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Buroff v. Gladieux

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

November 13, 2017

DEMETRIUS BUROFF and IAN BARNHART, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
DAVID GLADIEUX, in his official capacity, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          THERESA L. SPRINGMANN CHIEF JUDGE

         This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiffs Demetrius Buroff's and Ian Barnhart's First Amended Motion for Class Certification [ECF No. 19]. Defendant David Gladieux, in his official capacity as Allen County Sheriff, filed his Response to the Plaintiffs' First Amended Motion for Class Certification [ECF No. 29]. The Plaintiffs timely filed their Reply [ECF No. 31]. This matter is thus fully briefed and ripe for review.

         BACKGROUND

         This background is provided through the pleadings, class certification motions, and attached exhibits. The Plaintiffs allege that the Defendant systematically disenfranchised hundreds of eligible voters who were being confined in the Allen County Jail during the 2016 General Election. (Amended Compl. ¶ 1.) Both are United States citizens, over eighteen years old, and residents of Allen County, Indiana (Id. ¶¶ 4, 5.) Plaintiff Buroff was held in the Allen County Jail as a pretrial detainee on misdemeanor criminal charges from on or about October 31, 2016, to on or about December 15, 2016. (Id. ¶ 4.) Plaintiff Barnhart was held in the Allen County Jail as a pretrial detainee on felony criminal charges from on or about November 4, 2016, to on or about November 26, 2016. (Id. ¶ 5.) Defendant at all relevant times served as Allen County Sheriff and operated the Allen County Jail (Id. ¶ 6.)

         The Plaintiffs allege that on November 8, 2016, they were eligible to vote in the 2016 General Election but that the Defendant prevented them from doing so from the Allen County Jail. (Id. ¶¶ 14, 18, 24, 25.) Additionally, the Plaintiffs were denied access to in-person early voting, absentee ballots, or any other means of voting. (Id. ¶¶ 19-21, 25.) The Plaintiffs were not the only individuals held in Allen County Jail during this time, and they initiated this lawsuit pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a) and (b)(3) on behalf of themselves and all other similarly situated as members of the following proposed class:

All individuals held at the Allen County Jail on November 8, 2016, who on that date were U.S. citizens, residents of Indiana, were at least eighteen years of age, were not serving a sentence for a conviction of a felony crime, had not previously voted in the 2016 general election, were provided neither an absentee ballot nor transportation to a voting center, and were registered to vote or had been denied the opportunity to vote while held in the Allen County Jail.

(Id. ¶ 7.) The Plaintiffs seek monetary damages on behalf of themselves and the class.

         The Defendant challenged class certification and asserted that (1) neither of the named Plaintiffs has standing to bring a claim individually or on behalf of the class, and (2) neither of the named Plaintiffs can satisfy the requirements of Rule 23. The Defendant produced Allen County Board of Voter Registration data which shows that Plaintiff Buroff first registered to vote in Allen County on April 4, 2017. (Def.'s Resp. to Class Certification Ex. 1.) The same data shows that Plaintiff Barnhart was registered to vote in Allen County beginning on June 11, 2012. (Id. Ex. 2.) The Defendant also provided a true and accurate copy of the 2016 Indiana Election Calendar that contains relevant dates pertaining to voting and election deadlines, including the deadline for voter registration (October 11, 2016) and the deadline to request an absentee ballot (October 31, 2016). (Id. Ex. 3.)

         LEGAL STANDARD

         A. Article III Standing

         Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. U.S. Const. art. III, § 2. This jurisdiction extends to justiciable “Cases” and “Controversies” where a plaintiff has established standing. See Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560 (1992). To establish standing, “[t]he plaintiff must have (1) suffered an injury in fact, (2) that is fairly traceable to the challenged conduct of the defendant, and (3) that is likely to be redressed by a favorable judicial decision.” Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, 136 S.Ct. 1540, 1547 (2016) (citing Lujan, 504 U.S. at 560-61). The plaintiff bears the burden to establish standing. Id. Additionally, a named plaintiff must establish standing to seek personal and class wide relief. O'Shea v. Littleton, 414 U.S. 488, 493-94 (1974).

         B. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23

         “Rule 23 does not set forth a mere pleading standard.” Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, 564 U.S. 338, 351 (2011). Instead, plaintiffs bear the burden to show that a proposed class satisfies Rule 23. Arwa Chiropractic, P.C. v. Med-Care Diabetic & Med. Supplies, Inc., 14-C-5602, 2017 WL 4339788, at *2 (N.D. Ill. Sep. 29, 2017) (citing Messner v. Northshore Univ. Healthsystem, 669 F.3d 802, 811 (7th Cir. 2012)). A plaintiff satisfies Rule 23 when he meets all of the requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a) and one of the ...


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