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Barnes v. District of Columbia

United States District Court, District of Columbia

February 19, 2013

Carl A. BARNES, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
The DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Defendant.

Page 104

William CharlesCole Claiborne, III, Ralph Douglas Robinson, Law Office of William Claiborne, III, Washington, DC, Barrett S. Litt, Kaye, MacLane, Bednarski & Litt, Stacey R. Brown, Litt, Estuar & Kitson, LLP, Pasadena, CA, Paul J. Estuar, Litt, Estuar & Kitson, LLP, Los Angeles, CA, for Plaintiffs.

Ellen A. Efros, Grace Graham, Andrew J. Saindon, Keith David Parsons, Office of the Attorney General, Washington, DC, for Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

(REGARDING CLASS NOTICE AND DECERTIFICATION OF SPECIAL DAMAGES CLASS)

ROYCE C. LAMBERTH, Chief Judge.

I. BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

As more fully explained in this Court's earlier opinions, see, e.g., Barnes v. District of Columbia, 793 F.Supp.2d 260, 265 (D.D.C.2011), this case involves overdetentions and strip searches at the District's jail facilities. This is the second of two virtually identical class actions filed against the District involving overdetentions and strip searches at its jails. The first one, Bynum v. District of Columbia, settled in January 2006 pursuant to an agreement designed to remedy the overdetention and strip search problems. 412 F.Supp.2d 73 (D.D.C.2006). The settlement required the District to set aside $3 million from the $12 million settlement fund to build a new inmate processing center. Id. at 83.

This Court was initially hopeful that the Bynum settlement would produce " significant policy changes in the operation of the Department of Corrections." Id. at 85. However, the overdetention and strip search problems continued unabated for well over a year, precipitating the filing of the instant lawsuit. Barnes, 793 F.Supp.2d at 267-68. In February 2006,

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Carl Barnes and several other named plaintiffs brought suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that the District was liable for overdetentions and strip searches that violated the Constitution. Pls.' Second Am. Compl. ¶¶ 43, 44, ECF No. 12. The Court later certified the case as a class action. Barnes v. District of Columbia, 242 F.R.D. 113, 120 (D.D.C.2007). Specifically, the Court certified the case as a hybrid class action, with plaintiffs' claims for injunctive and declaratory relief certified under Rule 23(b)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and plaintiffs' claims for " monetary damages" certified under Rule 23(b)(3). Id. at 124. The Court defined both an " overdetention" and " strip search" class, id. at 120-21, and later ordered the case bifurcated into liability and damages phases. Order, Aug. 31, 2009, ECF No. 65.

After discovery on liability concluded, the parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment, and the Court ruled on those motions in June 2011. Barnes, 793 F.Supp.2d at 273-91. The Court held, inter alia, that the District was liable for overdetentions that occurred at its jail facilities from September 1, 2005, up to and including December 31, 2006. Id. at 285. The Court determined that genuine issues of material fact precluded a finding of summary judgment for plaintiffs or for the District as to the District's liability for overdetentions that occurred from January 1, 2007, to February 25, 2008. Id. at 286. As to overdetentions that occurred from February 26, 2008, to the present, the Court found that the District was not liable as a matter of law. Id. However, as to any overdetentions caused by the DOC's enforcement of the " 10 p.m. cut-off rule," the Court found the District liable during all parts of the class period. Id. at 283. As to the DOC's policy of strip searching inmates entitled to release, the Court found that such class members' Fourth Amendment rights were violated and that the District was liable. Id. at 291. Following the Court's issuance of this ruling, and upon the request of the parties, the Court stayed the case for sixty days and referred it to a magistrate judge for mediation. Order, Aug. 9, 2011, ECF No. 311. Settlement discussions, however, failed.[1]

Thereafter, the parties submitted proposals for proceeding, discussing how the liability and damages trials should go forward. Barnes v. District of Columbia, 278 F.R.D. 14, 16 (D.D.C.2011). On December 7, 2011, the Court made several rulings pursuant to these proposals, including decertifying the plaintiffs' claims for special damages:

As to " special" damages— such as damages for emotional distress, lost wages, or other types of compensatory damages other than general damages as defined above— the Court will decertify the class as to such individualized damages. While the Court previously certified plaintiffs' claims for " monetary damages" generally pursuant to Rule 23(b)(3) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Barnes, 242 F.R.D. at 120, plaintiffs' clarification at this stage of their intention to seek special damages on a classwide basis necessitates this Court's clarification that its class certification Order does not extend to such damages. Because not all members of the strip search and overdetention classes will have been impacted in the same way, because of differences in those experiences as well as differences in class members' backgrounds and personal characteristics, questions affecting individual members of the class will necessarily

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predominate over any questions of law or fact common to the class. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(b)(3). Therefore certifying such damages under Rule 23(b)(3) is inappropriate. Adjudication of claims for special damages must proceed on an individual basis.

Id. at 22. The Court officially " ORDERED that plaintiffs' claims for special damages are decertified and must proceed on an individual basis." Id. at 23. Almost a year after this Court ordered the plaintiffs' special damages class decertified, the plaintiffs filed a Motion for Stay of the Decertification Order, to Defer Class Notice, and For Order that Defendant Bear the Cost of Notice When it is Approved, Dec. 4, 2012, ECF No. 400. The plaintiffs request that the stay of the decertification be made retroactive, nunc pro tunc, to December 7, 2011. Id. at 1. The District filed an opposition, agreeing to pay for notice, delay notice, and stay decertification; but strenuously opposing a nunc pro tunc stay of the decertification order. Def.'s Mem. & P. & A. in Partial Opp'n to Pls.' Mot. (" Def.'s Partial Opp'n" ), Dec. 12, 2012, ECF No. 405. Upon consideration of the plaintiffs' motion, the defendant's partial opposition, and the plaintiffs' reply thereto, Pls.' Reply, Dec. 28, 2012, ECF No. 406, the Court grants in part the plaintiffs' motion. The Court will stay decertification of the special damages class nunc pro tunc to December 4, 2012— the date the plaintiffs first asked for a stay. The ...


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