March 29, 2022
Over Twenty Thousand People Eligible to Claim Settlement Money from Debtors’ Prison Lawsuit Against Normandy
(St. Louis, Mo.) On March 29, 2022, a federal judge preliminarily approved three settlement classes in a debtors’ prison lawsuit against the City of Normandy. This means that the court found that it was likely that the lawsuit meets the requirements for settlement on a class-wide basis. The proposed settlement class includes approximately 23,000 people. The suit, Angela Davis et al. v. City of Normandy, filed September 10, 2018 by ArchCity Defenders and Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP, alleges Normandy’s pattern and practice of exploiting primarily poor and Black individuals through an unlawful and perverse system of criminalizing, arresting, and jailing people who could not afford to pay court fines and fees which stemmed from over policing, excessive ticketing, and a revenue-generating municipal court.
“We are happy that today’s ruling is another step forward to getting some compensation for our clients and thousands of other people affected by Normandy’s practices,” said Jack Waldron, Managing Attorney in the Civil Litigation Department at ArchCity Defenders.
“Change doesn’t occur by accident, and unfortunately municipalities have had to be forced into some accountability,” said Umi Okoli (née Meredith Walker), a plaintiff in the suit. “People want to breathe easy when their children and grandchildren walk out the door and drive through places like Normandy. While this has been a long time coming, I’m hopeful that this is an example of change happening in St. Louis.”
In the year the suit was filed, 2013, the City of Normandy issued 10,390 tickets, a 472% increase from 2008. According to the Office of the State Courts Administrator’s Table 94 on Municipal Division data, Normandy’s municipal court generated $1,761,787.43 in 2013.
Following this preliminary approval, the settlement administrator will mail postcards to the individual class members. Impacted individuals will have a 120-day period, from early April to early August 2022, to file a claim in this case.
A settlement website will be live soon at normandyclassaction.com. Starting in early April, individuals who paid fines, were arrested, and/or jailed by Normandy between September 10, 2013 and May 12, 2021, are encouraged to visit the website to view the terms and, if eligible, to file a claim for monetary compensation.
- To read a copy of the judge’s order preliminarily approving the classes, click here.
- To read a copy of the original complaint, click here.
Since the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson and the Ferguson uprising, ArchCity Defenders has filed seven debtors’ prison lawsuits on behalf of individuals impacting thousands and thousands of people whose rights were violated by local governments. Of the seven cases filed, one class action, against the city of Jennings, which neighbors Ferguson, settled in July 2016 for a landmark $4.75 million, and had 2,000 class members.
Currently, ArchCity Defenders and co-counsel have pending debtors’ prison cases against Ferguson, Maplewood, Edmundson, Florissant, and St. Ann. In November of 2021, a federal judge certified Maplewood as a class action, impacting approximately 9,000 people jailed unlawfully by Maplewood. A motion for class certification in the Ferguson and Florissant lawsuits are still pending, and discovery is ongoing in the St. Ann case.
Z Gorley, Communications Director