Hodgin v. Gladieux
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING 33 Motion to Class Certification, and this matter is now set for a telephonic hearing on 3/9/2017, at 10:00 a.m. Central Time. Signed by Judge Philip P Simon on 3/2/2017. (jss)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
FORT WAYNE DIVISION
Case No. 1:16-cv-43
OPINION & ORDER
Plaintiff Ronald Ward was an inmate of the Allen County Jail between an
unspecified date and October 12, 2016. (DE 32; DE 45.) He brings this putative class
action seeking declaratory and injunctive relief and alleging that the jail violated his and
other inmates’ due process rights to access the courts by failing to maintain a law
library or provide legal research materials or representation for civil rights and habeas
corpus cases. (DE 32.) He moves for certification of a proposed class of inmates (DE 33),
but, because he is no longer a member of the putative class, the motion must be denied.
Allen County Jail is located in Fort Wayne, Indiana and houses pretrial detainees
and inmates who have been sentenced to a term of imprisonment. The jail has no
physical law library, but inmates who need legal materials can request them by
submitting an “Inmate Request Form” indicating the need for such materials and
providing legal citations to the materials requested. (See 32 at 5-6; see also, e.g., DE 32 at
32.) Ward alleges that a jail employee will then print the legal material only if the
requesting inmate has funds available in his account. (DE 32 at 6.)
On December 31, 2015, Ronald Ward submitted such an Inmate Request Form,
stating “I would like access to the Law Library so I can do some research on my case.”
(DE 32 at 32.) He received a written response that read: “What kind of info are you
requesting? Otherwise, utilize your attorney/public defender.” (Id.) On January 22,
2016, Ward sent a second Inmate Request Form, which stated:
I am a[n] indigent inmate here at the Allen County Jail. . . I
need the appropriate forms to proceed as a poor person on a
civil matter, to deny me of the appropriate forms or person
adequately trained to help me proceed would be denying me
of my constitutional rights. Please promptly provide a
response to my request.
(Id. at 33.) The response he received to his second request read just: “What are
At least one other inmate at the Allen County made similarly unsuccessful (and
even more frustrating) attempts to gain access to legal materials for civil matters. That
inmate, Gary Burt, filed seven requests for access to a law library or for legal materials
between January 21, 2016 and February 10, 2016, each time receiving what can only
arguably be described as a response and only learning after his sixth and seventh
inquiries that he had to provide specific legal citations and that there was no physical
library. (See id. at 21-27.)
Ward moves to certify the following proposed class:
All unrepresented indigent inmates incarcerated at the Allen
County Jail who seek to bring nonfrivolous civil rights or
habeas corpus claims, are not represented by counsel for those
claims, and are prevented from bringing those actions claims
in court or have had their claims dismissed due to a lack of
access to a law library, legal research materials, or professional
(DE 32 at 3.)
Ward argues that the proposed class should be certified because it is identifiable
by reference to objective criteria and satisfies the requirements of Rule 23.(DE 33 at 4-5.)
The jail counters that the class is too vaguely defined to be certified and that identifying
its members would require “an individualized determination on the merits of each and
every potential class member’s underlying ‘nonfrivolous civil rights or habeas corpus
claim’[.]” (DE 35 at 4.)
Neither party has addressed the most pressing issue—whether Ward has
standing, given his release from Allen County Jail on October 12, 2016. (See DE 45; DE
48.) But this is unsurprising since his release from custody post-dates the briefing in this
matter. Standing is “an essential and unchanging part of the case-or-controversy
requirement of Article III” of the U.S. Constitution. Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S.
555, 560 (1992). “To have standing to sue as a class representative it is essential that a
plaintiff must be a part of that class, that is, he must possess the same interest and suffer
the same injury shared by all members of the class he represents.” Keele v. Wexler, 149
F.3d 589, 592 (7th Cir. 1998) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted); see also
Brandon v. 3PD, Inc., No. 13-cv-3745, 2014 WL 11348998, at *7 (N.D. Ill. Aug. 6, 2014)
(noting several bases for requiring that a representative be a member of the putative
class, including standing and Rule 23’s typicality and adequacy requirements).
As presently defined, the putative class includes only current inmates. (DE 32 at
3.) That means that, although Ward was a member of the proposed class when the
second amended class action complaint was filed, he hasn’t been one since he was
released from the jail. And “[a]lthough he is subject to recommitment for future
misbehavior, that possibility [is] insufficient to satisfy Article III[.]” See Nelson v.
Murphy, 44 F.3d 497, 500 (7th Cir. 1995) (citing Weinstein v. Bradford, 423 U.S. 147 (1975);
Muphy v. Hunt, 455 U.S. 478 (1982). Ward’s own claim for declaratory and injunctive
relief from the jail’s law library procedures is moot, and he no longer has standing to
represent the class that he proposes.
The motion will be therefore be denied, and I will set a telephonic hearing in this
matter to hear from the parties on what, if anything, should happen next on this case.
The Court apologizes to the parties for its less than expeditious disposition of this
motion, but until the issue of the filing fee was resolved on January 17, 2017, the court
could not act on the motion.
Accordingly, Ward’s Motion for Class Certification (DE 33) is DENIED, and this
matter is now set for a telephonic hearing on Thursday, March 9, 2017, at 10:00 a.m.
Entered: March 2, 2017.
s/ Philip P. Simon
JUDGE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
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