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Nordholm v. Barkell

United States District Court, D. Montana, Butte Division

April 4, 2019

TIM BARKELL, et al., Defendants.


          Jeremiah C. Lynch United States Magistrate Judge

         Trial of this case is set for April 22, 2019. Currently pending are Plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment on Count 1 of his amended complaint and Defendants' motion for summary judgment on all claims.

         I. Summary Judgment Standards

         A party is entitled to summary judgment if it shows “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a).

         The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of proving, on both the facts and the law, that it is entitled to judgment in its favor. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). If the moving party meets its burden, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to “set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

         At this stage of the proceedings, the judge does not weigh the evidence or determine the truth of matters at issue but only determines whether there is a genuine issue of fact to be tried. Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law are material; irrelevant or unnecessary disputes are not considered. If the documentary evidence permits only one conclusion, or if evidence submitted in opposition is merely colorable or not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248-50.

         II. Analysis

         A. Count 1

         Nordholm's first claim for relief alleges that Defendants Anaconda-Deer Lodge County (“ADLC”) and Tim Barkell, the police chief, “have a policy and custom of charging booking fees and bonding fees” which “deprive[d] me of my money without notice or hearing.” Am. Compl. (Doc. 9) at 5. He claims this deprivation occurred on three occasions when he was arrested and released: December 20, 2015, to January 7, 2015; February 27 to February 29, 2016; and March 4 to March 16, 2016. Nordholm also claims the Defendants impose the fees inconsistently. See id.

         1. Undisputed Facts

         The parties agree Nordholm was assessed a $25 booking fee on each of three arrests and a $70 bonding fee[1] when he was released from custody, resulting in total fees of $285. See, e.g., Nordholm Decl. (Doc. 67-1) at 2-3 ¶¶ 3-10.

         Defendants say, “On December 20, 2015, William Nordholm was charged a booking fee of $25.00 associated with his arrest on that date, of which he paid $23.00.” Defs. Statement of Undisputed Facts (“SUF”) (Doc. 64) at 3 ¶ 7. Nordholm basically agrees, but he puts it differently. He says, “Without notice or hearing, ADLC's jail took my $23 and converted it to the County's use.” Nordholm Decl. (Doc. 67-1) at 2 ¶ 5. The parties agree he (or a bonding company) paid the “outstanding $2 booking fee from 12-20-15, ” as well as $70 in bonding fees, when he was released on January 7, 2016. See Defs. Statement of Disputed Facts (Doc. 69) (“SDF”) at 2 ¶ 4; Nordholm Decl. (Doc. 67-1) at 2 ¶ 6.

         Nordholm was again arrested on February 27, 2016, taken to jail, and charged a $25 booking fee. On that occasion, he “did not arrive with any cash for them to take.” He paid the booking and bonding fees when he was released on February 29, 2016. The same facts occurred when Nordholm was arrested on March 4 and released on March 16, 2016. See, e.g., Nordholm Decl. (Doc. 67-1) at 2-3 ¶¶ 7-10.

         When Nordholm was booked into the ADLC jail in October 2016, he was not charged a booking fee. See id. at 4 ¶ 18. Because he entered the jail to begin serving a sentence, he did not bond out and did not incur a bonding fee. See Defs. SUF at 5 ¶¶ 15-16.

         2. The Fees and What Nordholm Claims About Them

         By resolution, the ADLC county commissioners authorized the sheriff to impose booking and bonding fees. Fees are authorized for other things, too, for example, producing an affidavit ($50), serving a summons ($50), serving a writ of execution ($50 per account), or holding or rescheduling a sheriff's sale ($150 or $50, respectively). The fees are intended to “offset operational costs of the Law Enforcement Department” and “to recover the costs of services provided by the Anaconda-Deer Lodge County Law Enforcement Department.” See Sather Aff. Ex. A (Doc. 64-1 at 2) (“Resolution No. 11-07”).

         Intuitively, “[b]eing arrested is not a ‘service' to the person arrested!” Markadonatos v. Village of Woodridge, 760 F.3d 545, 551 (7th Cir. 2014) (en banc) (per curiam) (Posner, J., concurring in the judgment). But the Fourth Amendment says persons suspected of crimes may be arrested on probable cause, and the Fourteenth Amendment says arrestees must be protected from undue risks to their persons and health. At booking, an arrestee is identified so as not to get “lost” or be confused with others who have perhaps done worse things. He is placed in a safe location, may request and obtain medical attention, may call a friend or family member or lawyer, and receives jail-issue clothing and maybe a shower for sanitary reasons. Doing these things is far more beneficial to the arrestee and to other inmates than not doing them, whether the arrest is justified or not. Many people do not “choose” to incur a need to serve summonses or subpoenas or to obtain copies of police reports, but, like booking, such services may prevent or ameliorate harms caused by others.[2] And fees for these services, provided they are fairly indexed with actual costs, reasonably require consumers of the services to pay a little above and beyond the taxes everyone pays for law and order.

         Still, booking and bonding fees are different from the other listed fees, because they allow a law enforcement officer to generate the need for further law enforcement services. If fees exceed costs, an unscrupulous officer or county might redress temporary shortfalls in county funds by decreeing a flurry of arrests, and that may lead to arrests not supported by probable cause.

         That is the real rub of the booking and bonding fees: the problem of an unjustified arrest. Why should someone have to pay booking and bonding fees to an entity whose ...

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