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Haab v. City of Bossier City

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Shreveport Division

March 8, 2018



          Mark L. Hornsby, U.S. Magistrate Judge.


         William Edward Haab (“Plaintiff”) is a deaf resident of Bossier City who primarily communicates using American Sign Language (“ASL”). His status as a sex offender requires that he register with law enforcement agencies including the Bossier City Police Department. Plaintiff alleges that the Department violates the Americans with Disabilities Act because it does not provide adequate access to an ASL interpreter.

         Plaintiff filed this action against the City of Bossier City and requested class action status. Before the court is Plaintiff's Motion for Class Certification (Doc. 18) that proposes the certification of a class defined as:

All deaf or hard of hearing persons who communicate in American Sign Language and have interacted with, or have cause to interact with, the Bossier City Police Department in a non-emergency setting.

         Plaintiff seeks only declaratory and injunctive relief. No. damages are at issue. The City opposes class certification on several grounds. For the reasons that follow, the motion for class certification is denied.[1]

         Class Action Requirements

         The class action is “an exception to the usual rule that litigation is conducted by and on behalf of the individual named parties only.” Califano v. Yamasaki, 99 S.Ct. 2545 (1979). To come within the exception, the party seeking to maintain a class action “must affirmatively demonstrate his compliance” with Rule 23. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, 131 S.Ct. 2541, 2551-52 (2011).

         A class action is proper only if all requirements of Rule 23(a) are met and one of the provisions of Rule 23(b) is satisfied. Rule 23(a) states that a class is proper only if: (1) the class is so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable; (2) there are questions of law or fact common to the class; (3) the claims or defenses of the representative parties are typical of the claims or defenses of the class; and (4) the representative parties will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class. These requirements are not mere pleading standards, and the party seeking certification must be able to prove that there are in fact numerous parties, common questions, etc. Comcast Corp. v. Behrend, 133 S.Ct. 1426, 1431 (2013), citing Dukes.

         With respect to Rule 23(b), Plaintiff relies on Rule 23(b)(2). That rule allows certification of a class if the court finds 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.”

         To determine whether certification is appropriate, the court “must conduct intense factual investigation.” Robinson v. Texas Auto Dealers Assn., 387 F.3d 416, 420 (5th Cir. 2004). A court must rigorously analyze Rule 23's requirements, and that requires an understanding of the relevant claims, defenses, facts, and substantive law presented in the case. Funeral Consumers Alliance, Inc. v. Service Corporation International, 695 F.3d 330, 345 (5th Cir. 2012). The analysis will often overlap with the merits of the plaintiff's underlying claim because class determination “generally involves considerations that are enmeshed in the factual and legal issues comprising the plaintiff's cause of action.” Comcast, 133 S.Ct. at 1432, quoting Dukes, 131 S.Ct. at 2551.

         Relevant Facts

         Plaintiff was convicted of molestation of a juvenile in the 1990s and served a term in prison. After his release, he was required to register as a sex offender, and he testified at his deposition that he will have to continue to register until 2023. He is a resident of Bossier City, and he registers twice a year with the Bossier Parish sheriff and once a year with the Bossier City police. He has a job in Shreveport (Caddo Parish), so he also registers in that jurisdiction.

         Plaintiff stated in a declaration under penalty of perjury that he is deaf and communicates primarily using ASL. Plaintiff said that he is “not great at reading and writing” and needs an ASL interpreter to understand what is being communicated to him by police officers, doctors, lawyers, and others. Plaintiff stated that he has asked the Bossier City police “many times” for an ASL interpreter during his scheduled meetings so that he can ask questions and understand everything that is happening. But, before filing this lawsuit, the Bossier police never provided him with an ASL interpreter. Plaintiff stated that, as a result, he was never able to communicate effectively with the police or understand everything they were saying to ...

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