BENTON COUNTY, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — On June 24, a pair of Benton County Jail inmates filed a class action lawsuit against a Benton County District Court and one of its judges.

The suit, filed against Benton County District Court, Division Four and District Judge A.J. Anglin, alleges that the two inmates and others like them were denied Constitutional rights when they attended pretrial bail hearings without counsel.

The filing plaintiffs, Abigail Farella and Logan W. Murphy, are both adults “residing in the Benton County Jail,” according to court documents. The suit seeks a “permanent injunction and declaratory judgment for violations of the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.”

Each plaintiff was found indigent and appeared before Judge Anglin for a pretrial bail hearing without an attorney present. The suit further notes that no attorneys “are ever present at any bail hearing conducted by Judge Anglin,” and that he conducts “about 25% of all bail hearings in Benton County.”

An indigent person should be provided an attorney at any first appearance/bail hearing, because these hearings are ‘critical stages’ of the prosecution under the Sixth Amendment. That was not done in Plaintiff’s cases. It has never been done in any prior case. It will never be done in any future cases.

Class action lawsuit filed against Benton County District Court, Division Four and District Judge A.J. Anglin

The suit notes that the number of potential class members is “very large,” and that “there is no variation between any class member” in how they were treated in their respective bail hearings. The suit specifically notes three Causes of Action in the denial of the plaintiffs’ rights:

  1. Denial of right to counsel under Sixth Amendment
  2. Denial of right to counsel under the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process clauses
  3. Denial of right to counsel under the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection clause

The suit requests a permanent injunction and declaratory judgment that indigent people must have appointed counsel present at such hearings, as well as legal costs and attorney’s fees associated with bringing the complaint to court. The final sentence of the filing requests “any and all other relief to which the Named Plaintiffs and class members are entitled by law.”

Judge Timothy L. Brooks will preside over the case in the Western District of Arkansas Federal Court in Fayetteville.