The Barbara McDowell Foundation shares the following News Release which provides updates to the Foundation’s Pro Bono High Impact Litigation Project case initiated in 2019 against the NYC Transit Authority.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
October 1, 2020
Susan Shin, (929) 352-5791
Katharine Deabler-Meadows, (212) 633-6967
FEDERAL COURT CERTIFIES CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT ALLEGING NYC TRANSIT AUTHORITY SEIZED TAX REFUNDS TO COLLECT ON DECADES-OLD DEFAULT JUDGMENTS, VIOLATING DUE PROCESS
Civil rights suit blasts MTA for practices that squeeze money from homeless and low-income New Yorkers of color
NEW YORK, NY - Yesterday, a federal judge certified a class action charging the NYC Transit Authority, an arm of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), with systemic due process violations. The civil rights lawsuit challenges the Transit Authority’s unlawful seizures of New Yorkers’ state tax refunds to collect on default judgments—some going back 20 years or more—without providing legally-required notice or a fair opportunity to contest the judgments.
“The MTA had no right to take my tax refunds without giving me a chance to defend myself,” said David Evans, a disabled Marine Corps veteran and named plaintiff in the lawsuit. “I brought this lawsuit so the MTA will stop doing this to New Yorkers.” Both Mr. Evans and the other named plaintiff, Nathaniel Robinson, are Black and formerly homeless.
The newly certified class includes thousands of New Yorkers who, like Mr. Evans and Mr. Robinson, were allegedly issued tickets for alleged violations (such as fare evasion) of MTA rules, and then had default judgments entered against them. Filed by Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP, the National Center for Law and Economic Justice, New Economy Project, and the Law Offices of Gerald S. Hartman, the lawsuit faults the agency for enforcing default judgments without adequate notice; refusing to provide even the most basic documentation, such as a copy of the original ticket, to those seeking to contest default judgments; and imposing unreasonably high standards for vacating default judgments.
“This lawsuit exposes the racial and economic injustice of these practices, which allow the MTA to profit off the backs of poor people,” said Susan Shin, New Economy Project’s legal director. “Even now, as so many grapple with the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, the agency has continued business as usual, aggressively pursuing low-income New Yorkers of color, including those who are formerly and currently homeless.”
“There is no excuse for seizing money from low-income New Yorkers without complying with the most basic norms of due process,” said Faegre Drinker litigation partner Clay Pierce. “The Court’s certification of the class is a critical step toward redressing this wrong.”
“Any remedies that the Court ultimately orders will benefit thousands of New Yorkers who, like the named plaintiffs, have been harmed by these gross due process violations,” said Katharine Deabler-Meadows, a staff attorney with the National Center for Law and Economic Justice.
The lawsuit seeks to bar the Transit Authority from collecting on default judgments until it has implemented procedures to provide adequate notice and an opportunity to be heard.