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Buroff v. Gladieux

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

April 3, 2019

IAN BARNHART, Individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
v.
DAVID GLADIEUX, in his official capacity, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          THERESA L. SPRINGMANN CHIEF JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on the Defendant's, Allen County Sheriff David Gladieux, Motion for Partial Summary Judgment [ECF No. 43] pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and N.D. Ind. L.R. 56-1. For the reasons stated below, the Court GRANTS the Defendant's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment.

         BACKGROUND

         On March 27, 2017, the Plaintiffs filed their Class Action Complaint against Defendant Gladieux, in his official capacity [ECF No. 1]. The Plaintiffs filed an Amended Complaint on June 6, 2017 [ECF No. 18], a First Amended Motion for Class Certification [ECF No. 19], and a Second Amended Complaint on August 15, 2017 [ECF No. 28]. The Plaintiffs allege that the Defendant refused to provide the Plaintiffs with absentee ballots or alternative access to the polls in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment and seeks damages pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. [ECF No. 28, ¶¶ 14, 18-21, 24-30].

         On November 13, 2017, the Court dismissed the Plaintiffs' First Amended Motion for Class Certification. (Op. and Order at 5, ECF No. 32.) In that Order, the Court found that, although Plaintiff Barnhart was not incarcerated until after the date in which he could request an absentee ballot, he could not vote solely because he was a pretrial detainee in the Allen County Jail and “[t]he Defendant did not provide any means for Plaintiff Barnhart to exercise his right to vote.” (Id. at 6.)

         On March 7, 2018, Plaintiff Barnhart filed a Second Motion to Certify the Class [ECF No. 36], which was granted on May 17, 2018 [ECF No. 41]. The Court certified the following 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. (Op. and Order Granting Class Cert. at 11, ECF No. 41.)

         On July 23, 2018, the Defendant filed a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, seeking to dismiss the claims of the Class Members incarcerated in the Allen County Jail on or before October 31, 2016 (hereafter referred to as the “October Class Members”) [ECF No. 43]. The Defendant argues that the Plaintiffs have failed to demonstrate that the October Class Members were unable to vote by absentee ballot under Allen County Jail policy or practice. (Def.'s Mem. in Supp. of Mot. for Partial Summ. J. at 1, ECF No. 44.) The Defendant argues that the October Class Members were freely able to vote by absentee ballot under both express Allen County Jail policy and Indiana law. (Id. at 2.) Thus, the Defendant argues, no policy or practice of the Allen County Sheriff's Department caused any alleged constitutional injury. (Id.) The Defendant does not move for summary judgment for Class Members booked into the Allen County Jail after the October 31, 2016 deadline to request an absentee ballot, as issues of fact that preclude an entry of summary judgment. (Id. at 2-3).

         On August 20, 2018, the Plaintiffs filed a Response to Defendant's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment [ECF No. 45]. On September 4, 2018, the Defendant filed a Reply in Support of Motion for Partial Summary Judgment [ECF No. 47]. On September 27, 2018, with the Court's permission, the Plaintiffs filed a sur-response to the Defendant's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment [ECF No. 50].

         STATEMENT OF FACTS

         Defendant Gladieux operates the Allen County Jail in Allen County, Indiana and did so at the time of the 2016 general election. The Allen County Jail Rules (Jail Rules) were posted for prisoner viewing and include a section regarding inmate rights and privileges, including the right to vote. The rules state: “An inmate shall be entitled to vote by absentee ballot upon meeting voter's registration requirements under the Law of the State of Indiana, as long as the inmate is not serving a sentence upon conviction of a felony.”

         To vote in the 2016 general election, an eligible individual was required to register to vote by Tuesday, October 11, 2016. The deadline to request an absentee ballot via mail was 11:59 p.m. on October 31, 2016. Indiana law requires that a voter request an absentee ballot on his or her own behalf. The Defendant has no record of any inmate detained in the Allen County jail timely requesting an absentee ballot for the 2016 general election. Nor does the Allen County Election Board have any record of any inmate requesting an absentee ballot for the 2016 general election.

         In-person early voting in Allen County took place from October 12, 2016 until November 7, 2016, and the general election took place on November 8, 2016. Of the inmates detained in the Allen County Jail on November 8, 2016, over 300 inmates were registered to vote. On the day of the general election, the Defendant did not provide any inmates or detainees held at the Allen County Jail on November 8, 2016 transportation to vote. The Defendant also did not provide any inmates or detainees an on-site jail polling station at the jail to vote in the 2016 election.

         LEGAL ...


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