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Ward v. Gladieux

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division

March 2, 2017

RONALD WARD, Plaintiffs,
v.
DAVID GLADIEUX, Defendant.

          OPINION & ORDER

          Philip P. Simon JUDGE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         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.

         Background

         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 needing?” (Id.)

         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 legal assistance.

(DE 32 at 3.)

         Discussion

         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. ...


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