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McNeil v. Community Probation Services, LLC

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

December 23, 2019

Karen McNeil, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
Community Probation Services, LLC, et al., Defendant s, Indya Hilfort, on behalf of herself and all others similarly situated, Plaintiff-Appellee, Giles County, Tennessee; Kyle Helton, Sheriff, Defendants-Appellants.

          Argued: December 10, 2019

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee at Columbia. No. 1:18-cv-00033-William Lynn Campbell, Jr., District Judge.

         ARGUED:

          Cassandra M. Crane, FARRAR & BATES, LLP, Nashville, Tennessee, for Appellants.

          Elizabeth Rossi, CIVIL RIGHTS CORPS, Washington, D.C., for Appellee.

         ON BRIEF:

          Cassandra M. Crane, Robyn Beale Williams, FARRAR & BATES, LLP, Nashville, Tennessee, for Appellants.

          Elizabeth Rossi, Eric Halperin, CIVIL RIGHTS CORPS, Washington, D.C., Matthew J. Piers, Chirag G. Badlani, Kate E. Schwartz, HUGHES SOCOL PIERS RESNICK & DYM, LTD., Chicago, Illinois, David W. Garrison, Scott P. Tift, BARRETT JOHNSTON MARTIN & GARRISON, LLC, Nashville, Tennessee, for Appellees.

          Before: SUTTON, NALBANDIAN, and READLER, Circuit Judges.

          OPINION

          SUTTON, Circuit Judge.

         Several criminal defendants believe that the way Tennessee sets the amount of bail for misdemeanor crimes violates federal due process. Under Tennessee law, a county sheriff enforces probation-violation warrants and the bail amounts are established by state law and set by a local judge. The district court granted the probationers a preliminary injunction against the county's and sheriff's enforcement of the bail requirements. The county and sheriff do not challenge the preliminary constitutional ruling. They argue for now only that the probationers should have sued the state judges who determine the bail amounts instead of suing the county and sheriff who enforce them. We affirm.

         I.

         Located in southern Tennessee and centered in Pulaski, Giles County contracted with private probation companies to supervise people it convicted of misdemeanors. A group of probationers sued Giles County, Sheriff Kyle Helton, the probation companies, and some of the companies' employees. They alleged problems with the misdemeanor probation system ranging from RICO violations and civil conspiracy to improper debt collection and constitutional violations stemming from private probation supervision.

         Just one claim matters today. The probationers say that the county and sheriff violated their "substantive right against wealth-based detention" by detaining them after arrest until they pay bail. R. 41 at 117. The problem, say the probationers, is that the judges set the bail amount "without reference to the person's ability to pay," outside the person's presence, and without ...


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