Justia Class Action Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Criminal Law
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Wisconsin inmates undergo regular strip searches. One guard performs the search; another observes. West is a Muslim. Strip searches by guards of the opposite sex violate the tenets of his faith. He was required to submit to a strip search by a guard who is a transgender man—a woman who identifies as a man. West objected but was refused an accommodation. West unsuccessfully requested an exemption from future cross-sex strip searches. The warden stated that he would be disciplined if he objects again. West sought an injunction under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C. 2000cc, and alleged Fourth Amendment violations. The district court dismissed the constitutional claim; circuit precedent held that a prisoner has no Fourth Amendment interest against visual inspections of his body. Rejecting the RLUIPA claim, the judge concluded that West had not shown a substantial burden on his religious exercise and that cross-sex strip searches are permissible as the prison’s only means to avoid unlawfully discriminating against transgender employees.The Seventh Circuit reversed. Intervening precedent revives the Fourth Amendment claim. West is entitled to judgment on the RLUIPA claim. His objection to cross-sex strip searches is religious in nature and sincere. The prison has substantially burdened his religious exercise by requiring him to either submit, in violation of his faith, or face discipline. The burden is unjustified under RLUIPA’s strict-scrutiny standard: providing an exemption will not violate the rights of transgender prison employees under Title VII or the Equal Protection Clause. View "West v. Radtke" on Justia Law

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For almost a decade, Chiquita Brands International, Inc. (“Chiquita”) funded a violent, paramilitary terrorist group operating in Colombia. After class certification in Cardona was denied in 2019, the Plaintiffs here filed this Complaint in federal district court in New Jersey, raising state and Colombian law claims. The case was eventually transferred by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (“JPML”) to the Southern District of Florida. That court dismissed the Colombian law claims as time-barred, despite the Plaintiffs’ contention that they should have a right to equitable tolling under the rule announced by the Supreme Court in American Pipe.   The Plaintiffs challenge that determination, and they also say that the district court abused its discretion in denying their request to amend the Complaint to (1) support their claim for minority tolling, and (2) add claims under the Alien Tort Statute (“ATS”). The Eleventh Circuit affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. The court explained that although there is a square conflict between Colombian law and federal law in this diversity action, under Erie, Colombia’s law prevails over the rule announced in American Pipe. However, the district court abused its discretion in dismissing the Plaintiffs’ Complaint with prejudice without having allowed the Plaintiffs the opportunity to amend to support their minority tolling argument, although the district court correctly denied the Plaintiffs’ application to amend their Complaint to include Alien Tort Statute claims. View "Jane Doe 8 v. Chiquita Brands International, Inc." on Justia Law

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This appeal arose from a class action filed under the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 by individuals who were incarcerated in private immigration detention facilities owned and operated by a for-profit corporation, CoreCivic, Inc. These individuals were detained solely due to their immigration status alleged that the overseers of their private detention facilities forced them to perform labor against their will and without compensation. The inquiry on appeal concerns only whether the district court properly certified three classes of detainees.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s order certifying three classes in an action. The court held that the district court properly exercised its discretion in certifying a California Labor Law Class, a California Forced Labor Class, and a National Forced Labor Class. The court held that, as to the California Forced Labor Class, Plaintiffs submitted sufficient proof of a class-wide policy of forced labor to establish commonality. Plaintiff established predominance because the claims of the class members all depended on common questions of law and fact. The court agreed with the district court that narrowing the California Forced Labor Class based on the California TVPA’s statute of limitations was not required at the class certification stage.   The court held that, as to the National Forced Labor Class, the district court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that Plaintiffs presented significant proof of a class-wide policy of forced labor. As to the California Labor Law Class, the court held that Plaintiffs established that damages were capable of measurement on a class-wide basis. View "SYLVESTER OWINO V. CORECIVIC, INC." on Justia Law

