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Mendoza v. Garrett

United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division

December 12, 2018

CINDY MENDOZA; GLORIA BERMUDEZ; JEREMY CHASE; CEKAIS TONI GANUELAS; REBECCA HEATH; and KARL WADE ROBERTS, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
MATTHEW GARRETT, in his official capacity as Director of the Oregon Department of Transportation; TAMMY BANEY, in her official capacity as Chair of the Oregon Transportation Commission; SEAN O'HOLLAREN, in his official capacity as Member of the Oregon Transportation Commission; BOB VAN BROCKLIN, in his official capacity as Member of the Oregon Transportation Commission; MARTIN CALLERY, in his official capacity as Member of the Oregon Transportation Commission; and TOM MCCLELLAN, in his official capacity as Administrator of Driver and Motor Vehicles Division, Oregon Department of Transportation, Defendants.

          Emily Teplin Fox Marisa Samuelson Beth Englander Kelsey Heilman OREGON LAW CENTER Jonathan M. Dennis OREGON LAW CENTER Attorneys for Plaintiffs

          Ellen Rosenblum ATTORNEY GENERAL Renee Stineman ATTORNEY-IN-CHARGE Beth Andrews ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL Sadie Furzley ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL Department of Justice Attorneys for Defendants

          OPINION & ORDER

          Marco A. Hernandez United States District Judge.

         Plaintiffs bring this action on behalf of themselves and a putative class, challenging Oregon's practice of suspending an individual's driver's license for failure to pay "traffic debt."[1] More specifically, the six named Plaintiffs, each of whom lives on an extremely limited income and has had a driver's license suspended because of the inability to pay one or more traffic violation fines, contend that suspending a driver's license for failure to pay traffic debt absent an assessment of an individual's ability to pay violates the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Defendants are the Director of the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), members of the Oregon Transportation Commission, and the Administrator of ODOT's Driver and Motor Vehicles Division. Collectively, they are "the DMV." Simultaneously with filing the Complaint, Plaintiffs moved for a preliminary injunction and to certify the class. This Opinion addresses the preliminary injunction motion only. At oral argument on that motion, I deferred any further briefing on the class certification motion, and any other activity in the case, until resolution of the preliminary injunction motion.

         Plaintiffs bring three claims, each alleging a violation of either due process, equal protection, or both. Because Plaintiffs fail to demonstrate a likelihood of success on the merits as to any of their claims, I deny the motion.

         BACKGROUND

         Oregon, like other states, has a statutory scheme in which the failure to pay a court-adjudicated traffic violation fine can result in the suspension of a driver's license. Recently, some states have addressed the practice through legislation. In California, for example, according to a Los Angeles Times article cited by Plaintiffs, the California Legislature passed a bill, signed by the Governor in June 2017, preventing the suspension of driver's licenses because of unpaid fines.[2] Other states are in litigation over the practice. E.g., Fowler v. Johnson, No. 17-11441, 2017 WL 6379676 (E.D. Mich. Dec. 14, 2017) (challenge to Michigan statutes allowing suspension of driver's licenses of individuals who fail to pay court-ordered fines, costs, fees, and assessments resulting from traffic violations) ("Fowler I")[3]; Robinson v. Purkey, No. 3:17-cv-1263, 2017 WL 4418134 (M.D. Tenn. Oct. 5, 2017) (challenge to Tennessee statutes allowing suspension of driver's licenses for nonpayment of fines or costs imposed for conviction of driving offenses) ("Robinson I").[4] This case, however, involves Oregon's statutory scheme. Thus, I begin there before turning to other evidence in the record submitted in support of, and in opposition to, the motion.

