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Jackson v. Crawford

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Central Division

January 30, 2017

LARRY CRAWFORD, et al., Defendants.


          Fernando J. Gaitan, Jr. United States District Judge.

         Pending before the Court are (1) Plaintiff's Second Motion for Class Certification and Supporting Memorandum of Law (Doc. No. 155) and (2) Plaintiff's Motion to Exceed Page Limits (Doc. No. 165). As an initial matter, plaintiff's motion to file an overlength reply (Doc. No. 165) will be GRANTED, and the Court treats that brief (Doc. No. 166) as properly filed.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff filed the pending action on January 6, 2012. On April 9, 2012, the Court dismissed plaintiff's pro se complaint. On appeal, on March 28, 2014, the Eighth Circuit vacated the Court's order dismissing this case, and remanded for further consideration. Counsel entered an appearance on behalf of plaintiff on June 27, 2014. On August 15, 2014, plaintiff filed his First Amended Class Action Complaint (Doc. No. 42), alleging that defendants violated his rights as an atheist by requiring him to participate in substance abuse treatment programs at the MDOC such as Alcoholics Anonymous (“AA”), which requires its participants to recognize and rely upon a “Higher Power” to remedy their problems with alcohol. Plaintiff has also sought to list his religion as atheism on the facesheet to his prison file, but MDOC has denied this request, responding that atheism is a philosophy, not a religion. Plaintiff makes claims on behalf of himself and a putative class under both (1) 42 U.S.C. § 1983, through the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution; and (2) the Religious Land Use Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-1. For both, plaintiff claims that his and the putative class members' rights were violated by (1) not being allowed to declare atheism as their religion on their inmate facesheets; and (2) being forced to participate in substance abuse treatment programs that are based on a belief in a deity. On February 6, 2015, the Court entered an Order granting the state defendants' motion to dismiss as to (a) claims against the state defendants in their official capacities for monetary damages, (b) claims against the state defendants in their individual capacities under RLUIPA, and (c) claims related to actions taken in 2006 as barred by the statute of limitations. See Order, Doc. No. 83. In the same Order, the Court dismissed all claims against defendant Salsbury. Id. On May 8, 2015, the Court entered an Order denying plaintiff's motion for class certification; however, the Court indicated that if the plaintiff was able to develop evidence during discovery supporting numerosity, the Court may reconsider its position on that issue. See Order. Doc. No. 96. On June 23, 2015, the Court denied Gateway and Cummins' motion to dismiss. See Order, Doc. No. 106.

         Plaintiff was released from prison in December 2014. On September 26, 2016, the Court entered an Order (Doc. No. 153) denying plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment because, among other things, his claims for declaratory and injunctive relief were moot due to his release from prison. See Order, Doc. No. 153, pp. 17-20. The Court granted summary judgment to defendants on all claims for declaratory and injunctive relief. The Court noted specifically at page 20 of the Order that plaintiff would not be an appropriate class representative as for claims for declaratory and injunctive relief because he is no longer a member of the proposed class. The Court also granted defendants' motions for summary judgment as to claims based on the face sheet/intake form, as well as plaintiff's claims as to individual damages under RLUIPA. Plaintiff's remaining claims relate to his individual treatment by the MDOC and Gateway defendants in attempting to access secular treatment programs and materials.

         On October 3, 2016, plaintiff filed his second motion for class certification. Plaintiff seeks to certify the following classes under Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(b)(2):

All prisoners who are eligible or ordered to receive substance abuse treatment in one of MDOC's substance abuse treatment programs and who would object to the faith-based requirements of those programs, if MDOC made clear the availability of a genuinely secular, non-faith-based program, and the prisoners could trust MDOC not to prolong their custody because they objected to the religious components or selected a secular path
All prisoners in MDOC's custody who do not believe in a god.

         Doc. No. 153, p. 10. Notably, plaintiff seeks only declaratory and injunctive relief as to these proposed classes.

         II. Standard

         According to Rule 23(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, one or more members of a class may sue as representative parties on behalf of all members only if: (1) the class is so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable; (2) there are questions of law or fact common to the class; (3) the claims or defenses of the representative parties are typical of the claims or defenses of the class; and (4) the representative parties will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class. Plaintiffs must also demonstrate they fall within one of the types of classes defined in Rule 23(b).

         “Plaintiffs bear the burden of demonstrating by a preponderance of the evidence-that a proposed class meets the requirements for class certification.” Fogarazzo v. Lehman Bros., 263 F.R.D. 90, 98 (S.D. N.Y. 2009) (Scheindlin, J.). “Rule 23 does not set forth a mere pleading standard. A party seeking class certification must affirmatively demonstrate his compliance with the Rule-that is, he must be prepared to prove that there are in fact sufficiently numerous parties, common questions of law or fact, etc.” Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, 131 S.Ct. 2541, 2551 (2011) (emphasis in original). “[C]lass determination generally involves considerations that are enmeshed in the factual and legal issues comprising the plaintiff's cause of action, . . . [t]he necessity of touching aspects of the merits in order to resolve preliminary matters, e.g., jurisdiction and venue, is a familiar feature of litigation.” Id. at 2552 (internal citations omitted). “Though class certification is not the time to address the merits of the parties' claims and defenses, the ‘rigorous analysis' under Rule 23 must involve consideration of what the parties must prove.” Elizabeth M. v. Montenez, 458 F.3d 779, 786 (8th Cir. 2006). It may be necessary for the Court to “'probe behind the pleadings before coming to rest on the certification question.'” Dukes, 131 S.Ct. at 2551 (internal citations omitted).

         III. Plaintiff's Motion for Class ...

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