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Inmates who were housed by three Illinois Department of Corrections centers between April-July 2014, alleged that the prison-wide shakedowns conducted violated their constitutional and statutory rights, 42 U.S.C. 1983. The shakedowns involved uniformed tactical teams called “Orange Crush” that operated according to a uniform plan, which involved a loud entry, strip searches, handcuffing, and other procedures involving allegedly humiliating physical contact. The inmates allege that the planning and execution of the shakedowns violated the Eighth Amendment because it was designed to inflict pain and humiliation.The Seventh Circuit affirmed class certification. The plaintiffs satisfied the “commonality” requirement because they alleged that the defendants acted pursuant to a common policy and implemented the same or similar procedures at each institution and that the challenge was to the constitutionality of that common plan as enacted. The claims require resolution of key common factual and legal questions, specifically: “whether Defendants developed and carried out a uniform policy and practice that had the effect of depriving the putative class members of their Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment; whether the shakedowns were executed in the manner Defendants contend or as Plaintiffs claim; whether Defendants engaged in a conspiracy to deprive the putative class members of their constitutional rights through the shakedowns; and whether the Defendants knew of, approved, facilitated and/or turned a blind eye to the alleged unconstitutional shakedowns.” Those questions do not require individualized consideration. View "Ross v. Gossett" on Justia Law

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In November 2017, Saul Cisneros was charged with two misdemeanor offenses and jailed. The court set Cisneros’s bond at $2,000, and Cisneros’s daughter posted that bond four days later, but the County Sheriff’s Office did not release him. Instead, pursuant to Sheriff Bill Elder’s policies and practices, the Sheriff’s Office notified U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) that the jail had been asked to release Cisneros on bond. ICE then sent the jail a detainer and administrative warrant, requesting that the jail continue to detain Cisneros because ICE suspected that he was removable from the United States. Cisneros was placed on an indefinite “ICE hold,” and remained in detention. During his detention, Cisneros, along with another pretrial detainee, initiated a class action in state court against Sheriff Elder, in his official capacity, for declaratory, injunctive, and mandamus relief. The Colorado Supreme Court granted certiorari to consider whether the appellate court erred in concluding that section 24-10-106(1.5)(b), C.R.S. (2021), of the Colorado Governmental Immunity Act (“CGIA”) did not waive sovereign immunity for intentional torts that result from the operation of a jail for claimants who were incarcerated but not convicted. The Supreme Court concluded section 24-10-106(1.5)(b) waived immunity for such intentional torts. "In reaching this determination, we conclude that the statutory language waiving immunity for 'claimants who are incarcerated but not yet convicted' and who 'can show injury due to negligence' sets a floor, not a ceiling. To hold otherwise would mean that a pre-conviction claimant could recover for injuries resulting from the negligent operation of a jail but not for injuries resulting from the intentionally tortious operation of the same jail, an absurd result that we cannot countenance." Accordingly, the judgment of the division below was reversed and the case remanded for further proceedings. View "Cisneros v. Elder" on Justia Law

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The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) asked the Southern District of Indiana to oversee a multidistrict litigation docket to coordinate discovery and other pretrial proceedings in thousands of medical product-liability suits, alleging that Cook’s inferior vena cava (IVC) filters were defective. The court and the parties agreed to a procedure by which new plaintiffs could join the MDL by filing directly in the Southern District of Indiana rather than filing in their home districts and waiting for the judiciary’s administrative machinery to transfer their cases to the MDL in Indiana. The plaintiffs filed their lawsuits directly in the Indiana MDL rather than filing in the states where they lived and had their IVC filters implanted.Cook moved to dismiss both cases based on Indiana’s two-year statute of limitations for personal injury actions. The plaintiffs’ home states (South Carolina and Mississippi) have three-year statutes. The Seventh Circuit reversed the dismissal of the suits. The unique facts of this case indicate that Cook implicitly consented to using choice-of-law rules for these plaintiffs as if they had filed in their home states. It was not fair to allow Cook to change positions retroactively to dismiss these plaintiffs’ cases that had been timely filed under the “law of the case.” View "Looper v. Cook Inc." on Justia Law

