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Coleman v. Middle Georgia Probation LLC

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Dublin Division

April 12, 2018

RANDY EUGENE COLEMAN, STAR LATOSHA YOUNG, and all other persons similarly-situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
MIDDLE GEORGIA PROBATION, LLC, Defendant.

          ORDER

         Before the Court is Plaintiffs' Motion to Certify Issues to the Supreme Court of Georgia (doc. no. 38) . For the following reasons, Plaintiffs' motion is DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Under O.C.G.A. 42-8-100(g) (2006) (current version at O.C.G.A. § 42-8-101 (2016}}, the chief judge of any court, with the approval of the local governing body, had authority to enter into an agreement with a private company to provide probation supervision services for misdemeanor offenders.[1] Defendant provides such services for the State Court of Emanuel County, Georgia, and the Municipal Court of Swainsboro, Georgia, pursuant to an agreement that was executed on April 15, 2011 ("Private Probation Agreement"). (Doc. No. 40, Ex. B, at 92.) In exchange for Defendant's services, probationers must pay Defendant fees commensurate with the rates described in the Private Probation Agreement. (Id. at 101.)

         Plaintiffs Randy Eugene Coleman and Star Latosha Young were both placed on probation after pleading guilty to misdemeanor charges in the State Court of Emanuel County and the Municipal Court of Swainsboro, respectively. (Id., Exs. C, E, at 109, 117; Am. Compl., Doc. No. 40, ¶¶ 12, 18.) Pursuant to the terms of their probation, Plaintiffs were placed under Defendant's supervision and were required to pay probation supervision fees. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 14, 18.)

         On April 7, 2015, Plaintiffs brought this putative class action alleging that the Private Probation Agreement and O.C.G.A. 42-8-100 (g) violated the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Georgia law.[2] Plaintiffs contend that these violations void the Private Probation Agreement and that Plaintiffs are therefore entitled to recover all probation supervision fees paid to Defendant. (Id. ¶¶ 58, 74, 86, 98, 111.)

         On November 12, 2015, this case was stayed pending resolution of the appeal in a similar case, Keen v. Judicial Alternatives of Ga., Inc., 124 F.Supp.3d 1334 (S.D. Ga. 2015). (Doc. No. 28.) On January 17, 2017, one month after the Court held a status conference discussing, among other things, the impact of Eleventh Circuit's decision in Keen v. Judicial Alternatives of Georgia, Inc., 637 Fed.Appx. 546 (11th Cir. 2015), the Court granted Plaintiffs' unopposed motion to amend their complaint. (Doc. No. 39.) Plaintiffs now move the Court to certify the following questions to the Georgia Supreme Court:

1. Under the Constitution of the State of Georgia, is the establishment of the amount of fees a misdemeanor probationer can be sentenced to pay for probation supervision a matter for legislative action by the Georgia legislature?
2. Does the application of the Georgia Private Probation Statute, O.C.G.A. § 42-8-100, et seg., under the Defendant's contracts offend the due process clause of the Georgia Constitution?
3. Is imprisonment of misdemeanor probationers for failure to pay debts allegedly owed to a private, for-profit corporation imprisonment for debt forbidden by Art. 1, Sec. 1, ¶ 23 of the Constitution of the State of Georgia?
4. is a contract with a private company to provide probation supervision services to a court void under Georgia law if it has not been approved by the current local government and the current chief judge of that court?
5. Is a contract with a private company to provide probation supervision services to a Georgia court void if it has not been filed with the County and Municipal Probation Advisory Council of Georgia in accord with the requirements of Rule 503-1-.22 of the Rules and Regulations of the State of Georgia?
6. Does the Georgia Private Probation Statute, codified at O.C.G.A. § 42-8-100, et seg., authorize courts to enter into contracts with a private company under which the private company is compensated solely by fees paid by probationers ?
7. Does it offend the due process clause of the Georgia Constitution for officers of a Georgia court, including probation officers, to have systemic conflicts of interest, ...

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