JENNINGS, MO (KTVI) - Some people appearing in the Jennings Municipal Court were given fines they couldn’t afford and later locked up after they couldn’t pay. Others were handed an additional fee because they were issued a warrant. Attorneys with the ArchCity Defenders alleged both actions violated the law. The group of lawyers helped settle two class action lawsuits with the City of Jennings.
The suits were filed in 2014 and 2015. Skadden Fellow and ArchCity Defenders attorney Blake Strode said time is running out for people to claim money being paid out from the settlements. Forms must be submitted in the coming weeks.
“This is just part and parcel of what we see too often in this region, which is poor people being abused and mistreated by the court,” Strode said.
The first case involved accusations that the City of Jennings was operating a debtors’ prison.
Approximately $4.7 million is being paid out as a result of a federal lawsuit ending with a settlement. Some of the money will go to a homeless shelter and some will go to cover legal fees. About $3.5 million will be split among 2,000 people who were in jail because they did not have the money to pay a fine. The total amount paid each person will vary based upon how many days they spent in jail. That settlement covers the time frame ranging from February of 2010 to September 2015.
Claim forms for this case must be submitted by November 24.
The second settlement stems from a class action suit alleging the Jennings Municipal Court charged illegal fees for issuing warrants between 2009 and 2014. Jennings took in $530,000 from approximately 6,800 people, according to ArchCity Defenders.
The deadline to file a claim in this suit is October 28.
Forms can also be picked up at the ArchCity Defenders Offices on the second floor of 1210 Locust St., St. Louis 63103. Forms are also available at the Lewis and Clark branch of the St. Louis County Library located at 9909 Lewis and Clark Blvd., St. Louis 63136.
“We know this had a major impact on people’s lives and we want them to be compensated for that,” Strode said.
Strode said ArchCity Defenders has reached settlements with other cities and is currently involved in similar legal action against more than a dozen area municipalities.