         I. Oregon's Statutory Scheme

         The Oregon Vehicle Code defines "traffic violation" as "a traffic offense that is designated as a traffic violation in the statute defining the offense, or any other offense defined in the Oregon Vehicle Code that is punishable by a fine but that is not punishable by a term of imprisonment." Or. Rev. Stat. § (O.R.S). 801.557; see also O.R.S. 153.008(1)(a), (b) (providing generally that an "offense" is a "violation" if it is "designated as a violation by the statute defining the offense," or the "statute prescribing the penalty for the offense provides that the offense is punishable by a fine but does not provide that the offense is punishable by a term of imprisonment.").

         Violations are classified into categories. O.R.S. 153.012 (designating categories as Class A, Class B, Class C, and Class D, as well as "unclassified violations as described in O.R.S. 153.015," and "[s]pecific fine violations as described in O.R.S. 153.015."). "The penalty for committing a violation is a fine." O.R.S. 153.018(1). There are maximum, presumptive, and minimum fines for each category of violation. O.R.S. 153.018(2) (maximum fines); O.R.S. 153.019 (presumptive fines); O.R.S. 153.020 (increasing presumptive fines for violations committed in a highway work zone, school zone, or safety corridor); O.R.S. 153.021 (minimum fines). The Chief Justice of the Oregon Supreme Court is required to establish a uniform fine schedule for violations prosecuted in circuit courts. O.R.S. 153.800(4)(b). Courts other than circuit courts are required to establish schedules of the amounts of penalties to be imposed for first, second, and subsequent violations, designating each violation specifically or by class. O.R.S. 153.800(4)(a).

         When law enforcement officers issue a citation and summons to a driver for a traffic violation, certain information must be included as specified in O.R.S. 153.045-153.051. This includes the amount of the presumptive fine, if there is one for the violation. O.R.S. 153.051(4) (requirements of the summons). The summons must notify the person that a monetary judgment may be entered for up to the maximum amount of fines, restitution, and other costs allowed by law if the person fails to make all required appearances at proceedings. O.R.S. 153.051(5). And, the summons must notify the person that if he or she pleads no contest and pays the presumptive fine, the person may submit an explanation of the circumstances of the violation and the court may consider that explanation in establishing the amount of the fine, but the court cannot impose a fine less than the statutory minimum. O.R.S. 153.051(7). The summons must also notify the person that if the person pleads not guilty and requests a trial, the fines still cannot be less than the minimum unless the person is found not guilty. O.R.S. 153.051(8).

         A person who has been issued a citation must make an appearance in person at the time indicated in the citation/summons, request a trial, or deliver payment of the presumptive fine to the court. O.R.S. 153.061(1), (3). Circuit courts, municipal courts, and justice courts adjudicate traffic violations. In cases where the defendant pleads no contest by delivering payment of the presumptive fine to the court under O.R.S. 153.061(3), the amount of the fine may not exceed the presumptive fine. Id. Additionally, a judge may suspend operation of any part of a judgment entered under the "Violations and Fines" chapter of the Oregon statutes upon condition that the defendant pay the nonsuspended portion of a fine within a specified period of time. O.R.S. 153.090(4).

         When a traffic violation fine remains unpaid, a court may use a private collection agency to seek recoupment of the debt or refer the debt to the Oregon Department of Revenue (ODOR). O.R.S. 1.197(1). In addition to these options, "[a] court may . . . (a) issue a notice of suspension to the [DMV] that directs the department to implement procedures under ORS 809.416[, ] or (b) [o]rder a defendant's driving privileges restricted." O.R.S. 809.210(1). This case concerns only (a), the issuance of the notice of suspension. Although an unpaid traffic violation fine allows a court to send a suspension notice to the DMV, a court is prohibited from sending a notice of suspension for those who have failed to pay fines for bicycle, pedestrian, or parking offenses. O.R.S. 809.210(7).

