The Northern District of Georgia allowed a suit to proceed against the City of Doraville in which plaintiffs argued that the city’s “institutional reliance on revenue from fines and fees incentivizes the city to ticket, convict, and fine defendants, regardless of the nature of an individual’s offense in violation of Plaintiff’s due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. The city moved to dismiss arguing that the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because the complaint failed to state a claim as a matter of law. The court denied the city’s motion finding that it did have jurisdiction initially but reconsidered upon motion by the city.
The plaintiffs argued that the city’s practices generate conflicts of interest because the municipal court personnel, including the judge, were financially incentivized to convict defendants appearing before the court and because law enforcement personnel, including prosecutors and police officers, had a financial incentive to ticket and prosecute people. According to the plaintiffs, these alleged conflicts deprived them of their rights under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The court struggled with whether to grant the city’s motion to dismiss clearly establishing that the city was not alleged to allow judges to participate in executive processes and causing a separation of powers issue. The court also noted that the plaintiff’s allegations were speculative and whether they could be substantiated would be vital to their case.