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Baker v. McCorkle

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

June 6, 2017

Christopher Baker, individually and on behalf of the present and future inmates of Henry County Jail, Plaintiff,
v.
Richard McCorkle, individually and in his official capacity as Sheriff of Henry County, Bruce Baker, Kim Cronk, Ed Yanos, Richard Bouslog, Robin Reno-Fleming, Steven Dugger, Nathan Lamar, Clay Morgan, Michael Thalls, Harold Griffin, Henry County Commissioners, and Henry County Council, Defendants.

          ORDER

          Hon. Jane Magnus-Stinson, Chief Judge

         Plaintiff Christopher Baker initiated this putative class action while an inmate at the Henry County Jail (the “Jail”). He alleges that his constitutional rights are being violated because the Jail is overcrowded. [See Filing No. 1.] Several pending motions are now ripe for the Court's decision, and are addressed below.

         I.

         Background

         The original Complaint in this case was filed by Plaintiffs Hannah Heinrich, Alton Taylor, III, Kimberly Mullins, James Kent, and Mr. Baker. [Filing No. 1.] On February 13, 2017, Plaintiffs sought to amend their Complaint to remove three of the five original Plaintiffs and to add five new Plaintiffs. [Filing No. 47-1.] On March 2, 2017, the Court denied Plaintiffs' Motion to Amend Complaint, [Filing No. 47], finding that Plaintiffs' motion was untimely, that allowing Plaintiffs to amend their Complaint outside of the deadline for doing so would prejudice Defendants, and that allowing amendment would be futile because Plaintiffs had not argued that the five Plaintiffs they sought to add through their proposed Amended Complaint had exhausted their administrative remedies before the lawsuit was filed - a requirement under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a) (the “PLRA”). [See Filing No. 62 at 2-5.]

         In the meantime, Defendants - Sheriff Richard McCorkle, Henry County Commissioners, Henry County Council, and several individual Henry County Commissioners and Council members - moved for summary judgment on Plaintiffs' claims. [Filing No. 42.] Defendants argued that none of the Plaintiffs had exhausted their administrative remedies because they did not file grievances related to the issues raised in the Complaint. [Filing No. 43 at 4-5.] The Court granted Defendants' motion in part and denied it in part, finding that: (1) Ms. Heinrich, Mr. Taylor, and Ms. Mullins waived any argument that they had exhausted or were not required to exhaust their administrative remedies; (2) Plaintiffs did not claim that Mr. Kent exhausted his administrative remedies, or even filed a grievance, regarding jail overcrowding; and (3) Mr. Baker had filed a grievance which was potentially related to overcrowding, and the Court needed to hold a hearing regarding whether he had exhausted his administrative remedies in order to determine whether it could proceed to consider the merits of Mr. Baker's claims. [Filing No. 62 at 6-9.]

         The Court held a hearing on March 7, 2017, the parameters of which were established by Pavey v. Conley, 544 F.3d 739 (7th Cir. 2008). [Filing No. 67.] After the hearing, the Court held that: (1) the Jail's grievance procedure was sufficiently clear such that inmates were required to file initial grievances in order to exhaust their administrative remedies; (2) the Jail's appeals process was vague and unknown to inmates, so inmates were not required to appeal initial grievance decisions in order to exhaust their administrative remedies; (3) the issue of overcrowding was beyond the control of Jail officials so, according to the grievance procedure set forth in the Inmate Handbook, Mr. Baker was not required to file a grievance related to overcrowding in order to exhaust his administrative remedies; (4) Mr. Baker was required to file grievances to complain about Jail conditions unrelated to overcrowding - including issues he raised in the Complaint relating to mold, not being permitted to use the recreation area, and being forced to sleep naked in a padded cell shared with another naked inmate - but did not do so; and (5) Mr. Baker may proceed with this litigation on the issues of overcrowding in his cell block and increased fighting caused by overcrowding. [Filing No. 68.]

         Having resolved the exhaustion issue as to Mr. Baker, his Motion for Class Certification, [Filing No. 13], and Motion for Preliminary Injunction, [Filing No. 15], remained pending. Since the Court's Order on the Pavey hearing, Defendants have filed a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment on Claims for Injunctive and Declaratory Relief, [Filing No. 71], and Mr. Baker has filed four motions including: (1) a Motion to Reconsider Ruling Dismissing Named Plaintiffs, [Filing No. 69]; (2) a Motion for Clarification with Regard to the Status of Plaintiffs' Request for Class Certification and Declaratory Relief, [Filing No. 70]; (3) a Motion for Leave to Substitute Proposed Class Representative, [Filing No. 77]; and (4) a Motion to Delay Summary Judgment Ruling, [Filing No. 80]. The Court discusses each motion below, along with two other miscellaneous motions. [Filing No. 26; Filing No. 27.].

