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Crawford v. Blue

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

September 21, 2017

PETER A. CRAWFORD, Plaintiff,
v.
CELIA BLUE, individually and in her official capacity as the Massachusetts Registrar of Motor Vehicles, and RACHEL KAPRIELIAN, individually and in her official capacity as the former Massachusetts Registrar of Motor Vehicles, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM & ORDER

          WILLIAM G. YOUNG, DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Peter A. Crawford (“Crawford”) filed this action against Celia Blue and Rachel Kaprielian, current and former Massachusetts Registrars of Motor Vehicles (collectively, the “Defendants”), under 42 U.S.C. section 1983, for violation of his rights under the federal and Massachusetts state constitutions in connection with a speeding ticket and the ensuing revocation of his Massachusetts operating privileges. Crawford alleges two separate due process violations: first, with respect to the nonrefundable $25 filing fee required to appeal a civil motor vehicle infraction (“CMVI”) under Massachusetts General Laws, chapter 90C, section 3, and second, for the suspension of his Massachusetts operating privileges under the same state law. The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment.

         A. Procedural History

         Crawford filed an amended complaint on August 4, 2014. Am. Compl., ECF No. 6. After hearing the Defendants' motion to dismiss on November 19, 2014, this Court dismissed the complaint except for the count alleging a due process violation. Electronic Clerk's Notes, ECF No. 12. The Court later granted summary judgment after a hearing on April 8, 2015. Electronic Clerk's Notes, ECF No. 32. On appeal, the First Circuit remanded the case for a closer examination of the Mathews factors on Crawford's procedural due process claim. J. United States Ct. Appeals (“J. USCA”) 2 & n.1, ECF No. 42 (citing Mathews v. Eldridge 424 U.S. 319, 334-35 (1976)).

         After further discovery, the parties have now filed cross-motions for summary judgment and supporting memoranda. Pl.'s Mem. Supp. Mot. Summ. J. (“Pl.'s Mem.”), ECF No. 57; Pl.'s Mem. Opp'n Defs.' Cross Mot. Summ. J. and Reply Mem. Supp. Mot. Summ. J. (“Pl.'s Reply”), ECF No. 74; Defs.' Mem. Law Opp'n Pl.'s Mots. Summ. J. (“Defs.' Mem.”), ECF No. 70. The parties have also submitted statements of fact and counterstatements of fact. Pl.'s Local Rule 56.1 Statement Undisputed Material Facts Supp. Mot. Summ. J. (“Pl.'s Statement Facts”), ECF No. 58; Pl.'s Resp. Defs.' Local Rule 56.1 Statement Material Facts (“Pl.'s Resp. Facts”), ECF No. 75; Defs.' Local Rule 56.1 Statement Material Facts (“Defs.' Statement Facts”), ECF No. 72; Defs.' Resp. Pl.'s Local Rule 56.1 Statement Facts (“Defs.' Resp. Facts”), ECF No. 73. The Court heard oral arguments on the parties' cross-motions on July 14, 2017.[1] Electronic Clerk's Notes, ECF No. 80.

         B. Undisputed Factual Background

         1. Crawford's Citation

         On July 19, 2011, a police officer issued Crawford, a resident of Rye, New Hampshire, a speeding citation in the amount of $140 for driving 34 mph in a 20 mph zone in Salem, Massachusetts. Pl.'s Statement Facts ¶ 1; Defs.' Statement Facts ¶ 1. Crawford timely requested a hearing challenging the citation, but did not include the $25 filing fee because the fee was not mentioned on the ticket. Defs.' Statement Facts ¶ 2. On August 2, 2011, the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (the “Registry”) responded to Crawford's hearing request by mail, informing him that pursuant to Massachusetts General Laws, chapter 90C, section 3(A)(4), scheduling a CMVI hearing requires the payment of a $25 court filing fee. Id. ¶ 3. Crawford responded to the letter on August 15, 2011, refusing to pay the filing fee on the ground that it violated his state and federal constitutional rights. Id. ¶ 4. On August 22, 2011, a Registry employee called Crawford regarding his citation, explaining the requirements under the state law, and advised Crawford that the failure to pay the citation's assessment would result in the suspension of his Massachusetts driving privileges, which could affect his New Hampshire license. Id.

         On January 3, 2012, the Registry mailed Crawford a second notice regarding his Massachusetts driving privileges, advising him that his privileges would be suspended, effective February 2, 2012, because he had defaulted on the July 19, 2011 citation, and informing him that to avoid the suspension, he would have to pay the citation and late fees or appear at a Registry office. Id. ¶ 7. Crawford had moved from Nashua to Rye, New Hampshire in August 2010, Pl.'s Statement Facts ¶ 1, and did not receive the notice because the Registry sent it to his old address in Nashua, Defs.' Statement Facts ¶ 7. Having received no payment, the Registry suspended Crawford's Massachusetts operating privileges on February 12, 2012. Id. ¶ 8. The New Hampshire Division of Motor Vehicles declined to renew Crawford's New Hampshire driver's license on April 18, 2012, because the Massachusetts Registry's entry of suspension triggered an electronic report to the National Driver Registry. Id. ¶¶ 9-10.

