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. Great observation Smith. By my lights, speaking personally, they already have. They counted my religious perspective in a pro-life context as a symptom of mental illness and then violated all semblance of due process to banish me for life from the Indiana bar. The headline reveals the truth of the Hoosier elite's animus. Details here: Denied 2016 petition for cert (this time around): (“2016Pet”) Amicus brief 2016: (“2016Amici”) As many may recall, I was banned for five years for failing to "repent" of my religious views on life and the law when a bar examiner demanded it of me, resulting in a time out to reconsider my "clinging." The time out did not work, so now I am banned for life. Here is the five year time out order: Denied 2010 petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): (“2010Pet”) Read this quickly if you are going to read it, the elites will likely demand it be pulled down or pile comments on to bury it. (As they have buried me.)

  2. if the proabortion zealots and intolerant secularist anti-religious bigots keep on shutting down every hint of religious observance in american society, or attacking every ounce of respect that the state may have left for it, they may just break off their teeth.

  3. "drug dealers and traffickers need to be locked up". "we cannot afford just to continue to build prisons". "drug abuse is strangling many families and communities". "establishing more treatment and prevention programs will also be priorities". Seems to be what politicians have been saying for at least three decades now. If these are the most original thoughts these two have on the issues of drug trafficking and drug abuse, then we're no closer to solving the problem than we were back in the 90s when crack cocaine was the epidemic. We really need to begin demanding more original thought from those we elect to office. We also need to begin to accept that each of us is part of the solution to a problem that government cannot solve.

  4. What is with the bias exclusion of the only candidate that made sense, Rex Bell? The Democrat and Republican Party have created this problem, why on earth would anyone believe they are able to fix it without pushing government into matters it doesn't belong?

  5. This is what happens when daddy hands over a business to his moron son and thinks that everything will be ok. this bankruptcy is nothing more than Gary pulling the strings to never pay the creditors that he and his son have ripped off. they are scum and they know it.