Robinson v. Long, 073020 FED6, 18-6121

Docket Nº:18-6121
Party Name:Fred Robinson, Johnny Gibbs, and Ashley Sprague, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs-Appellees, v. Jeff Long, Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security, in his official capacity, Defendant-Appellant.
Attorney:Claudia Wilner, Edward P. Krugman, NATIONAL CENTER FOR LAW AND ECONOMIC JUSTICE, New York, New York, Jonathan Cole, Matthew G. White, BAKER, DONELSON, BEARMAN, CALDWELL & BERKOWITZ, PC, Memphis, Tennessee, Tara Mikkilineni, CIVIL RIGHTS CORPS, Washington, D.C., for Appellees. Alexander S. Rieger,...
Judge Panel:Before: COLE, Chief Judge; BOGGS and SUTTON, Circuit Judges. COLE, Chief Judge, dissenting.
Case Date:July 30, 2020
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
 
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Fred Robinson, Johnny Gibbs, and Ashley Sprague, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs-Appellees,

v.

Jeff Long, Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security, in his official capacity, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 18-6121

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

July 30, 2020

On Petition for Rehearing En Banc

United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee at Nashville. No. 3:17-cv-01263-Aleta Arthur Trauger, District Judge.

ON PETITION FOR REHEARING EN BANC:

Claudia Wilner, Edward P. Krugman, NATIONAL CENTER FOR LAW AND ECONOMIC JUSTICE, New York, New York, Jonathan Cole, Matthew G. White, BAKER, DONELSON, BEARMAN, CALDWELL & BERKOWITZ, PC, Memphis, Tennessee, Tara Mikkilineni, CIVIL RIGHTS CORPS, Washington, D.C., for Appellees.

ON RESPONSE:

Alexander S. Rieger, Andrew B. Campbell, OFFICE OF THE TENNESSEE ATTORNEY GENERAL, Nashville, Tennessee, for Appellant.

Before: COLE, Chief Judge; BOGGS and SUTTON, Circuit Judges.

ORDER

The court received a petition for rehearing en banc. The original panel has reviewed the petition for rehearing and concludes that the issues raised in the petition were fully considered upon the original submission and decision. The petition then was circulated to the full court. Less than a majority of the judges voted in favor of rehearing en banc.

Therefore, the petition is denied.

DISSENT

COLE, Chief Judge, dissenting.

I respectfully dissent from the denial of rehearing en banc. Our court erred when it decided Fowler v. Benson, 924 F.3d 247 (6th Cir. 2019), which condoned Michigan's practice of stripping thousands of indigent residents of their driver's licenses. And we err again here when, instead of revisiting Fowler's holding as an en banc court, we allow Tennessee's practice of doing the same.

The Fowler majority said that a state's "choice to wield the cudgel of driver's-license suspension for nonpayment of court debt" was a permissible means to "heighten[] the incentive to pay." 924 F.3d at 263. But this cruel cudgel is unconstitutional as applied to the class of plaintiffs in this case, which consists only of Tennessee drivers who cannot now, and could not at the time of their license suspension, afford to pay their debt. Offering this class the opportunity to pay a fine or have their license taken away is an "illusory choice," as the class members are, by definition, without the means to pay. See Williams v. Illinois, 399 U.S. 235, 242 (1970).

The Constitution does not permit states to inflict harsher punishment on indigent people simply because they are unable to pay. See, e.g., Tate v. Short, 401 U.S. 395, 396-99 (1971) (holding imprisonment of an indigent driver for failure to pay traffic debt unconstitutional); Williams, 399 U.S. at 242 (holding imprisonment of an indigent defendant due to his failure to pay a fine unconstitutional); Griffin v. Illinois, 351 U.S. 12, 13-14, 19 (1956) (plurality) (holding that preventing an indigent...

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