         Upon receipt of the notice of suspension from a court, suspension of a driver's license by the DMV is mandatory. A person "is subject to suspension under ORS 809.415(4) if the department receives a notice of suspension from a court under ORS 809.210 indicating that the person has failed or refused to pay a fine[.]" O.R.S. 809.416(2). The "department shall suspend driving privileges when provided under ORS 809.416." O.R.S. 809.415(4) (emphasis added); see also O.R.S. 809.210(4)(b) (providing that if the court issues a notice of suspension that directs the DMV to implement procedures under O.R.S. 809.416, the DMV shall take action on the suspension as provided under O.R.S. 809.416).

         A person is subject to suspension under O.R.S. 809.416(2) until one of the following occurs: (1) the person presents the department with a notice of reinstatement issued by the court showing that the person (a) is making payments or has paid the fine; or (b) has enrolled in a preapprenticeship program as defined or is a registered apprentice as defined; or (2) twenty years has elapsed from the date of the traffic offense. O.R.S. 809.416(2); see also O.R.S. 809.415(4)(a) (the mandatory suspension shall continue until the earlier of (1) the person establishes that she or he has performed all acts necessary under O.R.S. 809.416 to make the person not subject to suspension; or (2) twenty years from the date the traffic offense occurred if the suspension is imposed for a reason described in O.R.S. 809.416(2) (failure or refusal to pay a fine)). Echoing the exception in O.R.S. 809.210(7), O.R.S. 809.416(3) exempts from suspension persons who fail or refuse to pay a fine relating to any pedestrian, bicycle, or parking offense.

         While mandatory unless excepted under O.R.S. 809.416(2)(a) or (b), the suspension does not take effect immediately. Instead, the department, upon receipt of a notice of suspension from a court, must send a letter by first class mail advising the person that suspension will begin sixty days from the date of the letter unless the department is presented with a notice of reinstatement by the court under O.R.S. 809.416(2)(a). O.R.S. 809.416(3); see also O.R.S. 809.210(4)(a) (providing that if the court issues a notice of suspension that directs the DMV to implement suspension procedures under O.R.S. 809.416, and if at any time within the period of suspension, a person pays the fine or has begun making payments according to the payment schedule established with the court, the court shall immediately send to the department a notice of reinstatement; further stating that the notice of suspension may be reissued if the person ceases making payments before the fine is paid in full).

         A person whose license has been suspended under O.R.S. 809.415(4)(a) is entitled to administrative review under O.R.S. 809.440. O.R.S. 809.415(4)(b). This review is an "informal administrative process to assure prompt and careful review by the department of the documents upon which an action is based." O.R.S. 809.440(2)(a). A person may defend against the department's action by showing (1) that the conviction did not involve a motor vehicle and the department's action is permitted only if the offense involves a motor vehicle; (2) an out-of-state conviction on which the department's action is based was for an offense that is not comparable to an offense under Oregon law; or (3) the records relied on by the department identify the wrong person. O.R.S. 809.440(2)(b). Judicial review of a department order affirming a suspension is allowed. O.R.S. 809.440(2)(e).

         The statutes do not appear to address the contents of the sixty-day notice sent by the DMV. However, the preliminary injunction record contains copies of such notices sent to several of the Plaintiffs. First, a sixty-day notice was sent to Plaintiff Gloria Bermudez on October 7, 2013 and makes clear that her driving privileges will be suspended beginning at 12:01 AM on December 6, 2013. Bermudez Decl., Ex. 2, ECF 4-2. The information in the notice is comprehensive and includes information indicating that the suspension can be prevented by contacting the applicable court. It states, at various places in the notice:

To prevent this suspension you must make certain the action required below is completed and received by DMV no later than 5:00 pm on the last business day prior to December 06, 2013.
* * *
You can stop this suspension by contacting the court named below and completing all the requirements necessary to clear this matter. If we receive a clearance notice from the court before the date the suspension begins, this suspension will not go into effect.

Id. The notice urges the recipient to contact the court as soon as possible. Id. It states that no hardship permit is available. Id. It also informs the recipient of the right to administrative review, how to obtain that review, and what the department will review. Id. ("In this review we will look at our records and the documents concerning this matter to determine if we took appropriate action" and further stating that the DMV will review the person's evidence to determine if "you are the same person" named on the notice from the court, if the DMV received notice from the court that you failed to pay a fine, and if the DMV received a clearance notice from the court).

