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Baker v. McCorkle

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

July 17, 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 United States District Court.

         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 a class of “[a]ny and all persons currently confined or who will in the future be confined in [the Jail], ” and Class Notices have been placed at the Jail. [Filing No. 85; Filing No. 126-1.] The parties have disagreed regarding several issues related to Plaintiffs' counsel's desire to tour and inspect the Jail, and these disagreements resulted in Defendants filing a Motion for Protective Order Regarding the Parameters of Plaintiffs' Jail Tour and Inspection, [Filing No. 133]. After the parties briefed the Motion for Protective Order, the Magistrate Judge granted the motion and set forth specific parameters to be followed during Plaintiffs' counsel's Jail tour/inspection. [Filing No. 139.] Plaintiffs then filed a Motion Appealing the Order of the Magistrate Judge and Posing Restrictions on a Visit to the Henry County Jail, [Filing No. 140], which is now ripe for the Court's consideration.

         I.

         Background

         On April 28, 2017, Defendants filed a Motion for Protective Order, arguing that their motion was precipitated by the parties' attempts to reach agreement on certain issues in advance of the Jail tour/inspection, including whether Plaintiffs' counsel could communicate with inmates during the tour/inspection, and by events that took place when Plaintiffs' counsel went to the Jail for the tour/inspection. [Filing No. 133 at 1-4.] Defendants argued that they attempted to address Plaintiffs' counsel's desire to communicate with inmates during the tour/inspection by offering that the Jail Commander introduce Plaintiffs' counsel, explain that he was touring the Jail in connection with a class action lawsuit, reference the class notices that had already been posted at the Jail, and inform the inmates that if they wanted to speak with Plaintiffs' counsel they could contact him and their calls would be toll free. [Filing No. 133 at 3.] Defendants noted that the parties called the Magistrate Judge from the Jail in an attempt to settle their disputes, but that the Magistrate Judge would not rule without a motion before him. [Filing No. 133 at 3.] Defendants argued that Plaintiffs' counsel rejected the idea of being introduced by the Jail Commander and left the Jail abruptly, without carrying out a tour or inspection. [Filing No. 133 at 3-4.] Defendants asserted that the parameters they had placed on Plaintiffs' counsel's visit regarding contact with inmates is in line with their normal touring procedures, and that Plaintiffs' counsel's communication with inmates is unnecessary in light of the Class Notices posted at the Jail. [Filing No. 133 at 5.] Because Plaintiffs' counsel would like to reschedule the tour/inspection, Defendants requested that the Court enter a protective order providing that: “(a) no special introduction of Plaintiffs' counsel or explanation of the purpose of their visit shall be made during the upcoming jail tour/inspection; and (b) Plaintiffs' counsel shall not speak to, address, or otherwise communicate with the inmates, either individually or in groups, during the upcoming jail tour/inspection.” [Filing No. 133 at 7.]

         In response to the Motion for Protective Order, Plaintiffs presented their version of the discussions before the tour/inspection, and the events that took place when Plaintiffs' counsel went to the Jail. [Filing No. 135.] Plaintiffs argued that counsel left the Jail because he wanted to be able to introduce himself to the inmates, and that Defendants' counsel “invent[ed] reasons why this was inappropriate.” [Filing No. 135 at 4.] Plaintiffs asserted that attempting to place limitations on counsel's visit “is a matter of attempting to assert control over the plaintiff's attorney rather than conduct discovery in a professional and courteous manner.” [Filing No. 135 at 4.] Plaintiffs also requested that the Court “issue an order to show cause why the defendants['] counsel should not be held in contempt of court.” [Filing No. 135 at 5.]

         On June 1, 2018, the Magistrate Judge issued an Order granting Defendants' Motion for Protective Order. [Filing No. 139.] The Magistrate Judge set forth the history of the parties' dispute in detail, and found that Defendants had shown good cause for the limitations they had requested. The Magistrate Judge explained:

Defendants have indicated during Plaintiff's counsels' prior jail inspections there was no express limitation on Plaintiff's counsels' ability to address and communicate with the inmates, which did result in disruption during those tours. Per Defendants, a point not refuted by Plaintiff, this disruption was a result of Plaintiff's counsels' direct interaction with the inmates during the tour.
In responding to Defendants' concerns, Plaintiff's counsel has not explained the need to communicate directly with inmates, either individually or in groups, during the upcoming jail tour/inspection, nor has counsel explained why the Sheriff's facilitation of communications between the inmates and Plaintiff's counsel in accordance with the jail's regular attorney-client visitation policies will not serve Plaintiff's counsels' purposes. This is essentially the proposal Plaintiff's counsel agreed to during the April 12, 2018 email exchange - which counsel has provided no explanation why the April 12, 2018, agreement was no longer sufficient for Plaintiff's needs during the April 17, 2018 tour. The purpose of the upcoming tour is to conduct a physical premises/facility inspection; thus, these communication limitations during the inspection do not impede that purpose, which is a point unrefuted by Plaintiff in countering the motion for protective order. The majority of Plaintiff's response and Defendants' reply illustrates each counsel's dissatisfaction for the other's discovery management style. Of course, discovery is to be a self-managed process - with very little Court involvement - and the Court stresses to the parties that personal attacks via motion practice are not an efficient use of party or judicial resources.

         [Filing No. 139 at 5.]

         The Magistrate Judge ordered that:

1. During the tour/inspection to be rescheduled from its original April 17, 2018, date, Plaintiff's counsel shall not personally, directly address or otherwise communicate with inmates during the upcoming jail tour and inspection; and
2. During the tour/inspection there shall be no introduction of Plaintiff's counsel or explanation of the purpose of their visit; and
3. The Henry County Sheriff will provide to Plaintiff's counsel private, unrecorded attorney-client visits with any and all inmates with whom they wish to meet in accordance with the jail's attorney-client visitation policies and procedures. The County Sheriff is to provide a list to Plaintiff's counsel of the inmates currently housed in the jail with their housing assignments no later than the date of the rescheduled tour/inspection.

         [Filing No. 139 at 6.] The Magistrate Judge rejected Plaintiffs' request that the Court issue an order to show cause why Defendants' counsel should not be held in contempt of court for not allowing a scheduled inspection of the Jail on April 17, 2018, reasoning that Plaintiffs had not cited a court order that Defendants had failed to follow. [Filing No. 139 at 6-7.] On June 7, 2018, Plaintiffs filed the pending Motion ...


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