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For Immediate Release: COURT PRELIMINARILY APPROVES CLASS ACTION SETTLEMENT ON BEHALF OF THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE JAILED BY THE CITY OF FERGUSON FOR MONEY DAMAGES

Ferguson, Mo. – Febraury 27, 2024

On February 27, 2024, a federal judge preliminarily approved a $4.5 million settlement of a class action lawsuit filed against the City of Ferguson in 2015, after police killed Michael Brown, igniting national outrage. The lawsuit sought justice for thousands of people who alleged the City of Ferguson routinely violated their constitutional rights by jailing them in deplorable conditions for an inability to pay and without the necessary legal process. The case was litigated by ArchCity Defenders, Civil Rights Corps, the St. Louis University School of Law Civil Litigation Clinic, and White & Case LLP.

After nine years of litigation, this settlement provides compensation to class members. Checks will be sent to over 15,000 people who were jailed by the City of Ferguson between February 8, 2010, and December 30, 2022. The money will be proportioned by the number of hours each class member spent detained in the Ferguson jail.

Class members were represented by nine named plaintiffs, including Ronnie Tucker, 59. In May 2013, Tucker was arrested and jailed in Ferguson under a municipal ordinance warrant. Tucker alleged that Ferguson jail staff told him he would be held indefinitely until he could pay hundreds of dollars for his release. Although Tucker alleges he was unable to pay the fine, no inquiry was made into his ability to pay nor was he provided access to an attorney. These circumstances were not unusual for other named plaintiffs and thousands of individuals impacted by the City of Ferguson’s practices.

As the case dragged on for nine years, two of the named plaintiffs died, including lead plaintiff Keilee Fant, who was jailed by the City of Ferguson more than a dozen times between the ages of 17 and 37 for an inability to pay. In 2022, Fant said, “I’m still affected, it has taken a lot out of me. It was so inhumane that people couldn’t believe it when it actually did go on.” Another named plaintiff, Tonya DeBerry, died in April 2018, more than three years after this case began.  After her death, her daughter and fellow named plaintiff, Allison Nelson, said DeBerry never got “a piece of this justice.”

“Keilee Fant and Tonya DeBerry were loving mothers whom we will remember for their boundless courage in the face of injustice,” said Maureen Hanlon, Managing Attorney at ArchCity Defenders. “The harsh reality is that, oftentimes, those most impacted by injustice do not live long enough to see the seeds of change bloom. But this settlement would not be possible without them.”

Pending final approval from the Court, the settlement administrator will mail settlement payments to class members’ last known address. Class members should update and/or verify their mailing address as soon as possible at the settlement website, which can be found at:

www.fergusonclassaction.com

The City of Ferguson has denied and continues to deny the allegations in the Action. Although the Plaintiffs believe they would have prevailed at trial, none of the allegations or claims were adjudicated or decided by the Court. You can contact the settlement administrator with questions at 1-888-380-2225.

Read the court order preliminarily approving the settlement here.

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Media Contact:

Z Gorley, Communications Director, ArchCity Defenders
zgorley@archcitydefenders.org
(314)898-8185

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ArchCity Defenders is a holistic legal advocacy organization committed to combatting the criminalization of poverty and state violence, especially in communities of color. ACD’s foundation of civil and criminal legal representation, social services, impact litigation, policy and media advocacy, and community collaboration achieves and inspires justice and equitable outcomes for people throughout the St. Louis region and beyond.

Civil Rights Corps is a non-profit organization dedicated to challenging systemic injustice in the American legal system through innovative civil rights litigation. CRC works with individuals accused and convicted of crimes, their families and communities, people currently and formerly incarcerated, activists, organizers, judges, and government officials to challenge mass human caging and to create a legal system that promotes equality and human freedom. www.civilrightscorps.org

White & Case LLP is an international law firm with offices, people and matters around the globe. With over a 100 year history of pro bono work, White & Case’s pro bono practice is one of the largest in the world.

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