Simpson et al v. Cook County Sheriff's Office et al
MEMORANDUM Opinion and Order: The Court, in its discretion, grants plaintiffs' Rule 15(a)(2) motion for leave to file a second amended complaint 238 . Plaintiffs must file their Second Amended Complaint as a separate docket entry. The Court d enies defendants' joint motion to strike portions of plaintiffs' reply brief as moot 249 . Defendants' joint sur-reply to plaintiffs' motion for class certification is due on or before August 9, 2021. Signed by the Honorable Sharon Johnson Coleman on 6/3/2021. Mailed notice. (ym, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS
JOSEPH D.G. SIMPSON, et al.,
SHERIFF TOM DART, in his official
capacity, et al.,
Case No. 18-cv-0553
Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiffs have filed the present motion for leave to file a second amended complaint under
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(2). In the second amended complaint, plaintiffs re-define the
class definitions in this failure to hire class action lawsuit. For the following reasons, the Court, in
its discretion, grants plaintiffs’ Rule 15(a)(2) motion for leave to file a second amended complaint.
Plaintiffs, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, filed this lawsuit
challenging the hiring practices for correctional officers at the Cook County Department of
Corrections (“CCDOC”) as racially discriminatory against African-Americans in violation of Title
VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq., Section 1981 of the Civil
Rights Act of 1866, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 1981, the Illinois Civil Rights Act, 740 ILCS 23/5(a)(1),
and the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution. Plaintiffs are suing both the
Cook County Sheriff’s Office (“Sheriff’s Office”) and the Cook County Sheriff’s Merit Board’s
(“Merit Board”) based on theories of disparate impact and discriminatory intent.
Although the parties have engaged in motion practice and discovery, the Court has yet to
certify a class in this matter, although a motion for class certification is pending. Relevant to this
motion, in their reply brief in support of the motion for class certification, plaintiffs responded to
defendants’ arguments by modifying the class definitions. In the proposed second amended
complaint, plaintiffs seek to restructure their proposed class into smaller subclasses based on the
defendants’ five-step hiring process. Plaintiffs maintain that the second amended complaint does
not add substantive allegations or new defendants, but adds additional plaintiffs to ensure there is
adequate representation for the new subclasses.
Under Rule 15(a)(2), a party may amend its pleading only with the opposing party’s written
consent or the courts’ leave,” and “the court should freely give leave when justice so requires.”
“District courts may deny leave to amend, however, where there is a good reason to do so: ‘futility,
undue delay, prejudice, or bad faith.’” R3 Composites Corp. v. G&S Sales Corp., 960 F.3d 935, 946 (7th
Cir. 2020) (citation omitted). A “party may be prejudiced where the other has changed one of its
critical legal theories at the eleventh hour in a way that the other side could not have foreseen.” Id.
District courts have considerable discretion whether to grant motions for leave to amend. Glover v.
Carr, 949 F.3d 364, 368 (7th Cir. 2020). Moreover, “a district court has both the duty and the broad
authority to exercise control over a class action.” Gulf Oil Co. v. Bernard, 452 U.S. 89, 100 (1981).
In their joint response to plaintiffs’ Rule 15(a)(2) motion for leave to amend, defendants take
issue with the fact that plaintiffs have changed the class definition numerous times during the
pendency of this lawsuit. It is not uncommon for plaintiffs and courts to shift or change class
definitions during a lawsuit, especially one as complex as this disparate impact case. See In re
Monumental Life Ins. Co., 365 F.3d 408, 414 (5th Cir. 2004) (“holding plaintiffs to the plain language
of their definition would ignore the ongoing refinement and give-and-take inherent in class action
litigation, particularly in the formation of a workable class definition.”); Schorsch v. Hewlett–Packard
Co., 417 F.3d 748, 750 (7th Cir. 2005) (“Litigants and judges regularly modify class definitions”). In
addition, “rulings on certification in class action suits are tentative and can be revisited by the district
court as changed circumstances require.” Butler v. Sears, Roebuck and Co., 727 F.3d 796, 798 (7th Cir.
2013). As such, there is nothing suspicious about plaintiffs modifying the class definition before a
class has been certified, as defendants suggest.
Next, defendants argue that they will be prejudiced if the Court allows amendment because
the parties have conducted significant discovery in this lawsuit, including statistical expert discovery.
Defendants, however, do not explain how this expert discovery does not apply to the new
subclasses. In response, plaintiffs maintain that there will be no need for additional statistical expert
discovery because the amendment conforms the class definitions to the existing statistical analyses.
Further, plaintiffs have offered to expedite written discovery responses from the new plaintiffs and
assert that they do not need any additional Rule 30(b)(6) witnesses. The Court sees no reason why
this final bit of discovery cannot be completed by the July 31, 2021 fact discovery deadline.
Defendants also argue the proposed second amended complaint increases the number of
potential class members. To allay defendants’ concerns over the proposed class definitions,
plaintiffs offer to delete words from the definitions making it clear that they are not expanding the
class. The Court concludes this is a good solution. Plaintiffs must edit the proposed definitions in
their second amended complaint accordingly.
Next, Defendants’ argument that plaintiffs have inserted a new injury or altered their theory
of relief in the second amended complaint is unavailing. In the context of disparate impact cases,
Title VII guarantees minorities and women the opportunity to compete equally with white workers
based on job-related criteria. Connecticut v. Teal, 457 U.S. 440, 451 (1982). In other words, losing the
opportunity to compete equally or being excluded from jobs due to race or gender, are actionable
injuries. See id.; Watson v. Fort Worth Bank & Trust, 487 U.S. 977, 994 (1988). In their previous
filings, plaintiffs called this injury a “loss of chance” and now they call it “loss of eligibility.” Under
either description, plaintiffs are not changing their theory of relief, rather, in the context of the
second amended complaint, the loss of eligibility during one of the levels of the relevant five-step
hiring process reflects a lost job opportunity or exclusion from a job.
In the end, plaintiffs’ second amended complaint does not change their “critical legal
theories at the eleventh hour.” See R3 Composites Corp., 960 F.3d at 946. Instead, they are attempting
to craft workable class definitions. In this context, the Court grants plaintiffs’ motion.
Based on the foregoing, the Court, in its discretion, grants plaintiffs’ Rule 15(a)(2) motion
for leave to file a second amended complaint . Plaintiffs must file their Second Amended
Complaint as a separate docket entry. The Court denies defendants’ joint motion to strike portions
of plaintiffs’ reply brief as moot . Defendants’ joint sur-reply to plaintiffs’ motion for class
certification is due on or before August 9, 2021.
SHARON JOHNSON COLEMAN
United States District Judge
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