United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Atlanta Division
STACEY ADAMS and JERRY SAINT VIL, on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
SENTINEL OFFENDER SERVICES, LLC; MARK CONTESTABILE, Chief Business Development Officer, Sentinel Offender Services, LLC; TIM LEWIS, Vice President of Georgia Services, Sentinel Offender Services, LLC; and STEVE QUEEN, Director of Services, Sentinel Offender Services, LLC; Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
WILLIAM S. DUFFEY, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on the parties' Joint Motion
for Conditional Certification of Settlement Class 
(“Original Joint Motion”) and the parties'
First Amended Joint Motion for Conditional Certification of
Settlement Class  (“Amended Joint Motion”).
Nature of the Action
a class action brought by two named representatives, Stacey
Adams and Jerry Saint Vil (the “Plaintiffs”) on
their behalf and on behalf of a class of similarly situated
people, against Defendant Sentinel Offender Services, LLC
(“Sentinel”), and individuals employed by
Sentinel. Sentinel provides probation supervision services in
non-felony probation cases for courts throughout the State of
Georgia. From 2006 to 2017, Sentinel had a contract with the
City of Atlanta, Georgia, to provide probation services for
probationers sentenced by the Municipal Court of Atlanta,
including general probation supervision, fine collection
services, counseling, and other probation services.
Defendants Mark Contestabile, Tim Lewis and Steve Queen were
at various relevant times employed by Sentinel with
managerial responsibilities related to the administration of
the probation services provided by Sentinel to the Municipal
Court of Atlanta.
Amended Complaint  alleges that Defendants illegally
collected excessive or unauthorized fees that were not
ordered by any court, permitted by statute, or authorized by
Sentinel's contract with the Municipal Court of Atlanta.
Plaintiffs specifically allege that fees collected by
Defendants in certain instances violated O.C.G.A. §
42-8-103(b). As of July 1, 2015, that statute provided:
“When pay-only probation is imposed, the probation
supervision fees shall be capped so as not to exceed three
months of ordinary probation supervision fees notwithstanding
the number of cases for which a fine and statutory surcharge
were imposed or that the defendant was sentenced to serve
consecutive sentences . . . .”
O.C.G.A. § 42-8-103(b).
probationers sentenced in the Municipal Court of Atlanta were
generally required to pay Sentinel a fee of $20 during the
first month of Sentinel's services. In the event a
pay-only probationer paid off their fines within the first 30
days of probation, Sentinel would not charge additional fees
for services. In the event a pay-only probationer did not pay
off fines within the first 30 days of probation, Sentinel
would charge the probationer $27 for supervision fees up to
an additional three (3) times.
Stacey Adams was sentenced by the Municipal Court of Atlanta
in July 2015 to pay a fine and fees totaling $215.25.
Plaintiff Adams did not pay her fine and fees at the time of
her sentencing and was sentenced to pay-only probation.
Plaintiff Adams was charged by Sentinel a $20
“enrollment” fee in the first month of her
probation and three (3) supervision fees each in the amount
Jerry Saint Vil was sentenced for traffic violations by the
Municipal Court of Atlanta on three (3) occasions. On each
occasion, Plaintiff Saint Vil did not pay his fines and fees
at the time of his sentencing and was sentenced to pay- only
probation. For the first sentence, Plaintiff Saint Vil was
charged a $20 enrollment fee. For the second sentence,
Plaintiff Saint Vil was charged three (3) supervision fees of
$27 each. For the third sentence, Plaintiff Saint Vil was
charged a $20 enrollment fee in the first month of his
probation and two (2) supervision fees of $27 in each of the
filed suit against Defendants on July 31, 2017. In their
amended complaint, Plaintiffs assert claims under the United
States Constitution and the laws of the State of Georgia.
Plaintiffs seek equitable relief, compensatory and punitive
damages, and attorney's fees. Plaintiffs also seek to
certify a class consisting of “all persons who (1) were
sentenced by the Atlanta Municipal Court to pay-only
probation under the supervision of Sentinel Offender Services
after July 25, 2013; (2) were unable to pay off their
court-ordered fines within 30 days of having been sentenced;
and (3) were nevertheless required to pay a $20
‘enrollment fee.'” ([25.1] at 5).
contend that all fees charged were authorized by
Sentinel's contract with the City of Atlanta, were not in
excess of any statutorily imposed restrictions and were
specifically authorized by the orders sentencing pay-only
probationers. Defendants further contend that the relevant
portion of the statute at issue, O.C.G.A. § 42-8-103(b),
became effective on July 1, 2015, and that claims for alleged
unauthorized fees charged for sentences before July 15, 2015,
should be excluded from this action.
The Proposed Settlement
November 30, 2017, the parties attended a mediation session.
During the mediation, the parties agreed to a framework by
which the claims asserted in this case could be resolved. The
parties used this framework to structure a settlement
agreement attached to the Original Joint Motion as Exhibit A.
([21.1] at 33-61).