         Next, a notice dated October 27, 2016 was sent to Plaintiff Cekais Toni Ganuelas. Ganuelas Decl., Ex. 1, ECF 6-1. It indicates the date and reason for the suspension. Id. It also states that the suspension will last until the DMV receives a "court clearance (notice of reinstatement) or 20 years have elapsed from the date the traffic offense(s) occurred." Id. A separate section provides:

CAN I STOP THIS SUSPENSION?
To stop the suspension, DMV must receive a court clearance. Contact the court to determine how to obtain a court clearance for the docket(s) shown. You will find court contact information on DMV's website.

Id. The notice provides additional information on the right to obtain an administrative review, how to obtain that review, and what the DMV will consider. Id. Notices identical to the one sent to Ganuelas were issued to Plaintiff Cindy Mendoza on July 29, 2015, and to Plaintiff Karl Wade Roberts on July 6, 2018. Mendoza Decl., Ex. 2, ECF 8-2; Roberts Decl., Ex. 1, ECF 9-1.

         Even if suspension has begun, a court may still issue a notice of reinstatement and the suspension will be terminated. E.g., Bermudez Decl., Ex. 2 ("You can stop this suspension after it begins by meeting the court's requirements and obtaining a court clearance notice."; "If we receive the clearance notice on or after the date the suspension begins, you will have to pay a reinstatement fee to DMV[.]"); Ganuelas Decl., Ex. 1 ("If DMV receives the court clearance after the suspension begins, you will have to pay a DMV reinstatement fee."). II. Plaintiffs' Suspensions & Personal Circumstances.

         Each of the six named Plaintiffs currently has a suspended license for failure to pay traffic debt. Bermudez Decl. ¶ 6; Ganuelas Decl. ¶ 3, ECF 6; Heath Decl. ¶¶ 5, 6, ECF 7; Mendoza Decl. ¶ 5, ECF 8; Roberts Decl. ¶ 6, ECF 9; Chase Decl. ¶ 12, ECF 34. Some have had multiple suspensions over many years. E.g., Bermudez Decl. ¶¶ 8, 10 (license suspended in 2003 and again in 2014); Heath Decl. ¶¶ 5, 6 (license suspended in 1995 and has received six notices of suspension since then); Mendoza Decl. ¶¶ 5, 7, 13 (license suspended in 2010, again in 2016, and expects another as a result of unpaid fines).

         The underlying violations which resulted in fines include (1) failing to obey a traffic control device, failing to use proper child seats, driving with expired tags, driving while using a cell phone; Bermudez Decl. ¶¶ 8, 9, 10, 13; (2) failing to display plates or illegal display of plates; Ganuelas Decl. ¶ 3; Roberts Decl. ¶ 6; (3) speeding; Ganuelas Decl. ¶ 4; Mendoza Decl. ¶ 7; Chase Decl. ¶¶ 7, 8; and (4) failing to appear at arraignment for misdemeanor traffic case involving a car accident with property damage only; Mendoza Decl. ¶ 12. Additionally, Plaintiffs have received citations, and thus fines, for driving with a suspended license. E.g., Bermudez Decl. ¶¶ 10, 13; Ganuelas Decl. ¶ 5; Mendoza Decl. ¶¶ 5, 6; Roberts Decl. ¶ 6.

