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Ward v. Gladieux

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

May 11, 2017

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

          OPINION & ORDER

          PHILIP P. SIMON JUDGE

         Plaintiff Ronald Ward has moved for reconsideration of his motion to certify a class and amendment of my order denying it. (DE 61.) Ward was incarcerated at the Allen County Jail between an unspecified date and October 12, 2016. (DE 32; DE 45.) He alleges that the jail violated his due process right to access the courts under the United States and Indiana Constitutions by failing to maintain a law library or legal research materials and by failing to provide legal assistance to him for a civil case. He moved to certify the following 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 2.) I denied the motion on grounds that Ward lost standing when he was released from the jail. (DE 59.) For the reasons below, the motion for reconsideration is granted, but the motion for class certification remains 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.) If the inmate has money in his commissary account, a jail employee will print the legal material for the requesting inmate. (Id. at 6.)

         On December 31, 2015, Ronald Ward submitted such a form, stating “I would like access to the Law Library so I can do some research on my case.” (Id. 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 six other inmates at the Allen County made similarly unsuccessful attempts to gain access to legal materials for civil matters. One of them, Gary Burt, filed numerous requests for access to a law library or for law materials between January 21, 2016 and February 10, 2016, and it took six or seven tries to find out that he had to provide specific legal citations and that there was no physical library. (Id. at 21-27.)

         Discussion

         Ward has moved for reconsideration of my order denying class certification pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b), which vests discretion in a district court to revisit a judgment that resolves less than all of the claims. (DE 61.) “Motions to reconsider an order under Rule 54(b) are judged by largely the same standards as motions to alter or amend a judgment under Rule 59(e) and serve a limited function: to correct manifest errors of law or fact or to present newly discovered evidence.” Mayes v. City of Hammond, No. 2:03-cv-379, 2006 WL 2193048, at *1 (N.D. Ind. Aug. 1, 2006) (collecting cases). I denied Ward's Motion for Class Certification on March 2, 2017, because “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 because the minimal possibility of him being re-confined at Allen County Jail was insufficient to confer Article III standing. (DE 59 at 4.) Ward claims that the class should have been certified because “the mooting of a proposed class representative's claim does not moot the class action so long as a motion for class certification has been made.” (DE 61 at 3 (citing Primax Recoveries, Inc. v. Sevilla, 324 F.3d 544, 546 (7th Cir. 2003).)

         That's a stretch. To begin with, Sevilla's mootness discussion was in the context of what had taken place in a related state court matter. So while the Seventh Circuit's discussion of mootness and class certification in Sevilla is relevant and helpful, it is dicta. See Sevilla, 324 F.3d at 546. There is, however, longstanding Seventh Circuit law that “when a motion for class certification has been pursued with reasonable diligence and is then pending before the district court, a case does not become moot merely because of the tender to the named plaintiffs of their individual money damages.” Susman v. Lincoln Am. Corp., 587 F.2d 866, 870 (7th Cir. 1978). Without such an exception to the mootness doctrine, a defendant could “short-circuit a class action by paying off the class representatives[.]” Id. (quoting Roper v. Consurve, Inc., 578 F.2d 1106, 1110 (5th Cir. 1978). The problem for Ward is that the exception articulated in Susman is far narrower than he suggested in his motion-it applies only when the defendant caused the mootness of the named plaintiff's claim. Gladieux had no role in Ward's claim becoming moot, and so Susman (and Sevilla) do not support Ward's argument that this putative class action should survive the mootness of Ward's individual claim.

         Nor do the other cases cited by Ward support his characterization of the law or have much bearing here. In Sosna v. Iowa, 419 U.S. 393 (1975), the class was certified before the named plaintiff's individual claim became moot, and the Supreme Court held that the case was not moot because the claims of the certified class lived on. Here, of course, the class was not certified before Ward's claim became moot. In United States Parole Commission v. Geraghty, 445 U.S. 388 (1980), and Espenscheid v. DirectSat USA, LLC, 688 F.3d 872 (7th Cir. 2012), the question was whether the named plaintiff had standing to appeal the denial of class certification, not whether an uncertified class action could survive mootness of the named plaintiff's claim. See Geraghty, 445 U.S. at 404; Espenscheid,688 F.3d 876-78. And both Greisz v. Household Bank (Ill.), N.A.,176 F.3d 1012 (7th Cir. 1999), and Chapman v. First Index, Inc., 796 F.3d 783 (7th Cir. 2015), considered the possible ...


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