April 5, 2023. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri approved a class action settlement of $3.25 million to be distributed among those affected by Maplewood’s alleged debtors’ prison scheme from 2011-2021. This settlement marks an important victory for those impacted by Maplewood’s challenged unlawful conduct and a major milestone in the fight against poverty-based jails across the nation. The lawsuit, Webb, et al. v. City of Maplewood, was filed in 2016 and alleged that the City of Maplewood violated people’s constitutional rights through its predatory practice of jailing and extorting fines and fees from individuals who could not afford to pay them.
The lawsuit was brought by ArchCity Defenders, Tycko & Zavareei LLP, and Keane Law LLC on behalf of Cecelia Roberts Webb and other plaintiffs who claimed that they were illegally jailed or extorted by Maplewood. According to the original complaint, Maplewood’s practices and “[t]he treatment of the named Plaintiffs reveals an intentional, systemic effort by Defendant Maplewood through both police and municipal court practices, to deprive some of the area’s poorest residents of their rights under the United States Constitution.”
“We are pleased to have reached this ground-breaking settlement, which ends a nearly 7-year long fight to obtain compensation for thousands of victims of the City’s allegedly unconstitutional jailing,” said Andrea Gold of Tycko & Zavareei LLP, one of the attorneys representing the classes.
Under the terms of the settlement, over 7,000 people who were jailed and over 20,000 people who paid fines and fees to Maplewood between 2011-2021 are eligible for financial compensation.
The plaintiffs and class members were represented by Partner Andrea Gold and Associate Leora Friedman of Tycko & Zavareei LLP, supported by paralegal Aaron McReynolds; attorneys Nathaniel Carroll, Maureen Hanlon, and Blake Strode of ArchCity Defenders, Inc.; and Ryan Keane of Keane Law LLC.
This historic settlement serves as an example for other cities across America that have been using debtors’ prisons to extract revenue from low-income families and communities of color. The $3.25 million settlement is just one step towards justice—but it is an important one nonetheless—for those affected in Maplewood and a triumph in the nationwide fight to end modern day debtors’ prisons.
The case is Webb, et al. v. City of Maplewood, Missouri, case no.: 4:16 CV 1703 CDP in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, Eastern Division.