         Some Plaintiffs have attempted to work out payment plans. Bermudez states that she was cited in 2003 for failing to obey a traffic control device. Bermudez Decl. ¶ 8; id., Ex. 1 (copy of citation). Because she failed to appear at her arraignment and apparently did not pay the presumptive fine, her license was suspended in May 2003. Id. ¶ 8. The debt was sent to collections but the court later set up a payment plan, allowing her license to be reinstated in 2010. Id. However, she could not keep up with the $50/month payments and her license was suspended again in 2012. Id. In July 2012, Bermudez was cited for several violations. Id. ¶ 13. She worked out a payment plan with the court. Id. ¶ 15; id., Ex. 3. She was to pay $75 per month, on the 24th of each month, until the total of $435 was paid. Id. On August 24, 2012, the date her first payment was due, she wrote a letter to the court explaining that she could not make the payment because she just had a premature baby. Id., Ex. 4. A handwritten note dated the same day states "allow 30 days extra." Id. However, she still could not make the payments. Id. ¶ 13. She states that her license was suspended in 2013 as a result. Id.

         Since 2012, Ganuelas has been cited at least three times for driving with a suspended license. Ganuelas Decl. ¶ 5. On one of those occasions, in 2015, she was offered a payment plan for the $485 owed. Id. ¶ 20. She made $50 monthly payments for a time but was unable to pay a $160 balance at which point the court notified the DMV which suspended her license. Id. Heath states that "various courts have forced me into payment plans that I couldn't afford." Heath Decl. ¶ 8. Most required her to make a minimum $50 monthly payment. Id. Most recently, the Pendleton Municipal Court imposed that requirement on her. Id. She began making $20 monthly payments instead, which subjected her to a show cause hearing during which the court agreed to allow her to continue making $20 monthly payments. Id.

         Mendoza does not remember being offered a payment plan for traffic debt owed to the Beaverton or Milwaukie Municipal Courts. Mendoza Decl. ¶¶ 9. She currently is on a payment plan for traffic debt owed to Clackamas County Circuit Court, but she has missed some of the $100 monthly payments and that court has now sent the debt to collections. Id. ¶¶ 12, 13. She expects that the court will send a suspension notice to the DMV which will suspend her license. Id. Roberts states that at one point, he made payments to the Baker County Justice Court but since then, he has acquired more traffic tickets which he cannot pay off with his limited income. Roberts Decl. ¶ 7. It is his belief that the Baker County Justice Court will not ask the DMV to lift his suspension unless he is able to make $50 monthly payments to that court. Id. ¶ 10.

         Chase was offered payment plans in Gilliam and Sherman County Justice Courts when he explained he could not pay the fines and fees for speeding citations. Chase Decl. ¶¶ 7, 8. However, each county told him the longest term possible was twelve months which resulted in a monthly payment more than he could afford. Id. Both of the debts were eventually sent to collections. Id. ¶ 10. He also received traffic violations in 2006 and 2008 in Beaverton. Id. ¶ 11. Consistent with what he was told by the Gilliam and Sherman County Justice Courts, the Beaverton Municipal Court also told him that a payment plan was available, but it could not extend beyond twelve months. Id. This debt was also assigned to a private debt collector. Id. Chase worked out payment plans with the private collection agencies beginning in 2013 to pay off the debts to the Gilliam and Sherman County Justice Courts. Id. ¶¶ 15-17. Both of those debts have been discharged. Id. He has attempted to negotiate a payment plan with the Beaverton Municipal Court but was told that because the debt had been referred to a private collection agency, the debt was "out of house" and he could not meet with a judge. Id. ¶¶ 18-19. The private collection agency has refused to enter into a payment plan extending longer than twelve months which would result in monthly payments greater than $100, an amount Chase cannot afford. Id. ¶ 20. Nonetheless, in January 2018, Chase began to pay the debt collection agency $75 per month and then $50 per month beginning in April 2018. Id. ¶ 22. At $50 per month, it will take him more than two more years to pay the debt in full at which point he can get his license reinstated. Id.