         Rather than challenge the Massachusetts suspension, Crawford pursued administrative and judicial remedies in New Hampshire for the non-renewal of his license. Id. ¶ 12. On June 24, 2014, Crawford sent a letter to the Registry asserting that Massachusetts General Laws, chapter 90C, section 3 did not permit the suspension of his operating privileges for failing to pay the filing fee. Id. ¶ 13. A Registry hearing officer, treating the letter as a post-suspension appeal, issued a decision denying Crawford's appeal on the ground that he failed to pay the $25 filing fee. Id. ¶ 14. The decision informed Crawford that he had a right to appeal to the Board of Appeal on Motor Vehicle Liability Policies and Bonds. Id.

         2. Filing Fee

         Effective July 1, 2009, the Massachusetts General Court implemented a $25 filing fee for a CMVI hearing before a clerk-magistrate of the district court, partially to offset the costs associated with providing the hearing. Id. ¶ 15. All violators, except the indigent, must pay the filing fee to the Registry to receive a hearing to appeal their citation.[2] Id. In 2009, when the filing fee first took effect, there were extensive delays in receiving hearings (e.g., between three and six months in one court, and possibly over six months in other courts) due to individuals who were unprepared to pay the filing fee and requested hearings only to receive more time to pay the citation. Id.

         As a result of these delays, the legislature implemented a further change, effective July 1, 2010, to have the Registry collect the filing fee before forwarding a hearing request to the district court for scheduling. Pl.'s Statement Facts ¶ 13. The funds received by the Registry, less $100, 000, are transferred to the district court. Id. ¶ 14. Since 2010, if a motorist fails to pay the filing fee, the hearing request is not transmitted to the district court. Id. ¶ 16. The effect of the 2010 change was to reduce wait times to as little as three weeks. Defs.' Statement Facts ¶ 16.

         The Merit Rating Board (the “Board”) and the Registry jointly administer CMVI matters. Id. ¶ 17. Four employees handle initial receipt of citations, hearing requests, and payments. Id. Another two electronically scan documents into an electronic file. Id. Eleven employees handle data entry related to citations with requests for hearing. Id. Additional employees handle quality control and the financial reconciliation of payments of filing fees and assessments. Id. The Defendants calculate that if an average of fifteen such employees handled CMVI hearing requests each year, the annual salary cost would range from $747, 314.25 to $986, 110.20. Id.

         Based on its 2013 “CMVI Staffing Model, ” the district court determined that each “standard” CMVI (86% of cases) takes 25 minutes from start to finish, with 10.4 minutes spent on the hearing and 14.6 minutes spent on administrative and clerical tasks, while a complex case (14% of cases) takes 45 minutes, with 19.9 minutes spent on the hearing and 24.1 minutes spent on administrative and clerical tasks. Id. ¶ 19.

         II. LEGAL FRAMEWORK

         A. Summary Judgment Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate where “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see Mulloy v. Acushnet Co., 460 F.3d 141, 145 (1st Cir. 2006). “To succeed, the moving party must show that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's position.” Rogers v. Fair, 902 F.2d 140, 143 (1st Cir. 1990). If the moving party satisfies its burden, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine, triable issue. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986). But see Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 151 (2000)(where the moving party bears the burden of proof, absent admissions by the non-moving party, summary judgment is inappropriate as the fact-finder need not credit evidence favorable to the moving party). In reviewing motions for summary judgment, courts must resolve all disputed facts and inferences in favor of the non-moving party. See Seaboard Sur. Co. v. Town of Greenfield, 370 F.3d 215, 219 (1st Cir. 2004). “Cross-motions for summary judgment do not alter the basic Rule 56 standard, but rather simply require [the court] to determine whether either of the parties deserves judgment as a matter of law on facts that are not disputed.” Adria Int'l Grp., Inc. v. Ferre Dev., Inc., 241 F.3d 103, 107 (1st Cir. 2001).

         B. Massachusetts State Law

         Massachusetts General Laws, chapter 90C, section 3 gives police officers the authority to issue citations for civil motor vehicle infractions. Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 90C, § 3(A)(1). The recipient of a citation may “either pay the scheduled assessment or contest responsibility for the infraction by requesting a noncriminal hearing before a magistrate of the district court.” Id. § 3(A)(2). The motorist may contest responsibility by “making a signed request for a noncriminal hearing on the back of the citation and mailing such citation, together with a $25 court filing fee, to the registrar, ” which then notifies the district court to set a hearing. Id. § (A)(4). Determinations may be appealed to the appellate division. Id. § (A)(5). If a violator fails to appear, the Registry will mail a notice indicating that, “in the case of an operator violation, such ...


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