The ACLU of Texas’ lawsuit asks the court to protect individuals from being jailed for non-jailable offenses solely because they could not afford a payment. The lawsuit seeks to prohibit the police from jailing people who haven’t received a hearing or access to a lawyer. The lawsuit also highlights the starvation diet that Santa Fe feeds its prisoners and seeks a court order requiring the city to give its prisoners food meeting minimal nutritional requirements.

The court has resolved legal questions in our clients’ favor. The court held that it is unconstitutional to arrest people for failing to make payments without first giving them a hearing, and that it is unconstitutionally cruel to starve prisoners. Our clients in both cases moved forward to collect evidence of Santa Fe and Hitchcock’s debtors’ prison policies.

Update (9/9/2019): The court granted partial summary judgment against the City of Santa Fe. The court held that it is a violation of the Sixth Amendment right to counsel to jail people for unpaid fines if they were not represented by a lawyer at trial. Shortly after this ruling was issued, the City of Santa Fe settled with Mr. Fuller.

Mr. West has sought permission to file a similar summary judgment motion against the City of Hitchcock.

Current status:
Motion to dismiss denied in West v. City of Hitchcock
Partial summary judgement granted; case settled in Fuller v. City of Santa Fe

Date filed

November 3, 2016


Federal District Court, Southern District of Texas