         Several Plaintiffs state that the DMV never inquired about an ability to pay the traffic debt before suspending a license. Bermudez Decl. ¶ 16 (stating that before each suspension, no one from the DMV or any court asked if she was able to pay the debt); Mendoza Decl. ¶ 10 (same); Ganuelas Decl. ¶ 24 (no one from the DMV asked about ability to pay before suspending license); Heath Decl. ¶ 7 (same); Roberts Decl. ¶ 11 (same); Chase Decl. ¶ 13 (same). Plaintiffs further state that if given the chance to avoid suspension by explaining an inability to pay, he or she would have done so. Bermudez Decl. ¶ 16; Ganuelas Decl. ¶ 24; Heath Decl. ¶ 7; Mendoza Decl. ¶ 10; Roberts Decl. ¶ 11; Chase Decl ¶ 13.

         By any measurable standard, each Plaintiff is impoverished. All live on very limited incomes. Bermudez Decl. ¶¶ 3-5 (single parent of four children; works as a cook in a shopping mall restaurant earning $14 per hour; receives $420 per month in food stamps); Ganuelas Decl. ¶¶ 2, 6, 7, 8 (single parent of one child; lost job in July 2018 where she earned $400 per week; now earns $140 per month teaching yoga; has received $117 per week in child support but father of child stopped paying two months ago); Heath Decl. ¶ 3 (receives $750 per month in social security disability; four times per year receives $400 in casino dividends from the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation but receipt of casino dividends results in a corresponding reduction in social security payments; receives $189 per month in food stamps; has not maintained regular employment since 1997); Mendoza Decl. ¶¶ 2-4 (unemployed single parent of three children; recently moved to subsidized two-bedroom apartment but previously spent four months living in a motel room and in a homeless shelter; receives approximately $1, 100 monthly in assistance, including food stamps); Roberts Decl. ¶¶ 3-4 (lives with wife and each receive $562 per month in social security income; has not had substantial paid work since March 2003 due to disabilities); Chase Decl. ¶ 2 (receives $817 per month in social security disability and approximately $190 per month in food stamp with no other sources of income).

         Plaintiffs struggle to obtain basic life necessities such as housing and food, and some have medical issues and are on disability. Bermudez Decl. ¶ 5 (earnings not enough to support her family resulting in struggles to pay monthly electric, gas, and phone bills; often seeks free food at food pantries at end of the month); Ganuelas Decl. ¶ 10 (recently moved from apartment to renting a room from a friend because the apartment rent was too high); Heath Decl. ¶ 3, 12 (on disability; homeless for seven years until December 2017); Mendoza Decl. ¶ 4 (assistance and food stamp amounts not enough to support family requiring her to find free boxes at food pantries every month); Roberts Decl. ¶¶ 3-5 (disabled for several years; social security income received by Roberts and his wife not enough for the family with no money left after paying bills and buying groceries); Chase Decl. ¶¶ 2, 14 (disabled since 2009).

         Regardless of residence in an urban or rural community, each Plaintiff describes the difficulties of life without the ability to drive a car. For example, Bermudez, who lives in Portland, explains that she still drives because it cuts her work commute from one hour on the bus to twenty-five minutes by car, and given her children's needs, she cannot afford the extra time on the bus. Bermudez Decl. ¶ 20. She drives her children to school in five to ten minutes to spare them an hour-long bus ride starting at 6:45 a.m. which would cause sleep deprivation with negative health and learning impacts. Id. ¶ 21. She buys groceries by car because of the amount of food needed for a family of five. Id. ¶ 22. Each day without a driver's license makes it hard for her to shop for groceries, take her children to school, get to medical appointments, and get to work. Id. ¶ 24.

