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. Especially I would like to see all the republican voting patriotic good ole boys to stop and understand that the wars they have been volunteering for all along (especially the past decade at least) have not been for God & Jesus etc no far from it unless you think George Washington's face on the US dollar is god (and we know many do). When I saw the movie about Chris Kyle, I thought wow how many Hoosiers are just like this guy, out there taking orders to do the nasty on the designated bad guys, sometimes bleeding and dying, sometimes just serving and coming home to defend a system that really just views them as reliable cannon fodder. Maybe if the Christians of the red states would stop volunteering for the imperial legions and begin collecting welfare instead of working their butts off, there would be a change in attitude from the haughty professorial overlords that tell us when democracy is allowed and when it isn't. To come home from guarding the borders of the sandbox just to hear if they want the government to protect this country's borders then they are racists and bigots. Well maybe the professorial overlords should gird their own loins for war and fight their own battles in the sandbox. We can see what kind of system this really is from lawsuits like this and we can understand who it really serves. NOT US.... I mean what are all you Hoosiers waving the flag for, the right of the president to start wars of aggression to benefit the Saudis, the right of gay marriage, the right for illegal immigrants to invade our country, and the right of the ACLU to sue over displays of Baby Jesus? The right of the 1 percenters to get richer, the right of zombie banks to use taxpayer money to stay out of bankruptcy? The right of Congress to start a pissing match that could end in WWIII in Ukraine? None of that crud benefits us. We should be like the Amish. You don't have to go far from this farcical lawsuit to find the wise ones, they're in the buggies in the streets not far away....

  2. Moreover, we all know that the well heeled ACLU has a litigation strategy of outspending their adversaries. And, with the help of the legal system well trained in secularism, on top of the genuinely and admittedly secular 1st amendment, they have the strategic high ground. Maybe Christians should begin like the Amish to withdraw their services from the state and the public and become themselves a "people who shall dwell alone" and foster their own kind and let the other individuals and money interests fight it out endlessly in court. I mean, if "the people" don't see how little the state serves their interests, putting Mammon first at nearly every turn, then maybe it is time they wake up and smell the coffee. Maybe all the displays of religiosity by American poohbahs on down the decades have been a mask of piety that concealed their own materialistic inclinations. I know a lot of patriotic Christians don't like that notion but I entertain it more and more all the time.

  3. If I were a judge (and I am not just a humble citizen) I would be inclined to make a finding that there was no real controversy and dismiss them. Do we allow a lawsuit every time someone's feelings are hurt now? It's preposterous. The 1st amendment has become a sword in the hands of those who actually want to suppress religious liberty according to their own backers' conception of how it will serve their own private interests. The state has a duty of impartiality to all citizens to spend its judicial resources wisely and flush these idiotic suits over Nativity Scenes down the toilet where they belong... however as Christians we should welcome them as they are the very sort of persecution that separates the sheep from the wolves.

  4. What about the single mothers trying to protect their children from mentally abusive grandparents who hide who they truly are behind mounds and years of medication and have mentally abused their own children to the point of one being in jail and the other was on drugs. What about trying to keep those children from being subjected to the same abuse they were as a child? I can understand in the instance about the parent losing their right and the grandparent having raised the child previously! But not all circumstances grant this being OKAY! some of us parents are trying to protect our children and yes it is our God given right to make those decisions for our children as adults!! This is not just black and white and I will fight every ounce of this to get denied

  5. Mr Smith the theory of Christian persecution in Indiana has been run by the Indiana Supreme Court and soundly rejected there is no such thing according to those who rule over us. it is a thought crime to think otherwise.