         II.

         Discussion

         A. Mr. Baker's Motion to Reconsider Ruling Dismissing Named Plaintiffs

         In his Motion to Reconsider Ruling Dismissing Named Plaintiffs, Mr. Baker argues that because the Court found after the Pavey hearing that “it was not necessary to file a grievance in order to exhaust administrative remedies regarding overcrowding or issues directly caused by overcrowding, ” the Court should reconsider its decision to dismiss the claims of the other four original Plaintiffs - Ms. Heinrich, Mr. Taylor, Ms. Mullins, and Mr. Kent - to the extent those claims addressed overcrowding in the Jail or issues directly caused by overcrowding. [Filing No. 69 at 3.] Mr. Baker acknowledges that the argument that Plaintiffs did not need to file a grievance related to overcrowding “was not developed in earlier briefs, ” but states that the Court's “conclusion on exhaustion should apply to the parties who have been dismissed without prejudice.” [Filing No. 69 at 3-4.] Mr. Baker sets forth the procedural history of the case, and asserts that “Defendants' challenges were addressed in a very short time period and Plaintiff's counsel was promptly developing evidence. However, Defendants had not produced the inmate plaintiffs' packets or grievances, and there was no Initial Disclosure from Defendants prior to the briefing deadline.” [Filing No. 69 at 3.]

         In their response, Defendants argue that Plaintiffs have set the pace of the proceeding, and that any argument that Defendants did not comply with discovery requests is without merit because Plaintiffs' counsel did not request inmate packets and there has not yet been a Rule 26(f) conference, no case management plan has been formulated, and there is no deadline for initial disclosures. [Filing No. 75 at 2.] Finally, Defendants argue that “the argument that overcrowding is not a grievable issue under the jail's grievance procedure was waived by the original plaintiffs in the summary judgment proceedings.” [Filing No. 75 at 2-3.]

         Mr. Baker did not file a reply brief.

         “Motions to reconsider ‘are not replays of the main event.'” Dominguez v. Lynch, 612 Fed.Appx. 388, 390 (7th Cir. 2015) (quoting Khan v. Holder, 766 F.3d 689, 696 (7th Cir. 2014)). A motion to reconsider is only appropriate where the Court has misunderstood a party, where the Court has made a decision outside the adversarial issues presented to the court by the parties, where the Court has made an error of apprehension (not of reasoning), where a significant change in the law has occurred, or where significant new facts have been discovered. Bank of Waunakee v. Rochester Cheese Sales, Inc., 906 F.2d 1185, 1191 (7th Cir. 1990) (citation omitted). Because such problems “rarely arise, ” a motion to reconsider “should be equally rare.” Id. at 1191.

         Putting aside the issue of whether Mr. Baker can even raise the issue of reconsideration on behalf of the dismissed Plaintiffs, the Court finds that he has not presented any basis for reconsideration under the circumstances. Mr. Baker asks the Court to reconsider a ruling without setting forth any of the grounds that make reconsideration appropriate. Mr. Baker does not argue that the Court misunderstood a party, that the Court made a decision outside of the adversarial issues presented by the parties, that the Court has made an error of apprehension, or that a significant change in the law or the facts has occurred. His only basis for his motion is that the Court later found it was not necessary to file a grievance related to overcrowding, but he admits that the dismissed Plaintiffs did not raise that argument in response to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. Mr. Baker seeks another bite at the apple, by relying on an argument that was not raised until after the dismissed Plaintiffs had been dismissed. In fact, the dismissed Plaintiffs waived that argument by failing to raise it, United States v. Turcotte, 405 F.3d 515, 536 (7th Cir. 2005) (“unsupported and undeveloped arguments are waived”), and cannot now rely on that argument in support of their Motion for Reconsideration.

