7th Circuit Court: Class action suit isn't moot

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A class action lawsuit filed by an inmate at the Tippecanoe County Jail who has since been transferred can proceed through the litigation process to determine if class action certification is proper, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals concluded today.

The Circuit judges reversed the District Court's dismissal of Jeffery Mark Olson's suit as moot in Jeffery Mark Olson, on behalf of himself and a class of those similarly situated v. Tracy Brown, in his official capacity as Sheriff of Tippecanoe County, No. 09-2728. Olson filed his complaint alleging violations of his rights under the federal constitution and Indiana law for opening his mail and denying access to the law library. He sued the sheriff while he was an inmate in the county jail. Shortly after Olson filed his suit and motion for class certification, the Indiana Department of Correction transferred him. The District Court ruled the suit was moot because the transfer took place before class certification.

The issue before the 7th Circuit was whether Olson's claim is so "inherently transitory" that it is uncertain that any member of the class would maintain a live controversy long enough for a judge to certify a class. In Gerstein v. Pugh, 420 U.S. 103 (1975), the U.S. Supreme Court addressed the problem of mootness for class claims brought by pre-trial detainees and found in that case that a constant class of people suffering the alleged deprivation is certain and the court could assume that counsel had other clients with a continuing live interest in the issues.

The 7th Circuit - which hadn't yet applied the Gerstein line of cases to a case involving jail inmates - agreed with the 2nd Circuit's determination that the Gerstein line of cases require a claim to meet two main elements for the "inherently transitory" exception to apply. One, it is uncertain that a claim will remain live for any individual who could be named as a plaintiff long enough for a court to certify the class; and two, there will be a constant class of persons suffering the deprivation complained of in the complaint.

It's uncertain that any potential named plaintiff in the class of inmates would have a live claim long enough for a District Court to certify a class, wrote Judge Joel Flaum. In addition, there will be a constant class of people suffering the deprivation. Olson, however, only sought injunctive relief and is no longer subject to the conditions that formed the basis of his complaint, so the issue is resolved in relation to him.

The Circuit Court declined to address the issue of class certification and instead remanded to the District Court for consideration of the motion for class certification and Sheriff Tracy Brown's motion for dismissal for failure to state a claim, which the District Court did not address before dismissing the case.


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  1. This is ridiculous. Most JDs not practicing law don't know squat to justify calling themselves a lawyer. Maybe they should try visiting the inside of a courtroom before they go around calling themselves lawyers. This kind of promotional BS just increases the volume of people with JDs that are underqualified thereby dragging all the rest of us down likewise.

  2. I think it is safe to say that those Hoosier's with the most confidence in the Indiana judicial system are those Hoosier's who have never had the displeasure of dealing with the Hoosier court system.

  3. I have an open CHINS case I failed a urine screen I have since got clean completed IOP classes now in after care passed home inspection my x sister in law has my children I still don't even have unsupervised when I have been clean for over 4 months my x sister wants to keep the lids for good n has my case working with her I just discovered n have proof that at one of my hearing dcs case worker stated in court to the judge that a screen was dirty which caused me not to have unsupervised this was at the beginning two weeks after my initial screen I thought the weed could have still been in my system was upset because they were suppose to check levels n see if it was going down since this was only a few weeks after initial instead they said dirty I recently requested all of my screens from redwood because I take prescriptions that will show up n I was having my doctor look at levels to verify that matched what I was prescripted because dcs case worker accused me of abuseing when I got my screens I found out that screen I took that dcs case worker stated in court to judge that caused me to not get granted unsupervised was actually negative what can I do about this this is a serious issue saying a parent failed a screen in court to judge when they didn't please advise

  4. I have a degree at law, recent MS in regulatory studies. Licensed in KS, admitted b4 S& 7th circuit, but not to Indiana bar due to political correctness. Blacklisted, nearly unemployable due to hostile state action. Big Idea: Headwinds can overcome, esp for those not within the contours of the bell curve, the Lego Movie happiness set forth above. That said, even without the blacklisting for holding ideas unacceptable to the Glorious State, I think the idea presented above that a law degree open many vistas other than being a galley slave to elitist lawyers is pretty much laughable. (Did the law professors of Indiana pay for this to be published?)

  5. Joe, you might want to do some reading on the fate of Hoosier whistleblowers before you get your expectations raised up.