CINDY MENDOZA, ET AL V. KRIS STRICKLER, ET AL, No. 19-35506 (9th Cir. 2022)Annotate this Case
Plaintiffs appeal the district court’s dismissal of their claims challenging the constitutionality of Oregon’s since repealed system of suspending, without an inquiry into ability to pay, the driver’s licenses of persons who fail to pay the fines imposed on them in connection with traffic violations. The district court dismissed the operative complaint for failure to state a claim.
The Ninth Circuit affirmed. The panel first considered Plaintiffs contention that Defendants’ suspension of her driver’s license based on her failure to pay traffic fines, without first determining that she had the ability to pay and had willfully refused to make a monetary payment, violated the due process and equal protection principles recognized in Bearden v. Georgia, 461 U.S. 660 (1983), and Griffin v. Illinois, 351 U.S. 12 (1956). The panel concluded that suspension of Plaintiff’s license for failure to pay her traffic fines was rationally related to a legitimate government interest in punishing and deterring traffic violations, even if her failure to pay was a result of indigency. The panel rejected Plaintiff’s contention that the State’s distinction between traffic debt and non-traffic debt violated the equal protection principles set forth in James v. Strange, 407 U.S. 128 (1972). Finally, the panel rejected Plaintiff’s contention that Defendants violated her procedural due process rights by suspending her license without affording either a “presuspension hearing” or a “post-suspension hearing” concerning her ability to pay her traffic debt.