United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division
JOHN DOE, a minor, by and through his Mother and next friend, SHARIEKA FRAZIER
BONNIE HOMMRICH, et al.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
ALETAA. TRAUGER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
before the court is Plaintiff's Motion for Class
Certification (Docket No. 54). For the reasons stated herein,
Plaintiff's Motion will be GRANTED in part and DENIED in
Frazier filed this action on behalf of her minor son pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of her
son's constitutional rights. The primary issue in this
case is whether facilities licensed and/or supervised by the
Tennessee Department of Children's Services, including
the Rutherford County Juvenile Detention Center
(“RCJDC”), may use solitary confinement for
juvenile offenders for punitive or disciplinary reasons.
John Doe is a minor who was charged with, and later
adjudicated guilty of, offenses that rendered him delinquent
under the laws of the State of Tennessee. The Amended
Complaint (Docket No. 34) alleges that the Juvenile Court for
Rutherford County, Tennessee, ordered Plaintiff detained in
the RCJDC while he awaited adjudication. Plaintiff avers
that, immediately upon his admission into RCJDC and for a
period of several days, he was placed into solitary
confinement by the Rutherford County Defendants (Rutherford
County, Duke and Istvanditsch) for punitive and/or
disciplinary reasons. The Amended Complaint alleges that,
once Plaintiff was adjudicated delinquent, he was put into
the custody of the Defendant Tennessee Department of
Children's Services (“DCS”) and placed at the
Middle Tennessee Juvenile Detention Facility in Columbia,
Tennessee, where he alleges he could be subjected to lengthy
solitary confinement for disciplinary reasons. Plaintiff
alleges that placing him in solitary confinement for
disciplinary or punitive reasons violates his constitutional
rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. He seeks
injunctive and declaratory relief only.
seeks to bring this action as a class action on behalf of
“all current and future juveniles detained in any
facility licensed and/or supervised by the Tennessee
Department of Children's Services, including Juvenile
Detention Centers operated by county governments or private
entities” and a sub-class of “all current and
future juveniles detained in the Rutherford County Juvenile
Detention Center and subject to Rutherford County Juvenile
Detention Center's Standard Operating Procedures Behavior
Management Policy, Chapter 6, § 19.” Plaintiff
alleges that DCS and RCJDC policies and practices permit
their licensed facilities to place members of the proposed
classes in punitive and/or disciplinary solitary confinement.
action will be certified only if, after rigorous analysis,
the court is satisfied that the prerequisites of Fed.R.Civ.P.
23(a) have been met and that the action falls within one of
the categories under Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(b). Bridging
Communities Inc. v. Top Flite Financial Inc., 843 F.3d
1119, 1124 (6th Cir. 2016). The decision whether
to certify a class, committed to the sound discretion of the
district judge, turns on the particular facts and
circumstances of each individual case. Ballan v. Upjohn
Co., 159 F.R.D. 473, 479 (W.D. Mich. 1994). The parties
seeking class certification bear the burden of showing that
the requirements for class certification are met.
Bridging Communities, 843 F.3d at 1124.
seeking to maintain a class action must be prepared to show
that Rule 23(a)'s numerosity, commonality, typicality and
adequacy of representation requirements have been met.
Comcast v. Behrend, 133 S.Ct. 1426, 1428 (2013). In
addition, the party must satisfy, through evidentiary proof,
at least one of Rule 23(b)'s provisions. Id. at
1428-29. Class Definition Before a court may certify
a class pursuant to Rule 23, the class definition must be
sufficiently definite so that it is administratively feasible
for the court to determine whether a particular individual is
a member of the proposed class. Young v. Nationwide Ins.
Co., 693 F.3d 532, 537-38 (6th Cir. 2012). If
the class members are impossible to identify without
extensive and individualized fact-finding or
“mini-trials”, then a class action is
inappropriate. In re Skelaxin Antitrust Litigation,
299 F.R.D. 555, 557 (E.D. Tenn. 2014).
Defendants point out, Plaintiff does not allege that
all solitary confinement of juveniles is
constitutionally impermissible - only solitary confinement
for punitive reasons. To show the same alleged injury in this
case, the class members must be those who were actually
placed in solitary confinement for disciplinary or punitive
purposes - not all juveniles who could be, but have
not been, placed in solitary confinement for disciplinary or
argue that determining which juveniles were placed in
solitary confinement or isolation would involve extensive
individualized analysis, and yet, the Rutherford County
Defendants have produced a list of 128 juveniles who
experienced “isolation” pursuant to RCJDC's
Behavioral Management policy (requiring
“confinement”) from March 17, 2016, through
October 7, 2016. Docket No. 94-2, Interrogatory No. 10;
Docket Nos. 95 and 96. Thus, there is evidence that RCJDC has
this information, and Plaintiff has provided evidence
probative of the numbers and identities of juveniles who
suffered the alleged unconstitutional harm in RCJDC.
it is possible to identify the juveniles in RCJDC who were
placed in solitary confinement or isolation for punitive
reasons, Plaintiff's class definition shall be revised to
be “all juveniles detained in the Rutherford County
Juvenile Detention Center who are or were placed in solitary
confinement or isolation for punitive reasons, from April 25,
to the present.” The Rutherford County Defendants shall
produce this information, for the relevant time period, by
March 10, 2017.
regard to the State Defendants, Plaintiff's supporting
documents refer only to the total number of
juveniles in DCS secure facilities in Tennessee. Because that
number is not limited to those who actually experienced the
alleged unconstitutional harm, this proposed class is merely
speculative. The proposed class members did not all share the
same injury. If the DCS class is defined as broadly as
Plaintiff asks, Defendants would have individual defenses to
each class member's situation - that is, whether he or
she was placed in solitary confinement for disciplinary
and/or punitive purposes. Such individualized analysis
defeats the purposes of class actions.
is no evidence before the court that the State Defendants
maintain information concerning punitive solitary
confinement, although there is also no indication that
Plaintiff asked for that information. See Docket
Nos. 84-1 and 94-8. Because this proposed class definition is
too broad, and there is no information before the court to
indicate that determining the members of the class would not
involve individualized analysis, Plaintiff's proposed DCS
class cannot be certified at this time. Numerosity
The first requirement of Rule 23(a) is that the class be so
numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable.
Although there is no strict numerical test, substantial
numbers usually satisfy the numerosity requirement.
Gilbert v. Abercrombie & Fitch Co., 2016 WL
4159682 at * 4 (S.D. Ohio Aug. 5, 2016) (citing Daffin v.
Ford Motor Co., 458 F.3d 549, 552 (6th Cir.
2006)). “There is no magic minimum number that will
breathe life into a class.” Russo v. CVS Pharmacy,