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Mickelson v. County of Ramsey

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

May 4, 2016

Erik Mickelson; Corey Statham, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated Plaintiffs - Appellants
v.
County of Ramsey; Keefe Commissary Network, L.L.C., doing business as Access Corrections; First California Bank; Outpay Systems, L.L.C.; John Does 1-10 Defendants-Appellees

Submitted: October 22, 2015

Appeal from United States District Court for the District of Minnesota - Minneapolis

Before WOLLMAN, BYE, and GRUENDER, Circuit Judges. [1]

GRUENDER, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

Ramsey County, Minnesota collects all of a detained arrestee's cash upon booking. From this cash, the county automatically deducts a $25 booking fee. The county later returns the arrestee's remaining funds in the form of a prepaid debit card. Erik Mickelson and Corey Statham, two men previously arrested in Ramsey County, filed a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action contending that the policies underlying these practices violated their Fourteenth Amendment rights. The district court[2] granted the defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings. We affirm.

I.

Under Minnesota law, a "county board may require that each person who is booked for confinement at a county or regional jail, and not released upon completion of the booking process, pay a fee to the sheriff's department." Minn. Stat. § 641.12, subdiv. 1. This "fee is payable immediately from any money then possessed by the person being booked, or any money deposited with the sheriff's department on the person's behalf." Id. Pursuant to this statute, Ramsey County collects $25 from each person who is booked into and not immediately released from its county detention facility. The county takes this sum from the cash an arrestee is carrying at the time of booking. If the arrestee is not carrying sufficient cash, the county charges the fee and places the arrestee's detention-facility account into a negative balance. An inmate must satisfy this balance before he or she can purchase items from the jail commissary or receive a disbursement of funds. If the arrestee has no funds at the time of booking or during the period of incarceration, the county court may order payment of the fee as part of any sentence imposed. Id.

Persons arrested and detained in Ramsey County are entitled to a refund of the booking fee in three scenarios. First, an arrestee can recover the funds if he or she is not charged with a crime. Second, an arrestee may receive a refund if charges are dismissed. Finally, an arrestee may recover the $25 upon acquittal. To facilitate the refund process, the Ramsey County sheriff's department, according to a written policy, must give all released inmates a "Booking Fee Refund Form." Eligible inmates who properly submit this form can recover the $25 taken for the booking fee.

Ramsey County also has a policy of confiscating all cash arrestees have at the time they are booked into the county detention center. Instead of returning cash to detainees upon release, the county issues prepaid debit cards for a sum equal to the value of the confiscated cash less the booking fee. Along with the card, arrestees receive a cardholder agreement explaining the fees associated with certain card uses. The fees include:

Card Usage Fees

Charge

Card Activation Fee

FREE

Weekly Maintenance

$1.50

Support Calls Fee

FREE

PIN Change Fee

FREE

Domestic ATM Fees

$2.75

International ATM Fees

$3.75

ATM Account Inquiry

$1.50

POS Debit Fee (Pin and Signature)

FREE

ATM Decline for NSF

$2.75

Card to Bank Transfer (ACH) Fee

$3.00

The card starts incurring weekly maintenance fees after thirty-six hours. Withdrawing cash will result in an ATM fee. Materials provided along with the card include a website address providing customer service and a toll-free number that arrestees may call. These resources advise cardholders how to avoid all fees-such as by spending all of the funds on the card before the weekly maintenance fee accrues-and how to minimize other possible fees. Several private entities work with the county to provide these cards. Keefe Commissary Network, L.L.C. ("KCN") coordinates the Ramsey County inmate trust-fund and release-services program. First California Bank ("FCB"), issues the prepaid debit cards. Finally, Outpay Systems, L.L.C., ("Outpay") processes any debit-card transactions.

Erik Mickelson and Corey Statham, the plaintiffs in the present suit, were arrested in Ramsey County and subjected to the above-described policies and fees. Mickelson was arrested for violating a noise ordinance. Police booked him into the Ramsey County Law Enforcement Center and confiscated his personal property, including $95 cash. Upon his release, Mickelson received a debit card carrying $70, a value that represented his $95 in cash less the $25 booking fee. He subsequently incurred $5 in fees while using the debit card. Mickelson ultimately pleaded guilty to violating a city ordinance.

Statham was arrested for disorderly conduct and obstructing the legal process. He was carrying $46 in cash when police booked him into the Ramsey County Law Enforcement Center. Upon his release, Statham received a debit card containing $21. His debit-card fees amounted to $7.25. All charges against Statham eventually were dismissed. Despite this dismissal, Statham did not receive a refund of the $25 booking fee.

Mickelson and Statham sued Ramsey County, KCN, FCB, and Outpay, alleging four claims related to the booking-fee and debit-card policies: (1) defendants were liable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violating the plaintiffs' Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights, (2) defendants were liable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for conspiring to violate the plaintiffs' civil rights, (3) defendants committed conversion, and (4) defendants committed civil theft under § 604.14 of the Minnesota statutes. The defendants answered, acknowledging that they administered and enforced the contested policies. The plaintiffs and the defendants filed cross motions for judgment on the pleadings. Mickelson and Statham alternatively moved for summary judgment. The court considered the record before it, including Ramsey County's written policy. The court denied Mickelson and Statham's motions and denied their class-certification motion as moot. The court ...


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