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Baker v. McCorkle

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

March 20, 2018

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 brings this action on behalf of current or future persons confined at the Henry County, Indiana Jail (the “Jail”), and alleges that the Jail is overcrowded in violation of his and the class members' constitutional rights. The Court certified this matter as a class action for the purpose of seeking injunctive relief, and Mr. Baker moved to approve notice to the class. The Court approved a version of class notice that incorporated elements of notices proposed by Mr. Baker and Defendants, and Defendants now object to the Proposed Class Notice. The Objection, [Filing No. 118], is now ripe for the Court's decision.

         I.

         Background

         On July 28, 2017, the Court granted Mr. Baker's Motion for Class Certification in this matter, and certified the following class:

Any and all persons currently confined, or who will in the future be confined in the Henry County Jail, as of the date the Complaint was filed, November 4, 2016.

[Filing No. 85 at 2.] The Court had clarified in an earlier order that it would certify a class only for the purpose of claims seeking declaratory and injunctive relief, and not with respect to any personal injury claims. [Filing No. 82 at 18, n.6 (“The Court clarifies that it will not be certifying a class with respect to any personal injury claims members of the class may have as a result of jail overcrowding. Because adjudicating those claims would necessarily involve highly individualized issues, class treatment is not appropriate. In any event, the Court does not read the Motion for Class Certification to request certification of personal injury claims”).]

         The Court then ordered the parties to file a Report which either attached an agreed proposed notice for the Court's consideration, or advised the Court regarding the status of preparing such a notice. [Filing No. 85 at 2.] Mr. Baker filed a Report on September 15, 2017, stating that the parties could not agree on a form of notice, and attaching a Proposed Notice. [Filing No. 101; Filing No. 101-1.] Defendants filed an Objection to Proposed Notice to Class on September 22, 2017, setting forth various objections to Mr. Baker's Proposed Notice including that the description of the class in Mr. Baker's Proposed Notice was not the same as the class definition approved by the Court. [Filing No. 105 at 1.] Defendants filed their own Proposed Notice. [Filing No. 106; Filing No. 106-1.]

         Mr. Baker filed a Motion to Approve Notice to Henry County Jail Class Members on October 17, 2017, [Filing No. 109], requesting approval of its Proposed Notice, [Filing No. 109-1]. Defendants responded to Mr. Baker's motion, again arguing that Mr. Baker's Proposed Notice “changes the definition of the class from that which the court approved.” [Filing No. 112 at 2.] On January 19, 2018, the Court granted in part and denied in part Mr. Baker's Motion to Approve Notice, approving a Notice it attached to the Order which defined the class as the class it certified in the July 28, 2017 Order: “Any and all persons currently confined, or who will in the future be confined, in the Henry County Jail as of the date the Complaint was filed, November 4, 2016.” [Filing No. 117 at 3; Filing No. 117-1 at 1.] The Court gave the parties until February 2, 2018 to file any objections to the Notice. [Filing No. 117 at 4.] Defendants then filed an Objection to Proposed Class Notice, [Filing No. 118], which is now ripe for the Court's decision.

         II.

         Discussion

         Defendants object to the Court's Notice because: “(a) it includes former inmates who are not eligible for relief; and (b) [it] imposes an unnecessary, time consuming, and costly burden on the parties to locate and notify former inmates not eligible for relief.” [Filing No. 118 at 1.] Defendants contend that the current class definition would include individuals who were inmates at the Jail on or after November 4, 2016, but have since been released, and that this is inappropriate because the class seeks only injunctive relief and those released individuals do not have standing because they would not benefit from such relief. [Filing No. 118 at 2.] Defendants also assert that the Court's Notice would require them to issue written notice to individuals who have been inmates since November 2016 but have since been released, and that limiting the class to current and future inmates would allow notice to be provided by “simply posting the court's order in the jail's cell blocks.” [Filing No. 118 at 2-3.]

         In response, Mr. Baker argues that Defendants have not previously objected to the definition of the class certified by the Court, and that the proposed notice “is intended to inform everyone in the class of the status of the litigation and to inform them as well that they are not entitled to damages per se by being a class member, but rather may have a claim if they can demonstrate damages suffered independent of being in an overcrowded and unconstitutional jail.” [Filing No. 119 at 2.]

         In their reply, Defendants argue that they twice have objected to the class definition, and reiterate their argument that no damages class has been certified, and that “[t]here is no legitimate reason to have to send notice to inmates who are not currently in or who in the future will be incarcerated in the Henry County [J]ail for purposes of a class action seeking injunctive relief. Posting a notice in the blocks ...


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