United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Charlottesville Division
K. MOON SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court is Defendant Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles
Commissioner Richard D. Holcomb's (the
“Commissioner”) motion to dismiss the case as
moot or, in the alternative, to stay the case. (Dkt. 142).
The underlying matter is the constitutionality of Virginia
Code § 46.2-395 (“§ 46.2-395”), which
requires the automatic suspension of drivers' licenses
for failure to pay state court fines and costs.
Commissioner filed the present motion due to the enactment of
Budget Amendment No. 33 (the “Budget Amendment”),
which eliminates the suspension of drivers' licenses for
failure to pay court fines and costs through July 1, 2020,
but does not repeal § 46.2-395. The Commissioner argues
that the Budget Amendment renders Plaintiffs' harm so
remote as to moot the case, or, alternatively, that it
represents the Virginia legislature's commitment to
repeal, and thus supports a stay of the matter pending the
2020 session of Virginia's General Assembly. For the
reasons discussed below, the Court finds that the Budget
Amendment does not moot the case, but does render a stay
recitation of the facts surrounding this case can be found in
the Court's memorandum opinion granting Plaintiffs'
preliminary injunction. Stinnie v. Holcomb, 355
F.Supp.3d 514, 520-23 (W.D. Va. 2018). Relevant here is the
case's procedural history and the text and impact of the
Budget Amendment. This case was first filed in July 2016 and
dismissed without prejudice. (Dkt. 57). The Fourth Circuit
dismissed Plaintiffs' appeal for lack of appellate
jurisdiction. See Stinnie v. Holcomb, 734 Fed.Appx.
858, 863 (4th Cir. 2018). The Fourth Circuit explained that
this Court's “grounds for dismissal [did] not
clearly indicate that no amendment in the complaint could
cure the defects in the plaintiff's case.”
Id. at 861 (internal quotations omitted).
Accordingly, on remand, in September 2018,
Plaintiffs submitted an amended complaint, alleging
that § 46.2-395 “as written and as implemented by
the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (“DMV”)
Commissioner . . . is unconstitutional on its face”
under the Fourteenth Amendment due process clause “for
failing to provide sufficient notice or hearing to any driver
before license suspension.” (Dkt. 84 ¶ 5).
Plaintiffs also allege § 46.2-395 is unconstitutional
under the Fourteenth Amendment equal protection clause
“as applied to people who cannot afford to pay due to
their modest financial circumstances.” (Id.).
moved for a preliminary injunction to: (1) enjoin the
Commissioner from enforcing § 46.2-395; (2) remove
current suspensions of Plaintiffs' drivers' licenses
imposed under § 46.2-395; and (3) enjoin the
Commissioner from charging a fee to reinstate licenses for
plaintiffs with no other restrictions on their licenses.
(Dkt. 88). This Court granted Plaintiffs' preliminary
injunction, finding that the Court could properly exercise
jurisdiction over the case, and that Plaintiffs were likely
to succeed on the merits of their procedural due process
claim because the procedures provided by § 46.2-395
“are not sufficient to protect against the erroneous
deprivation of the property interest involved.” (Dkt.
126 at 18). Currently pending before the Court is the instant
motion to dismiss, (dkt. 142), a motion to dismiss pursuant
to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12, (dkt. 104), a motion to certify class,
(dkt. 85), cross motions for summary judgment, (dkts. 195,
200), and a motion to exclude witnesses, (dkt. 198).
the Budget Amendment, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam
proposed the Budget Amendment to “eliminate the
suspension of driving privileges for nonpayment of court
fines and costs.” In full, the Budget Amendment states:
[N]otwithstanding the provisions of § 46.2-395 of the
Code of Virginia, no court shall suspend any person's
privilege to drive a motor vehicle solely for failure to pay
any fines, court costs, forfeitures, restitution, or
penalties assessed against such person. The Commissioner of
the Department of Motor Vehicles shall reinstate a
person's privilege to drive a motor vehicle that was
suspended prior to July 1, 2019, solely pursuant to §
46.2-395 of the Code of Virginia and shall waive all fees
relating to reinstating such person's driving privileges.
Nothing herein shall require the Commissioner to reinstate a
person's driving privileges if such privileges have been
otherwise lawfully suspended or revoked or if such person is
otherwise ineligible for a driver's license.
the text of the Budget Amendment is an explanation, which
This amendment eliminates the driver's license
reinstatement fee transfer to the Trauma Fund and eliminates
the loss of driving privileges to individuals who have only
failed to pay fines, court costs, forfeitures, restitution or
penalties assessed against them. The Department of Motor
Vehicles also shall not charge a driver's license
reinstatement fee to these individuals. This initiative will
help individuals that require a vehicle to gain a job,
allowing them to earn money to repay any obligations they
owe. This amendment has no impact to the general fund since
the impact of its passage was assumed in the introduced and
Commissioner provided the Court with a sworn declaration
stating that “[p]ursuant to Budget Amendment 33, the
DMV database will reflect that Va. Code § 46.2-395
suspensions that were inputted before July 1, 2019 have been
complied with. Suspensions unrelated to Va. Code §
46.2-395 will remain active on the record.” (Dkt.
170-4, ¶ 7). The Commissioner further states that
“[d]rivers who have records of suspension relating to
Va. Code § 46.2-395 and suspensions relating to other
statutory provisions will have their record relating to their
§ 46.2-395 suspension reflect that the VA. Code §
46.2-395 suspension has been complied with, but will have to
resolve the issues relating to their non-§
46.2-395-suspensions before their privilege to drive can be
reinstated.” (Id. at ¶ 9). The
Commissioner reiterated this understanding of the Budget
Amendment at oral argument.
Commissioner notes, the General Assembly's support of
both the Budget Amendment-which passed by votes of 70 to 29
in the House and 30 to 8 in the Senate- indicates political
hostility towards § 46.2-395. (Dkt. 143). While
Plaintiffs are correct that one “can only speculate
about the possibility of legislative action, ” (dkt.
156), the Commissioner testified that the process of drafting
legislation to codify the Budget Amendment has begun. (Dkt.
208-1 at 83).
Article III of the Constitution, federal courts may
adjudicate only actual, ongoing cases or
controversies.” Lewis v. Continental Bank
Corp., 494 U.S. 472, 477 (1990) (internal citations
omitted). “This case-or-controversy requirement
subsists through all stages of federal judicial proceedings,
trial and appellate.” Id. (internal citations
and quotations omitted). “A case is moot when the
issues presented are no longer live or the parties lack a
legally cognizable interest in the outcome.” City
of Erie v. Pap's A.M., 529 U.S. 277, 287 (2000).
“A case is not moot . . . if a party can demonstrate
that the ...