintiffs filed a motion for class certification (Dkt. # 3). Defendants Tulsa County District Judge William Musseman and Tulsa County Special Judges Terry H. Bitting, Tammy Bruce, Owen Evens, James W. Keeley, J. Anthony Miller, Dawn Moody, Kirsten Pace, April Seibert, Sarah Smith, Martha Rupp Carter, Stephen R. Clark, Theresa Dreiling, Deborah Ludi Leitch, Millie Otey, and Clifford Smith moved to dismiss the claims against them. Dkt. # 24; see Dkt. # 31.[1] Plaintiff filed a response (Dkt. # 25), and moving defendants filed a reply (Dkt. # 26). On October 22, 2018, plaintiffs filed an amended complaint (Dkt. # 32). On November 19, 2018, this Court issued an opinion and order (Dkt. # 40) and judgment (Dkt. # 41) dismissing without prejudice plaintiffs' amended complaint as moot. Plaintiffs now move to alter or amend the judgment or for relief from judgment. Dkt. # 42. Defendants Board of County Commissioners of the County of Tulsa and Tulsa County Sheriff Vic Regalado filed a response in opposition to the motion (Dkt. # 43). Defendants Musseman and Tulsa County Special Judges separately filed a response in opposition to the motion (Dkt. # 44). Plaintiffs filed a reply in support of the motion (Dkt. # 47).

         I.

         A motion to alter or amend the judgment, sometimes referenced as a motion “to reconsider, ” filed pursuant to Rule 59(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, is warranted where there is “(1) an intervening change in the controlling law, (2) new evidence previously unavailable, [or] (3) the need to correct clear error or prevent manifest injustice.” Servants of Paraclete v. Does, 204 F.3d 1005, 1012 (10th Cir. 2000). Thus, a party may ask a district court to reconsider a final ruling or judgment when the district court has “misapprehended the facts, a party's position, or the controlling law.” Barber ex rel. Barber v. Colo. Dep't of Revenue, 562 F.3d 1222, 1228 (10th Cir. 2009). Relying on the third potential basis for moving to alter or amend the judgment, plaintiffs' counsel argues that reconsideration is necessary to correct clear error and prevent manifest injustice, because the Court's conclusion in its November 19, 2018 opinion and order is based on “a misapprehension of Plaintiffs' claims and a misconstruction of Supreme Court precedent.” Dkt. # 42, at 3.

         In the November 19, 2018 opinion and order, this Court determined that it had an obligation to address sua sponte[2] whether plaintiffs' amended complaint had been rendered moot as a result of all four named plaintiffs paying their bonds and being released from jail prior to their initial arraignments. Dkt. # 40, at 5. The Court began by reviewing plaintiffs' allegations in the amended complaint. The Court read the amended complaint as identifying two relevant time periods and two corresponding putative subclasses. See id. at 2-4. First, plaintiffs allege that “[p]eople who are arrested and are unable to pay preset cash deposits to secure their release must remain in jail cells for six or more days before an arraignment, which is the first appearance in front of a judicial officer.” Dkt. # 32, at 2. Accordingly, the Court determined that the first time period, which plaintiffs refer to as the “initial period of wealth-based detention, ” id., begins with the individual's arrest and continues until his or her initial arraignment, which is at least six days after arrest. The corresponding putative subclass, therefore, would include all arrested individuals who are forced to remain in jail at least until their initial arraignments solely because they cannot afford their bond amounts. Accordingly, the Court interpreted the amended complaint as excluding from this putative subclass any individual who is released from jail prior to his or her initial arraignment, and, therefore, is not forced to remain in jail for at least six days. Dkt. # 40, at 4 (“Plaintiffs allege that, as a result of these practices, individuals who cannot afford to pay the financial conditions of release must remain in jail for days, weeks, or months-but, in all instances, at least until his or her initial arraignment, which takes place at least six days after arrest.” (emphasis added)).

         The Court interpreted the second time period as beginning with the individual's initial arraignment. Plaintiffs allege that “[p]eople detained solely because of their inability to pay have no opportunity at the first appearance to raise any legal or factual challenges to their wealth-based pretrial detention.” Dkt. # 32, at 12. Plaintiffs assert that written bail-reduction motions, which cannot be filed until after the initial arraignment, “are the only mechanism for challenging pretrial detention.” Id. However, plaintiffs allege that the “judges hearing such motions refuse, as a matter of routine practice, to make findings concerning ability to pay, alternative conditions or [sic] release, or the necessity of pretrial detention. As a result, even if and when a financial condition of release is reduced, often weeks after an arrest, it is frequently reduced to amounts that remain unaffordable.” Id. at 22. Based on these allegations, the Court interpreted the amended complaint as alleging that individuals who are detained solely because they cannot afford bond do not have an adequate opportunity to challenge their bond amounts at any point during pretrial detention, including at their bond-reduction hearings. Accordingly, the Court determined that the second time period continues for the remainder of the individual's pretrial detention (i.e., until trial or other case resolution that results in his or her release). The corresponding putative subclass would consist of all individuals who continue to be detained after their initial arraignments solely because they cannot afford to pay their bond amounts, including individuals for whom no findings concerning ability to pay were made at their initial arraignments or at their bond-reduction hearings.

         The Court determined that because the named plaintiffs were released “before their initial arraignments took place, ” Dkt. # 40, at 6, their claims were moot and they were not members of either putative subclass. Accordingly, because the named plaintiffs could not represent the putative subclasses or demonstrate to the Court that the putative class claims are inherently transitory, the Court dismissed the amended complaint as moot. Nonetheless, in footnote 9 of the opinion and order, this Court acknowledged that the two putative subclasses do exist, and implicitly told plaintiffs' counsel to find those putative class members (i.e., those individuals who were detained since their arrests until their initial arraignments, and have continued to be detained following their initial arraignments and bond-reduction hearings, solely because they cannot afford to pay their bond amounts), and to name those individuals as class representatives. Id. at 11 n.9.

