The opinion of the court was delivered by: RUBEN CASTILLO, District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiffs Elton Gates and Luster Nelson ("Plaintiffs") contend
that Officers Towery, Galiardo, Echols, and Collier,
Superintendent Cline, and the City of Chicago (collectively
"Defendants") have a policy of issuing incomplete, false, and
misleading receipts to arrestees whose property is taken for
inventory purposes at the time of their arrest. (R. 31, Second
Am. Compl., Count I ¶ 25(e) & Count II ¶ 25 (e).) They allege
that this policy "is designed to prevent, delay, and impede the
return of non-forfeitable property to the rightful owners."
(Id.) Presently before the Court is Plaintiffs' motion for
class certification, in which Plaintiffs ask the Court to certify
the following class:
[A]ll those persons who had property taken from them
upon their arrests by Chicago police officers
provided: a) the criminal charges have been resolved
in the trial court; b) no forfeiture action was
commenced against the seized property; c) the time
for filing a forfeiture action has expired; d) the
arrestee was issued an inventory receipt when
arrested; and e) the money has not been returned to
(R. 29-1, Pls.' Mot. ¶ 2.) In their reply brief, Plaintiffs
revise their initially proposed class definition to exclude
arrestees whose property was inventoried in its original form as
evidence. (R. 35, Pls.' Reply at 10.) For the reasons set forth
below, we grant Plaintiffs' motion for class certification with
A party seeking certification of a class must demonstrate that
the proposed class meets all of the requirements of Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 23(a): (1) the class is so numerous that
joinder of the class members is impracticable (numerosity); (2)
there are questions of law or fact common to the class
(commonality); (3) the claims or defenses of the class
representatives are typical of the claims or defenses of the
class as a whole (typicality); and (4) the representatives will
fairly and adequately protect the class interests (adequacy).
Williams v. Chartwell Fin. Servs., Ltd., 204 F.3d 748, 760 (7th
Cir. 2000). Even if the proposed class meets the Rule 23(a)
prerequisites, the moving party must demonstrate that the class
satisfies at least one of the Rule 23(b) requirements as well.
Id.; see also Hispanics United of DuPage Cty. v. Village of
Addison, Ill., 160 F.R.D. 681, 686 (N.D. Ill. 1995).
The Court has broad discretion to determine whether a proposed
class meets the Rule 23 certification requirements. See Uhl v.
Thoroughbred Tech. and Telecomm., Inc., 309 F.3d 978, 985 (7th
Cir. 2002). In making this determination, the Court recognizes
that Rule 23(a) should be liberally construed to support its
policy of favoring the maintenance of class actions. King v.
Kansas City S. Indus., Inc., 519 F.2d 20, 25-26 (7th Cir. 1975).
The Court also retains broad power to modify the definition of a proposed class if it believes
that the proposed definition is inadequate. Buycks-Roberson v.
Citibank Fed. Sav. Bank, 162 F.R.D. 322, 328-29 (N.D. Ill.
1995); Metro. Area Housing Alliance v. U.S. Dep't of Housing and
Urban Dev., 69 F.R.D. 633, 638 n. 7 (N.D. Ill. 1976).
Plaintiffs assert that their proposed class meets all of the
Rule 23(a) requirements and qualifies for certification under
Rules 23(b)(2) and 23(b)(3). Defendants object to the
certification of the proposed class on several grounds. In their
response brief, Defendants raise two threshold issues: 1) whether
Plaintiffs' claims in this matter are moot; and 2) whether the
proposed class definition is sufficiently definite and
manageable. Defendants also argue that we should deny class
certification because the proposed class does not meet the Rule
23 typicality, adequacy, and commonality requirements. We will
address each argument in turn.
Defendants argue that Plaintiffs lack standing to represent the
proposed class because the case was mooted when the City of
Chicago offered to return Plaintiffs' money before Plaintiffs
filed their class certification motion. (R. 32, Defs.' Resp. at
2-5.) Article III of the Constitution confers jurisdiction on the
federal courts over actual cases and controversies. Jones v.
Sullivan, 938 F.2d 801, 805 (7th Cir. 1991). This Article III
limitation underpins both standing and mootness jurisprudence,
but the two inquiries differ in critical respects. See Friends
of the Earth, Inc. v. Laidlaw Envtl. Servs., Inc., 528 U.S. 167,
180 (2000). To establish standing, a plaintiff must show that it
has suffered an actual or imminent injury in fact that is
concrete and particularized, that the injury is traceable to the
challenged conduct, and that a favorable decision would likely redress the injury. Lujan v. Defenders of
Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560-61 (1992). If a plaintiff lacks
standing when a case is filed, the fact that the challenged
activity is "capable of repetition yet evading review" cannot
confer jurisdiction. Friends of the Earth, 528 U.S. at 191. The
"capable of repetition yet evading review" exception does exist,
however, when a defendant claims that a case has become moot
after the action is filed. Id. at 190-91. "It is well settled
that a defendant's voluntary cessation of a challenged practice
does not deprive a federal court of its power to determine the
legality of the practice . . . [i]f it did, the courts would be
compelled to leave the defendant . . . free to return to his old
ways." Id. at 190 (internal quotation omitted). As a result, a
defendant arguing that its voluntary actions have mooted a case
"bears the formidable burden of showing that it is absolutely
clear the allegedly wrong behavior could not reasonably be
expected to recur." Id.
