United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
ORDER & REASONS
the Court is Plaintiffs' Motion to Certify a Class
Action. R. Docs. 5, 87. Defendant opposes the motion. R.
Docs. 21, 95. Having considered the parties' arguments
and the applicable law, the Court issues this Order &
27, 2017, a group of Plaintiffs filed suit against Magistrate
Judge Harry Cantrell. This case arises from Defendant
Magistrate Judge Cantrell's allegedly unlawful practice
of imposing unreasonably expensive secured financial
conditions of release upon arrestees without inquiring about
their ability to pay. R. Doc. 1 at 1. Plaintiffs are two
criminal defendants who were in the custody of the Orleans
Parish Sheriff's Office. R. Doc. 1 at 2-3. Defendant
Harry Cantrell is the Magistrate Judge for Orleans Parish
Criminal District Court, where he is responsible for setting
bail upon arrest, and has a role in managing the expenditures
of the Judicial Expense Fund. R. Doc. 1 at 3.
allege that Defendant routinely sets a $2, 500 minimum
secured money bond. Plaintiffs contend Judge Cantrell sets
bond without considering the facts of the case to determine
whether a lower bond amount or an alternative condition of
release might be appropriate. R. Doc. 1 at 6. Plaintiffs
further aver that Defendant requires the use of a for-profit
bail bond and does not allow arrestees to post cash bail. R.
Doc. 1 at 2. Under Louisiana law, 1.8% of a bond amount
collected from a commercial surety (but not from any other
type of bond) is allocated directly to the Court for its
discretionary use; Plaintiffs contend that this policy
involves a conflict of interest. R. Doc. 1 at 2. Plaintiffs
argue that refusing to consider ability to pay, alternative
conditions of release, or a lower bond, as well as the
resulting institutional financial conflict, violate the Due
Process and Equal Protection clauses of the Fourteenth
Amendment. R. Doc. 1. Plaintiffs seek a declaratory judgement
that Defendant's bond policy, which results in the
creation of a modern “debtor's prison, ” is a
violation of Plaintiffs' constitutional rights, and a
declaration that Defendant's financial conflict of
interest violates their Due Process rights. R. Doc. 1 at 26.
have filed a Motion to Certify a Class Action. R. Doc. 5.
Plaintiffs maintain that Defendant applies the same allegedly
unconstitutional practices to the entire class, their claims
are representative of the class claims, the named
plaintiffs' stake in the controversy is sufficient to
represent the class, and all members of the class will seek
declaratory relief. R. Doc. 5-1 at 3.
Defendant argues that class certification is unnecessary
because Plaintiffs' claims are moot. R. Doc. 95.
Defendant argues that he has agreed to follow a bail setting
protocol that resolves Plaintiffs' claims. R. Doc. 95 at
2. Further, Defendant argues that the conflict of interest
claim is currently in litigation before Judge Vance. R. Doc.
95 at 4.
LAW & ANALYSIS
actions permit representative plaintiffs to litigate their
claims on behalf of members of the class not before the
court. The purpose of a class action is to avoid multiple
actions and to allow claimants who could not otherwise
litigate their claims individually to bring them as a class.
See Crown, Cork & Seal Co. v. Parker, 462 U.S.
345, 349 (1983). A district court has great discretion in
certifying and managing a class action. See Mullen v.
Treasure Chest Casino, LLC, 186 F.3d 620, 624
(5th Cir. 1999). The party seeking class
certification bears the burden of proving all the
requirements set out in Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil
Plaintiffs seek certification under Rule 23(b)(2). R. Doc.
5-1 at 1. A class may be certified under Rule 23(b)(2) if it
meets the four prerequisites found in Rule 23(a) and an
additional requirement found in Rule 23(b)(2). The four
prerequisites for certifying a class include: (1) numerosity
(a class so large that joinder of all members is
impracticable); (2) commonality (questions of law or fact
common to the class); (3) typicality (named parties'
claims or defenses are typical of the class); and (4)
adequacy of representation (representatives will fairly and
adequately protect the interests of the class).
Mullen, 186 F.3d at 623 (quoting Amchem
Products, Inc. v. Windsor, 521 U.S. 591, 613 (1997)).
four prerequisites of 23(a) have been demonstrated,
plaintiffs must satisfy one of the elements of 23(b). Rule
23(b)(2) provides for certification of class actions if
“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.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(b)(2). “If the plaintiffs s[eek] only
injunctive and declaratory relief, [there is] no trouble
certifying the proposed class.” Broussard v.
Foti, No. 00-2318, 2001 WL 699525, at *2 (E.D. La. June
in this case satisfy the requirements of 23(a). Plaintiffs
satisfy the numerosity requirement because there are
hundreds, possibly thousands, of potential class members.
See Mullen, 186 F.3d at 624 (finding that a class
sized between 100-150 members generally satisfied the
numerosity requirement). Commonality is satisfied because the
claims of each class member rest on common fact questions
surrounding Defendant's policies and practices of setting
bail in state criminal cases. Further, the claims share a
common question of law: whether these policies and practices
violate the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process and Equal
Protection clauses. Typicality is met because the claims of
the named plaintiffs are typical of, if not identical to, the
claims as well as the defenses of the class. See Id.
at 625 (quoting Lightbourn v. County of El Paso, 118
F.3d 421, 426 (5th Cir. 1997)); Rosario v.
Livaditis, 963 F.2d 1013, 1018 (7th Cir. 1992) (holding
that a plaintiff's claim is typical if it arises from the
same event or practice giving rise to the claims of other
class members and is based on the same legal theory as the
class members); see, e.g., R. Docs. 87-3, 87-4
(transcripts from Judge Cantrell's hearings). Finally,
the named plaintiffs will fairly and adequately protect the
interest of the class and Plaintiffs' counsel are
certainly adequately experienced. See Mullen, 186
F.3d at 626 (stating that named plaintiffs are inadequate
representatives only if they have conflicts with interests of
the other class members). Finally, the Plaintiffs request
only declaratory relief for the entire class. Therefore, they
have satisfied the Rule 23(b)(2) standard.
argues that the Court should not certify the class because
Plaintiffs' claims are moot. While Defendant has not
filed a motion to dismiss, the Court will address the
argument. Generally, “any set of circumstances that
eliminates actual controversy after the commencement of a
lawsuit renders that action moot.” Ctr. For
Individual Freedom v. Carmouche, 449 F.3d 655, 661 (5th
Cir. 2006). Usually voluntary cessation of a challenge