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Cole v. City of Memphis

United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Western Division

May 28, 2015

LAKENDUS COLE and LEON EDMOND, individually and as representatives of all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
CITY OF MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE, Defendant.

ORDER DENYING IN PART AND GRANTING IN PART MOTION OF THE CITY OF MEMPHIS TO DECERTIFY OR MODIFY CLASS

JON P. McCALLA, District Judge.

Before the Court is the Motion of the City of Memphis to Decertify or Modify Class, filed February 13, 2015. (ECF No. 148.) Plaintiffs filed a Response on February 20, 2015. (ECF No. 154.) For the reasons set forth below, the Motion is DENIED in part and GRANTED in part.

I. BACKGROUND

A detailed factual and procedural summary of the case is included in the Court's Order Granting in Part and Denying in Part Plaintiffs' Motion for Class Certification. Cole v. City of Memphis, Tenn., No. 2:13-cv-02117-JPM-dkv, 2014 WL 8508560 (W.D. Tenn. Sept. 29, 2014); (ECF No. 88). Subsequent to issuance of the Court's Order, which granted certification of Plaintiffs' putative class under Rule 23(b)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Court held a jury trial on the merits of Plaintiffs' case. (See ECF Nos. 125-28.) The merits of the case included determinations of the individual plaintiffs' claims for money damages and factual determinations regarding the declaratory and injunctive relief sought on behalf of the class as a whole. (See Verdict, ECF No. 141.)

At the end of trial, the jury found that the City of Memphis had "through its police officers, carried out a custom and/or well-established practice mainly on weekends at or about 3:00 a.m. of preventing persons from standing and/or walking on the sidewalk or street of Beale Street prior to [and on or after] June 14, 2012." (Verdict ¶¶ 1-2, ECF No. 141.) The jury found that this practice "occurs without consideration to whether conditions throughout the Beale Street area pose an existing, imminent or immediate threat to public safety." (Id. ¶ 4.) The jury further found that the above-described practice was "the cause of persons being prevented from standing and/or walking on the sidewalk or street of Beale Street." (Id. ¶ 3.) The jury also found that "since at least 2007, thousands of persons were cleared off of Beale Street pursuant to" that practice. (Id. ¶ 5.)

With regard to Plaintiff Cole's individual claim for damages, the jury found that Cole had been removed from Beale Street in the manner described above; that "conditions throughout the Beale Street area did NOT pose an existing, imminent or immediate threat to public safety at the time the police officers initiated" the sweep on the night Cole was removed and arrested; that Cole was arrested without probable cause in violation of the Fourth Amendment; that the Memphis Police Department used excessive force during Cole's arrest in violation of the Fourth Amendment; and that the cause of Cole's damages was the above-described practice. (Id. ¶¶ 7-16.) The jury awarded Cole $35, 000 in damages. (Id. ¶ 17.)

With regard to Plaintiff Edmond's individual claim for damages, the jury found that Edmond had not been removed from Beale Street pursuant to the custom described above and Edmond's arrest was not unlawful.[1] (Id. ¶¶ 18, 21.) Accordingly, the jury did not award any damages to Edmond. (Id. ¶ 30.)

Post-trial, Defendant filed the instant Motion of the City of Memphis to Decertify or Modify Class on February 13, 2015. (ECF No. 148.) Plaintiffs responded in opposition to Defendant's Motion on February 20, 2015. (ECF No. 154.) In the Motion to Decertify or Modify Class, Defendant raises the narrow issue of whether Plaintiffs' class should be decertified on the basis that "class membership is unascertainable without a full adjudication on the merits of each potential member's claim." (ECF No. 148-1 at 1.)

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

"A district court has broad discretion to decide whether to certify [or decertify] a class." See In re Whirlpool Corp. Front-Loading Washer Products Liab. Litig., 722 F.3d 838, 850 (6th Cir. 2013) (citing In re Am. Med. Sys., Inc., 75 F.3d 1069, 1079 (6th Cir. 1996)), cert. denied, 134 S.Ct. 1277 (2014). The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has recognized that the "class action is an exception to the usual rule that litigation is conducted by and on behalf of the individual named parties only." In re Whirlpool, 722 F.3d at 850 (quoting Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, 131 S.Ct. 2541, 2550 (2011)) (internal quotation marks omitted).

"An order that grants or denies class certification may be altered or amended before final judgment." Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(c)(1)(C). A class action may be maintained under Rule 23(b)(2) only if Plaintiffs have made a sufficient showing that

the party opposing the class has acted or refused to act on grounds that apply generally to the class, so that final injunctive relief or corresponding declaratory relief is appropriate respecting the class as a whole....

"The key to the [Rule 23](b)(2) class is the indivisible nature of the injunctive or declaratory remedy warranted - the notion that the conduct is such that it can be enjoined or declared unlawful only as to all of the class members or as to none of them." Dukes, 131 S.Ct. 2541, 2557 (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). "When a class seeks an indivisible injunction benefitting all its members at once, there is no reason to undertake a case-specific inquiry into whether class issues predominate or whether class action is a superior method of adjudicating the dispute. Predominance and superiority are self-evident." Id. at 2558.

Furthermore, "[t]he nature of the primary relief sought in [23(b)(2) class actions], injunctive or declaratory relief, does not require that the class be as narrowly confined as under either (b)(1) or (b) (3)." Weathers v. Peters Realty Corp., 499 F.2d 1197, 1200 (6th Cir. 1974). "What matters to class certification... [is] the capacity of a classwide proceeding to generate common answers apt to drive the resolution of the litigation." Dukes, 131 S.Ct. at 2551 (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Nagareda, Class Certification in the Age of Aggregate Proof, 48 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 97, 132 (2009)). A class may be certified under 23(b)(2) where "the common claim is susceptible to a single proof and subject to a single injunctive remedy." Senter v. General Motors Corp., 532 F.2d 511, 525 (6th Cir. 1976). Further, where individual class ...


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