In the class action context, claims may become moot in certain
situations where a named plaintiff's claims expire before a class
is certified.*fn2 Holstein v. City of Chi., 29 F.3d 1145,
1147 (7th Cir. 1994). Where the defendant offers to satisfy a
named plaintiff's "entire demand, there is no dispute over which
to litigate, and a plaintiff who refuses to acknowledge this
loses outright . . . because he has no remaining stake." Id.
(quoting Rand v. Monsanto Co., 926 F.2d 596, 598 (7th Cir.
1991)). The offer of relief, however, must be complete:
"obviously the rejection of an offer of less than the complete
relief sought by a suit does not prove that there is no dispute
between the litigants." Griesz v. Household Bank, N.A.,
176 F.3d 1012, 1015 (7th Cir. 1999). The claims of a plaintiff
seeking injunctive relief from a purportedly unconstitutional government policy may become moot where the government
voluntarily implements a new policy eradicating any reasonable
expectation that the purportedly unconstitutional conduct will be
repeated. See Jones v. Bowman, 120 F.R.D. 88, 91 (N.D. Ill.
1988). If a plaintiff receives all of the monetary and injunctive
relief sought, a request for a declaratory judgment and
attorney's fees alone will not provide a justiciable controversy.
See Alliance to End Repression v. City of Chi., 820 F.2d 873,
875-76, 878 (7th Cir. 1987).
In this case, Plaintiffs have requested numerous forms of
relief, including the return of their money with interest, a
judgment declaring that the alleged policy is unconstitutional,
attorney's fees and costs, and an injunction preventing
Defendants from continuing the purportedly unconstitutional
practice.*fn3 (R. 31, Second Am. Compl. at 13-14.) While
Defendants have brought forth evidence showing that they offered
Plaintiffs the monetary relief they seek, (see R. 32, Defs.'
Resp. at 4 & Exs. A-H), they have not asserted that they offered
to discontinue the alleged practice that Plaintiffs challenge
here. Indeed, Plaintiffs argue that the purportedly
unconstitutional practice continues today. (R. 35, Pls.' Reply at
2.) If Defendants had offered not to engage in the purportedly
discriminatory policy along with its offer to return Plaintiffs'
money with interest, that may have mooted Plaintiffs' claims.
See Alliance to End Repression, 820 F.2d at 877 (noting that if
plaintiffs had sought an injunction to prevent particular
government action, the litigation would have been "live" even
after the plaintiffs received the monetary compensation sought).
Because they have not addressed the underlying policy challenged here, however, Defendants have neither offered all of
the relief sought nor met their burden of showing that "it is
absolutely clear the allegedly wrongful behavior could not
reasonably be expected to recur." Friends of the Earth,
528 U.S. at 190. As a result, we find that Plaintiffs' claims are not
II. Definiteness and Manageability
Defendants also argue that certification of Plaintiffs'
proposed class is inappropriate because the class is inherently
indefinite and unmanageable. (R. 32, Defs.' Resp. at 8-11.) There
are two prongs to Defendants' argument. First, Defendants state
that the proposed class is actually made up of two discreet
classes that are incompatible with one another. (Id. at 8-9.)
Second, Defendants argue that the proposed class definition must
be sharpened to specify that: a) arrestees whose money has been
returned previously are not included in the class; and b) those
whose money was not inventoried in its physical form but reported
as evidence to a criminal court are not included in the class.
(Id. at 9-11.) In their reply brief, Plaintiffs accepted and
adopted the two changes to the class definition that Defendants
have proposed, so we need not address the second prong of the
argument. (R. 35, Pls.' Reply at 10.) We note, however, that in
order to conform to the allegations in Plaintiffs' second amended
complaint, the class should be further modified to clarify that
the class includes only those arrestees who never received notice
that their property was ready for return despite the fact that
Defendants issued inventory receipts representing that they would
be so notified. (See R. 31, Second Am. Compl., Count I ¶ 25(b),
Count II ¶ 25(b), ¶ 26.) With those points of clarification in
mind, we will focus on whether Defendants have demonstrated that
Plaintiffs' proposed class is so indefinite or unmanageable as to
preclude certification. A sufficiently definite class exists "if its members can be
ascertained by reference to objective criteria." Gomez v. Ill.
State Bd. of Educ., 117 F.R.D. 394, 397 (N.D. Ill. 1987). The
scope of the prospective class may be defined, for example, by
reference to the defendant's conduct. Alliance to End Repression