         Plaintiffs' counsel now makes clear that this Court misread the amended complaint in two ways. First, plaintiffs' counsel clarifies that the first time period need not continue until the individual's initial arraignment. Rather, the corresponding putative subclass consists of all individuals who are detained solely because they cannot afford their bond amounts, even if such individuals are released prior to their initial arraignments or just hours after their arrests. Second, plaintiffs' counsel clarifies that plaintiffs “do not seek relief beyond the point in time at which class members are given counsel and an opportunity to be heard on bail reduction motions, ” and that plaintiffs' “claims would necessarily become moot for any class member within six to 10 days.” Dkt. # 42, at 10-11. Because plaintiffs' claims necessarily become moot upon their bond-reduction hearings, it must be the case that putative class members are provided due process at their bond-reduction hearings. The Court finds that it misread the amended complaint by interpreting it as alleging that putative class members are denied due process at their bond-reduction hearings and continue to have live claims throughout the entirety of their pretrial detentions. Rather, the second time period begins with the individual's initial arraignment, but it necessarily ends when the individual has his or her bond-reduction hearing. The corresponding putative subclass consists of all individuals who are detained during that time period solely because they cannot afford to pay their bond amounts, including all individuals for whom no findings were made concerning ability to pay at their initial arraignments. Because the Court misread plaintiffs' amended complaint, [3] the Court finds that the motion to alter or amend judgment should be granted.[4] Further, the Court finds that the amended complaint (Dkt. # 32), the motion for class certification (Dkt. # 3), and the motion to dismiss (Dkt. # 24) should be reinstated.

         II.

         The Court now turns to moving defendants' motion to dismiss (Dkt. # 24). Moving defendants assert six bases for dismissal: (1) lack of Article III standing; (2) jurisdictional issues based on federalism and comity; (3) failure to challenge bail requirements through a writ of habeas corpus; (4) failure to state a claim for injunctive relief; (5) failure to state a claim that can be cured through declaratory relief; and (6) judicial immunity.

         A. Proposition I: Lack of Article III Standing

         To have Article III standing, the plaintiff must have suffered or be imminently threatened with a concrete and particularized “injury in fact” that is fairly traceable to the challenged action of the defendant and likely to be redressed by a favorable judicial decision. Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560 (1992). “The party invoking federal jurisdiction bears the burden of establishing these elements.” Id. at 561. It is well-settled that the district court must determine that at least one named class representative has Article III standing to raise each class subclaim. See Colo. Cross Disability Coal. v. Abercrombie & Fitch Co., 765 F.3d 1205, 1214 (10th Cir. 2014) (citing Prado-Steiman ex rel. Prado v. Bush, 221 F.3d 1266, 1279-80 (11th Cir. 2000)). 1. Injury-in-Fact As to Count Three Moving defendants argue that named plaintiffs lack Article III standing as to count three, in which plaintiffs allege that defendants violate their Sixth Amendment right to counsel. The amended complaint contains numerous general allegations that defendants have a practice of violating putative class members' rights to counsel; such allegations, however, do not establish that any individual named plaintiff was or will be denied counsel. “[E]ven named plaintiffs who represent a class ‘must allege and show that they personally have been injured, not that injury has been suffered by other, unidentified members of the class to which they belong and which they purport to represent.'” Simon v. E. Ky. Welfare Rights Org., 426 U.S. 26, 40 n.20 (1976) (quoting Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 502 (1975)). Moreover, as the Court noted in its November 19, 2018 opinion and order, only fourteen paragraphs in the amended complaint contain allegations relating to the four named plaintiffs. Dkt. # 40, at 2. The right to or denial of counsel is not mentioned or referenced even once in those fourteen paragraphs. There is not a single allegation in the amended complaint that any individual named plaintiff was or will imminently be denied counsel. See Dkt. # 32, at 8-10. Accordingly, the Court finds that count three of the amended complaint should be dismissed because the amended complaint fails to allege facts sufficient to show that any of the named plaintiffs has Article III standing to bring the claim alleged in that count.[5]

         2. Injury Fairly Traceable to the Actions of Moving Defendants

         In addition, moving defendants argue that plaintiffs fail to demonstrate that the alleged injuries are fairly traceable to the challenged actions of defendant Musseman and defendant special judges, because plaintiffs have not alleged that they have had any contact with any of those defendants. The Court considers the “fairly traceable” element of standing with respect to counts one and two only. Because the Court finds that plaintiffs fail to sufficiently allege an injury-in-fact as to count three, the Court need not address whether the injury alleged in count three is fairly traceable to the challenged actions of moving defendants.

         Count one alleges that defendants violate plaintiffs' equal protection and due process rights by jailing them solely because of their inability to pay monetary payments. Count two alleges that defendants violate plaintiffs' rights to pretrial liberty by jailing them without providing them with procedural due process at their hearings. Plaintiffs allege that, as of the filing of the complaint, they were being detained pursuant to secured financial conditions of release, but they have not had their first appearances before a judicial officer (i.e., their initial arraignments) as yet. However, plaintiffs allege that their initial arraignments were scheduled to take place five days after the filing of the complaint. Accordingly, as to count one, named plaintiffs allege that they are suffering an ongoing actual injury. As to count two, named plaintiffs allege that they will imminently suffer an actual injury. The Court first considers whether the actual injuries alleged in count one are fairly traceable to the challenged actions of defendant Musseman, and then considers whether the future injuries alleged in count two are fairly traceable to the challenged actions of defendant Musseman. The Court will then conduct the same analysis with respect to defendant special judges.

         i. ...


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