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Westefer v. Snyder

September 12, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Murphy, Chief District Judge


This matter is before the Court on the motion for class certification brought by Plaintiffs Robert Westefer, Mark Von Perbandt, Alejandro Villazana, Armando Tinajero, Corey Taylor, Michael Sparling, Joe Sorrentino, Anibal Santiago, Tyshawn Ross, Edward Rodriguez, Vincente Rodriguez, Vincent Reyna, Alex Muller, William Lasley, Ted Knox, Michael Johnson, Eugene Horton, George Harper, Timothy Hall, John Gill, Larry Gambrell, Larry Foutch, Robert Felton, Kennard Combs, Maurice Coleman, Laverne Clayton, Gary Clark, Mary Chapman, as the administrator of the estate of Marcus Chapman, Roosevelt Burrell, Finner Bryant, Larry Brown, and Aryules Bivens (Doc. 122). For the following reasons, the motion is GRANTED.


Plaintiffs are past or present inmates of the closed maximum security unit at the Tamms Correctional Center ("Tamms") in Tamms, Illinois.*fn1 Defendants Donald Snyder, Odie Washington, Michael V. Neal, George DeTella, Michael O'Leary, Dwayne Clark, Jerry Gilmore, Lamark Carter, Rodney Ahitow, Roger Cowan, Thomas Page, Roger Walker, Salvador Godinez, Guy Pierce, Barbara Hurt, Rick Orr, Ronald Meek, Jason Garnett, Deirdre Battaglia, Eddie Jones, Don Hulick, and Roger Zimmerman are past or present officers and employees of the Illinois Department of Corrections ("IDOC"). Plaintiffs bring this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Count One of Plaintiffs' operative complaint alleges that certain Plaintiffs were assigned to Tamms in retaliation for exercising their First Amendment right to file grievances and lawsuits regarding the conditions of their confinement. Count Two alleges that Plaintiffs were assigned to Tamms in violation of their Fourteenth Amendment procedural due process rights. Plaintiffs have moved pursuant to Rule 23(b)(1) and (b)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for certification of a class action as to their request for declaratory and injunctive relief on their procedural due process claims. As defined in Plaintiffs' operative complaint, the proposed class includes, "All inmates who have been transferred to Tamms Correctional Center since January 1, 1998, and all prisoners who will be transferred to Tamms in the future." Doc. 144 ¶ 140.


A. Standard Governing Class Certification

Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure sets forth the prerequisites for a class action:

(1) a proposed class must be so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable ("numerosity");

(2) there must be a question of law or fact common to the class ("commonality");

(3) the claims or defenses of the representative parties must be typical of the claims or defenses of the class ("typicality"); and

(4) the representative parties must fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class ("adequacy"). See FED. R. CIV. P. 23(a).

In addition to satisfying these four elements, a party seeking class certification must also demonstrate that the action falls within one of the categories enumerated in Rule 23(b). See FED. R. CIV. P. 23(b)(1)-(3). See also Chandler v. Southwest Jeep-Eagle, Inc., 162 F.R.D. 302, 306 (N.D. Ill. 1995); Jefferson v. Security Pac. Fin. Servs., Inc., 161 F.R.D. 63, 67 (N.D. Ill. 1995). "When appropriate . . . an action may be brought or maintained as a class action with respect to particular issues, . . . and the provisions of [Rule 23] shall then be construed and applied accordingly." FED. R. CIV. P. 23(c)(4).

A party seeking class certification bears the burden of proving that each of the requirements under Rule 23 has been met, see General Tel. Co. of S.W. v. Falcon, 457 U.S. 147, 160 (1982); Trotter v. Klincar, 748 F.2d 1177, 1184 (7th Cir. 1984), and a failure by the movant to satisfy any one of these prerequisite elements precludes certification. See Retired Chicago Police Ass'n v. City of Chicago, 7 F.3d 584, 596 (7th Cir. 1993); Harriston v. Chicago Tribune Co., 992 F.2d 697, 703 (7th Cir. 1993). "The court maintains broad discretion to determine whether a proposed class satisfies the requirements and should err in favor of maintaining class actions." Guillory v. American Tobacco Co., No. 97 C 8641, 2001 WL 290603, at *2 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 20, 2001). See also First Interstate Bank of Nev., N.A. v. Chapman & Cutler, 837 F.2d 775, 781 (7th Cir. 1988); Patterson v. General Motors Corp., 631 F.2d 476, 480 (7th Cir. 1980); King v. Kansas City S. Indus., Inc.,519 F.2d 20, 25-26 (7th Cir. 1975).

In evaluating a request for class certification, a court must not weigh the merits of a case, see Eisen v. Carlisle & Jacquelin, 417 U.S. 156, 177-78 (1974); Eggleston v. Chicago Journeymen Plumbers' Local Union No. 130, 657 F.2d 890, 895 (7th Cir. 1981), although the court must "understand the claims, defenses, relevant facts and applicable substantive law in order to make a meaningful determination of certification issues." Dhamer v. Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., 183 F.R.D. 520, 530 (N.D. Ill. 1998). See also Rahim v. Sheahan, No. 99 C 0395, 2001 WL 1263493, at *10 (N.D. Ill. Oct. 19, 2001)(quoting Szabo v. Bridgeport Machs., Inc., 249 F.3d 672, 676 (7th Cir. 2001)) (explaining that, in evaluating a request for class certification, a court must make a "preliminary inquiry . that has at its focus not the substantive strength or weakness of the plaintiffs' claims but rather the merits of those allegations that bear on the suitability of a case for class treatment under Rule 23(a) and (b)."). Finally, even where the elements of class certification are not in dispute, a court has a duty to evaluate independently the proposed class to ensure its compliance with the requirements of Rule 23. See Davis v. Hutchins, 321 F.3d 641, 648-49 (7th Cir. 2003); Chapman v. Worldwide Asset Mgmt., L.L.C., No. 04 C 7625, 2005 WL 2171168, at *1 (N.D. Ill. Aug. 30, 2005).

B. Rule 23(a) Requirements

1. Numerosity

Rule 23(a) requires that a proposed class be "so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable." FED. R. CIV. P. 23(a)(1). "[A] class of more than 40 individuals raises a presumption that joinder is impracticable." Carrier v. JPB Enters., Inc., 206 F.R.D. 332, 334 (D. Me. 2002). See also Cox v. American Cast Iron Pipe Co., 784 F.2d 1546, 1553 (11th Cir. 1986) ("[W]hile there is no fixed numerosity rule, . . . generally less than twenty-one is inadequate, more than forty adequate, with numbers between varying according to other factors."). Correspondingly, courts have found the numerosity element satisfied where the putative class would number in the range of as few as ten to forty class members. See, e.g., Swanson v. American Consumer Indus., Inc., 415 F.2d 1326, 1333 (7th Cir. 1969) (forty ...

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