Court reviewed the proposed settlement agreement and
scheduled a teleconference with the parties to discuss its
terms. During the teleconference, the Court expressed
concerns regarding the creation and funding of the settlement
fund and the stipulation of attorney's fees as provided
in the settlement agreement. ().
response, the parties filed an Amended Joint Motion  and
attached a revised settlement agreement as Exhibit A
(“the Settlement Agreement”). ([25.1] at 33-63).
The Settlement Agreement requires the parties to move the
Court to certify a class of persons (“the Class”)
consisting of each individual who meets the following
requirements: (1) the person was sentenced to “pay
only” probation as defined by O.C.G.A. § 42-8-103
by the Municipal Court of Atlanta, Georgia on or after July
1, 2015; and (2) the person was subsequently charged and paid
to Defendant Sentinel Offender Services, LLC at least one
enrollment or administrative fee of $20 and supervision fees
of at least $81 for a single sentencing event (defined as a
single sentencing order whether said order references
multiple cases or imposes consecutive sentences). ([25.1] at
34 ¶ 2). The parties believe, based on a review of
documents and files by Plaintiffs, Defendants, and their
attorneys, that the Class will consist of no more than 2352
potential members. The Settlement Agreement provides that
each member of the Class will be notified of the terms of the
Settlement Agreement and his or her right to opt out of the
Class. ([25.1 at 46-59 (“Notice of Class Action,
Proposed Settlement and Final Approval/Fairness
Hearing”); [25.1] at 60-63 (“Response
Settlement Agreement further provides that Defendants will
make available a “Class Fund” to reimburse and
compensate all Class Members who timely submit claim forms.
Each member of the Class who completes and submits a claim
form within the designated time period is presumptively
entitled to receive: (1) a refund of $23 for fees previously
paid by the Class Member to Defendant Sentinel (“the
Restitution Amount”); and (2) additional damages of $30
per Class Member (“the Damages Amount”). The
Settlement Agreement states that Defendants shall pay 50% of
the potential Total Damages Amount plus the anticipated
compensation/settlement amounts of $5, 000.00 to each of the
representative Plaintiffs ($53.00 x 2352 potential Class
Members = $124, 656.00 x 50% = $62, 328.00 $10, 000.00 =
$72, 328.00) to attorneys for the Class within 23 days of the
Court's preliminary approval of the settlement to be
deposited in a trust account pending final approval and
distribution. ([25.1] at 39-40). This amount will be treated
as a deposit or credit towards the Total Damages Amount and
anticipated settlements with the representative plaintiffs,
but will not increase or decrease the final calculation of
the Total Damages Amount to be calculated as set forth above.
To address a concern raised by the Court regarding
Defendants' ability to fund 100% of the potential Total
Damages Amount, the Settlement Agreement states Defendants
have provided Plaintiffs evidence of Defendant Sentinel
Offender Services, LLC's creditworthiness and represent
to the Court that said Defendant is financially capable of
funding up to the potential Total Damages Amount.
Settlement Agreement also states that:
. Defendants will pay Plaintiffs'
counsel's attorney fees and costs in the amount of $30,
000, subject to approval by the Court;
. Plaintiffs' counsel will be
responsible for the administration of the settlement with
respect to mutually agreeable notification to the potential
class members and distribution of settlement checks to
properly responding Class Members;
. Defendant Sentinel will reimburse
Plaintiffs' counsel for up to $8, 000 of the actual
expenses (publication, postage and copying) of the
administration of the settlement within 30 days of receipt of
documentation of the expenses incurred; and
. The individual claims of Plaintiffs Adams
and Saint Vil will be resolved by each receiving $5, 000 as
payment for their services as class representatives and for
the resolution all claims asserted or which could be asserted
in this lawsuit.
required by Local Rule 23.1(C)(2), the parties have conferred
and agree that Plaintiffs' attorneys may contact class
members as set forth in the Settlement Agreement.
Amended Joint Motion requests the Court to certify a class
for settlement purposes, appoint class counsel, preliminarily
approve the proposed Settlement Agreement, direct that notice
shall be issued to the class, and schedule a final fairness
Conditional Certification of Settlement Class
parties move for certification of the following class for the
purposes of settling this action:
Individuals who meet the following criteria: (1) the person
was sentenced to “pay only” probation as defined
by O.C.G.A. § 42-8-103 by the Municipal Court of
Atlanta, Georgia on or after July 1, 2015; and (2) the person
was subsequently charged and paid to Defendant Sentinel
Offender Services, LLC at least one enrollment fee of $20 and
subsequent supervision fees of at least $81 for a single
sentencing event (defined as a single sentencing order
whether said order references multiple cases or imposes
([25.1] at 5-6). A plaintiff seeking to certify a settlement
class must first satisfy the requirements of Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 23(a), and at least one of the requirements
of Rule 23(b). See Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(a)-(b);
Amchem Prods., Inc. v. Windsor, 521 U.S.
591, 621 (1997) (Rule 23(e), which provides for settlement of
a class action, “was designed to function as an
additional requirement, not a superseding direction, for the
‘class action' to which Rule 23(e) refers is one
qualified for certification under Rule 23(a) and