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The plaintiffs, current and former inmates of the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC), have been diagnosed with hepatitis C. They filed suit against IDOC, Wexford (which provides inmate health services) and doctors more than 10 years ago after fruitless efforts to receive treatment for their disease while incarcerated. Their 42 U.S.C. 1983 complaint alleges that the diagnostic and treatment protocols for IDOC inmates with hepatitis C violate the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments.The Seventh Circuit reversed the grant of class certification and vacated a preliminary injunction. After discussing numerosity and commonality of facts and issues, the court noted that the district court failed to name a class representative or explain its omission, leaving no way to assess the adequacy of representation. On the assumption that the court would have accepted the proposed representatives, the record does not reveal whether they would be adequate. The lack of a named representative also makes it impossible to find typicality--that the “claims or defenses of the representative parties are typical of the claims or defenses of the class.” The individual plaintiffs have not shown that they are likely to suffer irreparable harm absent the preliminary injunction, so it was error to grant injunctive relief. View "Orr v. Shicker" on Justia Law

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Bennett was assigned to Cook County Jail Division 10, which houses detainees who need canes, crutches, or walkers. He filed suit under the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. 12131–34, and the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C.794, alleging that Division 10 lacks grab bars and other necessary fixtures. Bennett claims that he fell and was injured. He unsuccessfully sought to represent a class. The court reasoned that the appropriate accommodation of any detainee’s situation depends on personal characteristics, so common questions do not predominate under FRCP 23(b)(3). Bennett proposed an alternative class to avoid person-specific questions, contending that Division 10, which was constructed in 1992, violates 28 C.F.R. 42.522(b)'s requirement that as of “1988 … construction[] or alteration of buildings” must comply with the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards. The Standards require accessible toilets to have grab bars nearby and accessible showers to have mounted seats. The district court rejected this proposal, reasoning that to determine whether the Structural Standards control, thereby mooting the reasonable accommodation inquiry, would require a ruling on the merits, which would “run[] afoul of the rule against one-way intervention.”The Seventh Circuit vacated. The "view that a class cannot be certified unless the plaintiff has already prevailed on the central legal issue is a formula for one-way intervention rather than a means to avoid it." Bennett proposes a class that will win if the Standards apply and were violated, to detainees’ detriment and otherwise will lose. View "Bennett v. Dart" on Justia Law

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These consolidated appeals arose from a class action brought by prisoners in the custody of the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) against senior ADC officials, challenging ADC's provision of healthcare. At issue on appeal are eleven district court orders imposing contempt sanctions, awarding attorneys' fees to plaintiffs, appointing expert witnesses, and otherwise enforcing the settlement agreement between the parties.The Ninth Circuit affirmed the Contempt Order, the Termination Order, and the HNR-Box Order. The panel vacated the Attorneys' Fees Order and Judgment, remanding with instructions to (a) recalculate the fee award by determining the correct hourly rates for each year, (b) exclude from any fee award the 11 hours erroneously included; (c) modify the costs award down by $1,285.79 in light of the district court's failure to reflect the downward adjustments in its prior order; and (d) reweigh whether a fee enhancement was appropriate without double-counting the Kerr factors. The panel dismissed the remainder of the Medical Needs Appeal for lack of jurisdiction. View "Parsons v. Ryan" on Justia Law

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This appeal concerned consolidated putative class actions brought by plaintiffs whose vehicles were towed at the direction of local police and without plaintiffs’ consent. Each plaintiff was charged for the non-consensual tow by a privately owned towing company that had a contract with the respective local government to perform that towing service. Plaintiffs brought suit challenging those charges in three class actions with common legal claims. Plaintiffs alleged that the fees imposed by the private companies violated the New Jersey Predatory Towing Prevention Act (Towing Act), the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act (CFA), and the New Jersey Truth-in-Consumer Contract, Warranty and Notice Act (TCCWNA). One class action was dismissed on summary judgment and the other was allowed to proceed only as an individual case. Plaintiffs appealed. The Appellate Division reversed in a consolidated opinion. The New Jersey Supreme Court determined 2018 legislation amending the Towing Act did not have retroactive effect, and agreed with the Appellate Division’s construction of the pre-2018 Act. Therefore, the Supreme Court affirmed the Appellate Division’s decision as to exhaustion of administrative remedies, derivative immunity, and the remand as to the Towing Act and CFA claims, all substantially for the same reasons. Separately, the Supreme Court addressed whether plaintiffs could pursue claims under the TCCWNA and found they were unable to state a claim under that statute. The Court therefore reversed the judgment of the Appellate Division on that issue but affirmed as to all others. View "Pisack v. BC Towing, Inc." on Justia Law