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Morrow v. Baldwin

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

June 5, 2019

JOHN BALDWIN, et al., Defendants.



         The matter has been referred to United States Magistrate Judge Mark A. Beatty by United States District Judge Staci M. Yandle pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B), Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(b), and SDIL-LR 72.1(a) for a Report and Recommendation on the Motion for Class Certification (Doc. 29). For the reasons articulated below, it is recommended that the District Court deny the Motion for Class Certification.

         Plaintiff Mitchell Morrow, an inmate in the custody of the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”) at Centralia Correctional Center, filed this pro se civil rights lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging Defendants have been deliberately indifferent to the health risks posed by juice served to inmates in the Illinois Department of Corrections, which purportedly contains high levels of the known carcinogen benzene (Doc. 9). On October 15, 2018, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Class Certification (Doc. 29), asking the Court to certify a class of all current and former IDOC prisoners who have been served the allegedly tainted juice (Doc. 29).

         To begin with, neither the original complaint nor the first amended complaint contain a single mention of a class action (see Doc. 3, Doc. 52). There are no class allegations and no class definition (see Doc. 3, Doc. 52). The Court did not read the original complaint or the first amended complaint to assert any class claims, and Plaintiff was not permitted to proceed on any class claims (see Doc. 9, Doc. 51). See Fed. R. Civ. P. 23. And the scheduling order did not contemplate or provide for any discovery or briefing regarding class issues (Doc. 24).

         Furthermore, in order to represent a class, a plaintiff must show, among other things, that he “will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(a)(4). Here, Plaintiff is proceeding pro se. The Court denied his most recent request for counsel after determining that he was competent to litigate the matter on his own given the current stage of litigation and the nature of his claims (Doc. 51). It is well-established that a prisoner who is unassisted by counsel is not an adequate class representative. Howard v. Pollard, 814 F.3d 476, 478 (7th Cir. 2015); DeBrew v. Atwood, 792 F.3d 118, 131-32 (D.C. Cir. 2015) (“[A] pro se litigant who is not trained as a lawyer is simply not an adequate class representative.”); Fymbo v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., 213 F.3d 1320, 1321 (10th Cir. 2000) (affirming that a pro se plaintiff who is not an attorney is not an adequate class representative because “[a] litigant may bring his own claims to federal court without counsel, but not the claims of others. . . . This is so because the competence of a layman is ‘clearly too limited to allow him to risk the rights of others.'”) (quoting Oxendine v. Williams, 509 F.2d 1405, 1407 (4th Cir. 1975)). See also Georgakis v. Illinois State Univ., 722 F.3d 1075, 1077 (7th Cir. 2013) (“A nonlawyer can't handle a case on behalf of anyone except himself.”)

         Plaintiff also failed to provide any evidence or other competent information to demonstrate that the remaining elements of Rule 23(a) and at least one of the requirements of Rule 23(b) were satisfied. (see Doc. 135). See Fed. R. Civ. P. 23; Messner v. Northshore Univ. HealthSystem, 669 F.3d 802, 811 (7th Cir. 2012) (“[The plaintiff] bear[s] the burden of showing that a proposed class satisfies the Rule 23 requirements . . . by a preponderance of evidence.”) (citations omitted). In some instances, Plaintiff did nothing more than recite the language of Rule 23 (see Doc. 29). In other instances, he provided only superficial, generic explanations unsupported by any evidence or any citations to the record, which are insufficient to demonstrate that the requirements of Rule 23 are satisfied (see Doc. 29). See, e.g., Jamie S. v. Milwaukee Pub. Sch., 668 F.3d 481, 497 (7th Cir. 2012) (explaining that it's not enough to show that class members have all “suffered a violation of the same provision of law.'”) (quoting Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, 564 U.S. 338, 350 (2011)).

         For these reasons, Plaintiff's request for class certification should be denied.


         For the reasons explained above, it is RECOMMENDED that the District Court DENY Plaintiff's Motion for Class Certification (Doc. 29).

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and SDIL-LR 73.1(b), OBJECTIONS to this Report and Recommendation/Proposed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law are due ...

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