         The Court recognizes that Mr. Baker's counsel is passionate about the claims alleged in this action, and also recognizes that Defendants concede that the Jail is overcrowded. But this does not mean that Mr. Baker does not need to comply with procedural requirements. See, e.g., Stott v. I.R.S., 2014 WL 7338789, *1 (W.D. Wis. 2014) (procedural rules “are like the written rules of a game that insure that everyone is playing by the same rules”); Kovilic Const. Co., Inc. v. Missbrenner, 106 F.3d 768, 770 (7th Cir. 1997) (“procedural rules are important and…infractions of those rules should not be tolerated by the courts. Otherwise, the rules themselves will not be taken seriously, and eventually they may exist in name only, honored in the breach”). There are consequences to not raising an argument in response to a motion, and Ms. Heinrich, Mr. Taylor, Ms. Mullins, and Mr. Kent must face those consequences. Mr. Baker's Motion to Reconsider Ruling Dismissing Named Plaintiffs, [Filing No. 69], is DENIED.

         B. Mr. Baker's Motion to Delay Ruling on Summary Judgment Until Defendants Respond to Requests for Production

         Before the Court discusses Defendants' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, it will consider Mr. Baker's Motion to Delay Ruling on Summary Judgment Until Defendants Respond to Requests for Production. [Filing No. 80.] In his motion, Mr. Baker argues that: (1) his counsel served Defendants with a First Request for Production on January 3, 2017, and Defendants have not responded; (2) his counsel served Defendants with a Second Request for Production on March 2, 2017, and Defendants have not responded; (3) his counsel “granted an informal extension of one week to the Second Request”; (4) his counsel “left messages with Defendants' counsel [and] Defendants' counsel has yet to respond”; (5) Defendants' counsel “informed co-counsel on May 9th during a tour of the jail that he is still working on responding to the Plaintiffs' Requests for Production”; and (6) “Plaintiffs' counsel believes that Defendants' counsel is deliberately delaying their response to discovery in order to wait for the Court's ruling on the Summary Judgment Motion.” [Filing No. 80 at 1-2.]

         In response, Defendants state that they provided a response to the First Request for Production on February 7, 2017, with a flash drive that contained copies of over 5, 400 pages of documents. [Filing No. 81 at 1-2.] Defendants note that they also responded to requests for production addressed to the Board of Commissioners and the County Council, and provided over 700 pages of documents. [Filing No. 81 at 2.] Defendants argue further that on the day Mr. Baker filed his Motion to Delay Ruling, Defendants mailed their responses to the Second Request for Production and provided over 900 pages of documents along with a CD containing copies of more than 2, 800 documents. [Filing No. 81 at 2.] Defendants argue that Fed.R.Civ.P. 37 provides a vehicle for resolving discovery disputes, and that “none of the materials requested by the plaintiff have anything to do with the issue in the pending motion for partial summary judgment, i.e. whether plaintiff Baker has standing to see[k] injunctive relief since he is no longer incarcerated in the jail. This motion appears to be solely an effort to delay the proceedings for some unknown reason.” [Filing No. 81 at 2.]

         Mr. Baker did not file a reply.

         Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(d) provides that “[i]f a nonmovant shows by affidavit or declaration that, for specified reasons, it cannot present facts essential to justify its opposition, the court may…defer considering the motion or deny it….” This is yet another example of Mr. Baker haphazardly filing a motion without even attempting to make the showing required by the rules. Mr. Baker does not show how the requested material relates in any way to Defendants' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment. His motion contains barely one page of substance, and he does not support the motion with an affidavit or declaration. Additionally, it appears that the issues Mr. Baker raised in his motion have been resolved - Defendants indicated in their response that they did, in fact, respond to both Requests for Production and provided over 9, 500 pages of copies of documents that fell within the requested information. [See Filing No. 81.] Mr. Baker did not file a reply brief in support of his motion, so the Court can assume that he agreed with the information in Defendants' response. See Blackwell v. Cole Taylor Bank, 152 F.3d 666, 673 (7th Cir. 1998) (emphasizing that silence in a reply brief does not constitute waiver of the legal issue but “does constitute a waiver of the specific factual contentions made by the opposing party in a brief filed earlier”). Mr. Baker's Motion to Delay Ruling on Summary Judgment Until Defendants Respond to Requests for Production, [Filing No. 80], is DENIED.[1]

         C. Defendants' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment on Plaintiff's Claim for Injunctive and Declaratory Relief

         Defendants have moved for summary judgment on Mr. Baker's claims for injunctive and declaratory relief. [Filing No. 71.] They argue that because Mr. Baker has been released from the Jail, he “cannot demonstrate that he is in any immediate danger of sustaining further, direct injury as the result of any conduct of the defendants and any injunctive or declaratory relief the Court may issue would have no effect on him.” [Filing No. 73 at 2.] Defendants argue that “[a] party who cannot demonstrate ...


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