         Ganuelas recently moved from Pendleton to Mission, about six miles away, because Pendleton's rent was too high. Ganuelas Decl. ¶¶ 2, 10. Before she moved, her job as a bartender was one mile away and she walked, even though she had to cross a busy four-lane highway and walking home from her late-night shift made her feel unsafe. Id. ¶ 9. After moving, she had to pay a friend to take her to work or use a taxi. Id. ¶ 10. In July 2018, she lost her bartending job because she missed a shift. Id. ¶ 7. She had gone away with friends who decided to stay longer than planned. Id. This left her with no way to return. Id. No one would lend her a car given that her license was suspended. Id. She was fired at the end of the pay period for failing to show up for her shift. Id. Ganuelas can use a tribal shuttle to get from Mission to Pendleton but it runs only six days per week from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and thus, was not an option when she still was bartending. Id. ¶ 11. Not having a license makes it difficult for her to provide for herself and her daughter. Id. ¶ 12. To buy groceries, clothes, and necessary household goods, she has to find a ride and pay $10 each way. Id. Her daughter has been unable to play on a youth soccer team because Ganuelas lacks a reliable way to get her to practices and games. Id. ¶ 13. Ganuelas has missed events at her daughter's school because of her inability to drive. Id. ¶ 14. It is difficult for her to visit extended family in Washington, Alaska, and other parts of Oregon without a car. Id. ¶ 15.

         Heath explains that when she last worked, in 1997, she walked five and one-half miles each way because her license was suspended. Heath Decl. ¶¶ 4, 5. She lives in Pendleton, where, she states, the public transportation is slow and limited. Id. ¶ 10. There are no ride-hailing services such as Uber or Lyft. Id. Taxis are expensive. Id. Because of her suspension, she has had to pay expensive cab fares, walk long distances in hot, cold, and wet weather, and take slow public transit systems. Id. ¶ 11. She has missed funeral services for family members and tribal events. Id. Walking is difficult for her because she gets exhausted and experiences soreness in her back, legs, and feet, but without a driver's license, she has to walk long distances every day. Id. ¶ 16.

         Mendoza lives in Portland and has had difficulty finding a job without a valid driver's license. Mendoza Decl. ¶¶ 2, 4, 21. She still drives occasionally to get her children to medical appointments, to buy clothes and school supplies, and to access food pantries. Id. ¶¶ 17-19. She tries to take the bus or light rail but for groceries, food pantries, and medical appointments, she relies on her car. Id. ¶ 20. Uber and Lyft are too expensive for her. Id.

         Roberts lives in Baker City where there is very little public transportation. Roberts Decl. ¶ 17. His wife also does not have a driver's license and needs transportation to frequent medical appointments required by a health condition. Id. ¶ 16. He tries to avoid driving but still does so on a limited basis because he does not see an alternative in Baker City given his and his wife's health issues. Id. ¶ 18. He has ridden his bicycle as an alternative, even through the harsh Baker City winters, to purchase groceries but as he has aged, it has become more difficult and his doctor has now advised against it for health reasons. Id. ¶ 15. It is "pretty much impossible" to fish and hunt or to visit his adult children in Idaho and Missouri without a car. Id. ¶¶ 13, 14.

         Finally, Chase, who lives in Vancouver, Washington, states that he uses public transportation to get around, but the inability to drive is still a hardship. Chase Decl. ¶ 25. Using public transportation in the Vancouver-Portland area typically takes ninety minutes and two transfers with trains and buses often delayed. Id. He has been stranded multiple times. Id. Having a driver's license would make it much easier to take care of basic life necessities such as buying groceries and going to medical appointments. Id. Without the ability to drive, he does not feel like a full participant in society. Id. ¶ 26.

         Defendants do not dispute that Plaintiffs' traffic debt remains unpaid only because they cannot afford to pay it, not because of a willful refusal to pay. Defendants do not dispute Plaintiffs' descriptions of their economic, social, or employment circumstances or how the loss of their driver's licenses for nonpayment of traffic debt has contributed to their poverty and added challenges to their lives. Defendants do not dispute that the ability to drive a car plays a central role in one's life, whether living in a large metropolitan area, a small city, or a rural area. Thus, I rely on these facts, which are supported by Declarations and undisputed by Defendants, in this Opinion.

