GALVESTON – Three Galveston County men filed a class action
lawsuit against the City of Santa Fe on allegations it is raising revenue by
unconstitutionally jailing local residents, according to recent Galveston
federal court records.
George West, Robert Jones, and Brady Fuller claim in court
papers filed on Nov. 3 that Santa Fe imprisons individuals who could not afford
to pay fines and fees.
“Anyone who falls behind faces imprisonment in
unconscionable conditions without the opportunity to see a judge or explain the
circumstances that prevent payment,” the original petition says.
West and Jones say that they face the threat of jail while
Fuller states that he had already spent time in the Santa Fe Jail, which the
suit labels a “modern-day debtors’ prison.”
Per the plaintiffs, Santa Fe Municipal Judge Carlton Getty
and Santa Fe Chief of Police Jeffrey Powell agreed to raise the cost of traffic
and other misdemeanor fines to boost revenue. The city then “uses multiple
constitutional violations as leverage to extract payments from local residents,
tacking on further fines and fees at every opportunity,” the suit says.
West and Jones further accuse the city of not providing them
relief from their outstanding fines. Fuller complains that he was deprived of due
process, his right to equal protection, his right to counsel, and his right
against cruel and unusual punishment when the city jailed him.
Getty and Powell are co-defendants in the case.
A jury trial is requested.
Attorneys Trisha Trigilio and Rebecca Robertson of the
American Civil Liberties Union of Texas are representing the complainants.
Galveston Division of the Southern District of
Texas Case No. 3:16-CV-0309