Federal Court Certifies Class Action Lawsuit Challenging Due Process Violations by the MTA

Last week, a federal judge certified a class action charging the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) with systemic due process violations. The 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 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 violations 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.

The lawsuit exposes the racial and economic injustice of these practices, which allow the MTA to profit off the backs of poor people. 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.

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.