         III. Judicial Officers' Adjudication of Traffic Violations & Fine Impositions

         Three judges of municipal or justice courts submitted Declarations explaining Oregon's statutory scheme for traffic debt and how each carries forth his or her duties in that regard. Judge Jad Lemhouse, a Justice of the Peace for the Linn County Justice of the Peace District 4A, regularly conducts proceedings on traffic offenses, both misdemeanor crimes and violation offenses. Lemhouse Decl. ¶ 2, ECF 25. He states that in his experience, "most judges in Oregon are willing to work with people to get them out of the system." Lemhouse Decl. ¶ 16. But, he explains, a person must appear in court and follow the court's directions and procedures "for that to happen." Id.

         When a person with a suspended license comes into Lemhouse's court for a driving while suspended violation, he talks to the person about whether the person wants to get her or his driving privileges reinstated. Id. ¶ 12. If the person does, he defers sentencing and discusses what is required for reinstatement and what kind of timeline is necessary to accomplish certain tasks such as contacting each of the courts to which the person owes a fine to try and make payment arrangements, contacting the state support enforcement division to address the person's unpaid child support, if any, and contacting five or six insurance agents to ascertain the cost of obtaining insurance. Id. Lemhouse works with the person to schedule proposed payments to the courts or the support enforcement division along with the monthly insurance cost. Id. ¶ 13. At this point, the person can show each of the courts that he or she is seriously making an effort. Id. If necessary, Lemhouse writes to the judge or judges in question supporting the person's proposal. Id.; see also id., Attach. A. With this process, Lemhouse reports that more than half of the individuals succeed. Id. Lemhouse allows equitable relief from judgment when a person has made twenty-four consecutive payments on their payment plans and has received no new convictions in that period. Id. ¶ 15. If those requirements are successfully completed, any remaining fine balance is remitted in full. Id.

         Judge Karen Brisbin is a Municipal Judge for the City of Sandy and a Justice of the Peace for Clackamas County Justice Court. Brisbin Decl. ¶ 1, ECF 26. She hears traffic violation cases and states that when a fine is imposed, the person may pay in full or set up a payment plan. Id. ¶ 2. The monthly payment may be different for each person based on the ability to pay. Id. If the person is unable to make a payment after the payment plan is set, and the person is in contact with the court, the court will work with the person to assure compliance with the court's order. Id. In such cases, the person may be allowed to skip a monthly payment or reduce the amount of the monthly payment until the person can get back to work. Id. She states: "The key is to keep in contact with the court." Id.

         When individuals do not appear or do not contact the court, or fail to continue to make their payments as part of a payment plan, and when the court "cannot get the convicted person's attention for compliance," the court will issue the notice of suspension to the DMV to initiate suspension procedures. Id. ¶ 3. Once the DMV sends the sixty-day suspension notice, the person can contact the court and get into compliance by paying the fine or setting up a payment plan. Id. This allows the person to entirely avoid the license suspension and the DMV reinstatement fee. Id. Even post-suspension, the person can obtain reinstatement by working with the court to pay the fine via a payment plan. Id. According to Brisbin, "[p]ersons may provide a letter to the judge stating their financial hardship along with documentation to resolve the license suspension." Id. Brisbin observes that the notice of suspension issued by the DMV "often . . . works so that the person contacts the court who then works with the person to facilitate payment of the fine. The system would not work nearly as well without the suspension provisions in the statute." Id. ¶ 4.

         Finally, Judge Kathy Stinnett is a Justice of the Peace for Grant County and is the President of the Oregon Justice of the Peace Association. Stinnett Decl. ¶ 1, ECF 35. There are twenty-eight justices of the peace who preside in twenty-eight justice courts. Id. ¶ 1. They heard 125, 918 traffic violation cases in the 2017-18 fiscal year. Id. She submits her Declaration on behalf of the Association. Id. After explaining how traffic violation cases come to courts and what options the individual has upon receiving a violation, she states that "[j]udges are aware that the purpose of a traffic fine ...


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