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For Immediate Release: Federal Court Approves $3.25 Million Settlement in Debtors’ Prison Lawsuit Against Maplewood, Town Near Ferguson

St. Louis, Mo. – April 6, 2023

On April 5, people who alleged unlawful policing and economic injustice in the City of Maplewood were granted long-anticipated justice and relief. After nearly six and a half years of litigation in the debtors’ prison lawsuit, Webb v. City of Maplewood, the federal court approved a class action settlement of $3.25 Million to be distributed among over 7,000 people who were jailed by Maplewood and over 20,000 people who paid Maplewood fines and fees between November 1, 2011 and November 18, 2021.

The federal lawsuit was filed on November 1, 2016 by ArchCity Defenders, Tycko & Zavareei LLP, and Keane Law LLC on behalf of Cecelia Roberts Webb and fellow plaintiffs. The suit alleged that Maplewood routinely violated people’s constitutional rights through its predatory scheme of illegally jailing people without inquiring into their ability to pay and using such unconstitutional jailing, and the threat of future re-incarceration, to extract fines and fees.

Since the lawsuit was filed in 2016, Maplewood’s municipal court revenue has decreased 64% and the number of tickets issued has decreased 70% in 2022, according to Annual Judicial and Statistical Reports from the Missouri Office of State Courts Administrator.

“For years, the City of Maplewood wrote thousands of tickets to raise millions of dollars in revenue,” said Nathaniel Carroll, Senior Staff Attorney at ArchCity Defenders. “Plaintiffs alleged that the City would either use jail or the prospect of jail to get money from people who were ticketed in the form of exorbitant fines and bonds, with little to no legal process. This resulted in poor people, and mostly Black people, who were jailed for days at a time until Maplewood had extorted as much money as possible from them.”

One of the lead plaintiffs, Frank Williams, was ticketed for “Failure to Produce Insurance ID” and subsequently jailed without any inquiry into his ability to pay. “I mean we got treated bad,” said Mr. Williams. Not for his minor infraction, but because he could not afford to buy his freedom, Mr. Williams sat in jail for over 14 days.

“We’re pleased that we’ve reached a settlement which will allow for some compensation and justice for the thousands of people affected by Maplewood’s challenged practices,” said Maureen Hanlon, Lead Attorney at ArchCity Defenders.

Following the final order from the Court, the settlement administrator will mail settlement payments to class members. Class members should update and or verify their mailing address as soon as possible. Individuals can call 1-888-477-1779 or visit to do so.

This lawsuit against Maplewood is one of several similar cases that have been settled since 2017, totaling over $9 million for thousands of people. The remaining debtors’ prison lawsuits allege similar claims against St. Ann, Florissant, and Ferguson.


Media Contacts:

Angelo Vidal, Communications Fellow, ArchCity Defenders
(314) 861-7681

Z Gorley, Communications Director, ArchCity Defenders
(314) 898-8185