Court mulls 'vicarious exhaustion' in jail suit

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2008
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A court ruling issued Monday by a federal judge in Indianapolis touches on a legal nuance that's yet to be addressed by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago and is also a relatively new argument for Indiana.

In the jail-condition prisoner suit of Trevor Richardson v. Monroe County Sheriff, et al., No. 1:08-cv-0174 U.S., Judge Richard Young of the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Indiana, denied a motion from the Monroe County Sheriff's Office to dismiss the suit and granted the plaintiff's motion to certify as a class action.

Trevor Richardson filed suit in February when he was incarcerated in Monroe County Correctional Center, contending that overcrowding led to unsafe and hazardous conditions for inmates. He filed a grievance and two appeals with correctional officers, but he received no response before filing his suit and asking for class-action status. He was released within a week of that filing.

Though Richardson has been released and his individual claims are moot, Judge Young determined that the case warranted class-action status as it could impact the proposed class. But jail officials argued that each prisoner should have to prove they satisfy the requirements to join the class.

In a footnote, Judge Young points out that the related issue of "vicarious exhaustion of administrative remedies" exists in this case - whether the exhaustion of administrative remedies should be carried over to all members of the class.

That issue has only come up before in a Sept. 24, 2007, decision in Wade Meisberger and Ernest Tope v. J. David Donahue, No. 1:06-cv-1047, when Judge Larry McKinney in the Southern District of Indiana found that the vicarious exhaustion requirement applies to cases brought under the Prison Litigation Reform Act. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals hasn't directly addressed that issue, but the Southern District tackled that nuance in the ruling last year and relied on precedent from other District Courts and the 11th Circuit in Atlanta.

In that ongoing suit that has been stayed pending a potential settlement, the court agreed with the prisoners that the "vicarious exhaustion" should apply and the court agreed, pointing out that it was a new issue for the 7th Circuit. At the time, Judge McKinney wrote that it would be wasteful to require each and every prisoner to present the same claim to the Department of Correction when the agency has already had the chance to address it in the named plaintiff's claim.

"The court sees no reason to diverge from its earlier ruling," Judge Young wrote in Monday's footnote.

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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.