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McFarlane v. Carothers

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, New Albandy Division

March 31, 2017

BRANDON McFARLANE, Individually and on behalf of all other similarly situated, Plaintiff,
v.
MIKE CAROTHERS, Jackson County Sheriff. Defendant.

          ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTIONS TO CERTIFY CLASS AND TO APPOINT CLASS COUNSEL

          SARAH EVANS BARKER, JUDGE

         This cause is now before the Court on a motion for class certification (Docket No. 22) and appointment of class counsel (Docket No. 24), filed by Plaintiff Brandon McFarlane on July 8, 2016. He brings this action on behalf of himself and all similarly situated individuals and seeks certification under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 23(a) and 23(b)(2) and (b)(3) of the following proposed class:

Individuals who, from December 10, 2013 to the present, were incarcerated in the Jackson County Jail, [who] had been arrested without a warrant, and were then held more than 48 hours following the detention and arrest, without receiving a timely judicial probable cause determination.

         Docket No. 22. This case was referred to Magistrate Judge Debra McVicker Lynch for initial decision. The Report and Recommendation by Magistrate Judge Lynch proposes that the class, with a modified class ending date, be certified under Rule 23(a) and 23(b)(3) for damages relief only. Defendant Mike Carothers, Sheriff of Jackson County, Indiana, has filed a timely objection. For the reasons detailed below, we OVERRULE Sheriff Carothers's objections, ADOPT the conclusions of the Magistrate Judge, and GRANT Mr. McFarlane's Motion for Class Certification and Motion to Appoint Class Counsel and certify the class defined in the Report and Recommendation.

         Standard and Scope of Review

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure permit a district court judge to refer a nondispositive motion, such as this one, to a magistrate judge. Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 72(a) and (b). In cases in which a magistrate judge has independent authority to do so, she shall hear and decide the matter and issue her own decision. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a). If the case is appealed, a district judge court reviews the matter on a standard of clear error or contrary to law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a); see Kruger v. Apfel, 214 F.3d 784, 786-87 (7th Cir. 2000). However, Congress has not authorized magistrate judges to make independent decisions on motion for class certification. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A). Thus, after referring such a motion to a magistrate judge, the district judge “must make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified propose findings or recommendations to which objection is made.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

         Factual and Legal Background[1]

         I. Facts and Procedural History

         Mr. McFarlane was arrested without a warrant at 11:57 a.m. on January 5, 2015, on charges of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and violating a protective order. He was booked into the Jackson County Jail at 1:00 p.m. and was detained there until his release on January 7, 2015 at approximately 3:24 p.m. He was not given a probable cause determination within the 48-hour period following his arrest. Mr. McFarlane had an initial hearing on January 13, 2015, at which time the court did not impose a bond, but allowed him to continue his release on his own recognizance. The Jackson County Sheriff, Carothers, asserts that Mr. McFarlane was given credit for fifteen days in jail and fifteen days of good credit time even though he spent only two days and three-and-a-half hours in jail on these charges. Docket No. 27 at 2.

         According to his counsel's review of the Jackson County Jail records for the two years leading to the filing of the complaint, between forty and fifty incarcerated individuals also were not given a probable cause determination within 48 hours of their arrests without a warrant. Docket No. 22. Through counsel, Mr. McFarlane filed this action on December 10. 2015, almost eleven months after McFarlane was released from the Jackson County Jail. Docket No. 1.

         Magistrate Judge Lynch held a hearing on the motions for class certification and appointment of class counsel on February 2, 2017, and took them under advisement. Docket No. 50. On February 9, 2017, she issued a Report and Recommendation that this Court grant both the motion for class certification and the motion to appoint class counsel. Docket No. 51 (R&R). In her Report, the Magistrate Judge corrected a grammatical error in Mr. McFarlane's articulation of the class definition. R&R at 19. Additionally, she concluded that Mr. McFarlane's proposed class definition must be modified to provide an ending date for the class, making the class definition viable under Rule 23(b)(3) by ensuring that the class members will be ascertainable before a final adjudication or settlement. Id. at 18-19. The parties raise no objection to the Magistrate's Judge modification of Mr. McFarlane's class definition.

         On February 23, 2017, Sheriff Carothers, through counsel, filed a timely objection to certain aspects of the Report and Recommendation discussed more fully below. Docket No. 54 (Def.'s Obj.). Mr. McFarlane his response on March 3, 2017. Docket No. 55.

         II. Rule 23 Standard

         Rule 23 sets out four threshold requirements for certification of a class action. A district court may certify a class only if: “(1) the class is so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable; (2) there are questions of law or fact common to the class; (3) the claims or defenses of the representative parties are typical of the claims or defenses of the class; and (4) the representative parties will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class.” Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 23(a). These four requirements-the Rule 23(a) requirements- typically are summarized as numerosity, commonality, typicality, and adequacy of representation. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, 564 U.S. 338, 349 (2011).

         In addition to the Rule 23(a) requirements, a class action is appropriate only when at least one of the following factors is present: there is a risk that prosecuting the matter in separate actions will create incompatible standards of conduct binding the defendant; adjudication of separate individual claims would prejudice the interests of potential parties not joined to the suit; the defendant has acted or refused to act on grounds that apply generally to the putative class; or the court finds that “questions of law or fact common to class members predominate over any questions affecting only individual members, and that a class action is superior to other available methods for fairly and efficiently adjudicating the controversy.” Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 23(b). Relevant here, Defendant Carothers challenges the Magistrate Judge's conclusion that class certification under Rule 23(b)(3) is appropriate. That provision provides:

(3) the court finds that the questions of law or fact common to class members predominate over any questions affecting only individual members, and that a class action is superior to other available methods for fairly and efficiently adjudicating the ...

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