United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Shreveport Division
ANTHONY TELLIS, ET AL.
JAMES M. LEBLANC, ET AL.
ELIZABETH ERNY FOOTE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court is Defendants' appeal of the Magistrate
Judge's order granting Plaintiffs' first motion to
amend their complaint. [Record Document 157]. Because the
Advocacy Center has associational standing and because good
cause exists for the amendment, the Magistrate Judge's
order granting leave to amend the complaint [Record Document
153] is AFFIRMED.
Tellis (“Tellis”) and Bruce Charles
(“Charles”) brought this suit on behalf of a
class of all prisoners held in extended lockdown at David
Wade Correctional Center (“DWCC”) and a sub-class
of prisoners with mental illness on the lockdown tiers.
[Record Document 1 at 7-8]. The motion for class
certification remains pending; a hearing is set for October
15, 2019. [Record Documents 2 and 141]. Tellis and Charles
were represented by attorneys from the Advocacy Center, the
protection and advocacy (“P&A”) agency for
the state of Louisiana. [Record Document 1 at 52]. P&A
agencies such as the Advocacy Center have a statutory mandate
to investigate conditions at facilities that treat
individuals with mental illness. 42 U.S.C. §§
10802(3), 10805(a)(1)(A). Following such investigations,
P&A agencies have the authority to bring legal or
administrative actions to protect those individuals'
statutory and constitutional rights. Id. §
midst of protracted and contentious discovery, Plaintiffs
moved to amend their complaint to add the Advocacy Center as
a plaintiff. [Record Document 128]. The amended complaint
names as Defendants a variety of officials at DWCC and at the
Louisiana Department of Corrections who are responsible for
the allegedly deficient mental health treatment provided at
the prison. [Record Document 154 at 4-7]. Specifically,
Plaintiffs contend that the conditions on the extended
lockdown tiers at DWCC and the level of mental health care
provided evince deliberate indifference to serious mental
health needs. [Id. at 11-45]. According to
Plaintiffs, Defendants provide inadequate screening,
treatment, and medication for mental illnesses, maintain
inadequate staffing levels, and misuse their suicide-watch
procedures. [Id. at 11-24]. Plaintiffs seek
injunctive and declaratory relief to remedy alleged
violations of the First and Eighth Amendments, the Americans
with Disabilities Act (the “ADA”), and § 504
of the Rehabilitation Act. [Id. at 53- 54].
order addressing several pending motions, the Magistrate
Judge granted the motion for leave to amend over
Defendants' objections. [Record Documents 132 and 153 at
4-7]. Specifically, the Magistrate Judge found that the
Advocacy Center satisfied the requirements for associational
standing under the test laid out in Hunt v. Washington
State Apple Advertising Commission, 432 U.S.
333, 343 (1977), because remediating the systemic abuses
alleged in the amended complaint would not require the
participation of individual DWCC inmates:
The sum and substance of the Amended Complaint is that
DWCC's staff does not properly screen for or treat
prisoners with mental health problems, and when a prisoner
does request mental health care or speaks up for himself, the
prisoner is punished by being placed on suicide watch and/or
held in harsh and brutal conditions. The court agrees with
Plaintiffs that this case presents exactly the sort of claims
and remedies for which associational standing is appropriate.
Document 153 at 7 (internal citation omitted)]. The
Magistrate Judge also found that although the deadline for
amending the complaint had passed, Defendants would suffer
“little if any prejudice” from the amendment.
appeal, Defendants essentially reiterate the objections they
made to the motion for leave to amend. [Record Documents 132
and 157-2]. Defendants argue that adding the Advocacy Center
as a party is an improper attempt to evade the requirements
for class certification, that the Advocacy Center lacks
associational standing, and that the Magistrate Judge failed
to apply the proper legal standard when evaluating whether
there was good cause to amend. [Record Document 157-2 at
2-9]. Plaintiffs maintain that class certification
requirements do not apply to an organization seeking
associational standing, that the Advocacy Center has
associational standing as a consequence of its P&A
authority, and that the discovery completed to date remains
relevant after the amendment. [Record Document 166 at 2-8].
Defendants had the opportunity to file a reply brief, [Record
Document 159 at 1], they elected not to do so. As a result,
this matter is ripe for adjudication.
Standard of Review
the Federal Magistrate Act, a magistrate judge may issue
binding rulings on non-dispositive matters. 28 U.S.C. §
636(b)(1)(A). A party that objects to such a ruling may
appeal to the district judge who “must . . . modify or
set aside any part of the order that is clearly erroneous or
contrary to law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a). A clear error
standard applies to a magistrate judge's findings of
fact, while legal conclusions are reviewed de novo. See
Spillers v. Chevron USA Inc., No. 11-2163, 2013 WL
869387, at *3 (W.D. La. Mar. 6, 2013) (citing Choate v.
State Farm Lloyds, No. 03-2111, 2005 WL 1109432, at *1
(N.D. Tex. May 5, 2005)). “A finding is ‘clearly
erroneous' when although there is evidence to support it,
the reviewing court on the entire evidence is left with the
definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been
committed.” United States v. U.S. Gypsum Co.,
333 U.S. 364, 395 (1948). Hence, reversal of a factual
finding is improper whenever the “magistrate
judge's ‘account of the evidence is plausible in
light of the record viewed in its entirety.'”
Smith v. Smith, 154 F.R.D. 661, 665 (N.D. Tex. 1994)
(quoting Resolution Tr. Corp. v. Sands, 151 F.R.D.
616, 619 (N.D. Tex. 1993)).
Law and Analysis
Relationship of Amendment to Class
correctly note that a court must “conduct a rigorous
analysis of the [R]ule 23 prerequisites before certifying a
class.” Castano v. Am. Tobacco Co., 84 F.3d
734, 740 (5th Cir. 1996) (citing Gen. Tel. Co. v.
Falcon, 457 U.S. 147, 161 (1982); Applewhite v.
Reichhold Chems., 67 F.3d 571, 573 (5th Cir. 1995)).
This Court has every intention of doing so. However, the
Magistrate Judge was not tasked with certifying a class;
rather, he was to evaluate whether leave should be granted to
add the Advocacy Center as an associational plaintiff.
Although Defendants maintain that the showing required for
class certification under Rule 23 should apply to an
amendment seeking to add an associational plaintiff, [Record
Document 157 at 9], this contention is contrary to
Supreme Court has roundly rejected the equation of Rule 23
and associational standing because such a view “fails
to recognize the special features . . . that distinguish
suits by associations on behalf of their members from class
actions.” UAW v. Brock, 477 U.S. 274, 289
(1986). Following similar reasoning, the Fifth Circuit has
observed that the associational standing inquiry is
“[a]n altogether separate question” from class
certification. Soc'y of Separationists, Inc. v.
Herman, 939 F.2d 1207, 1214 (5th Cir. 1991),
rev'd en banc on other grounds, 959 F.2d 1283
(5th Cir. 1992); see also Dunn v. Dunn, 219
F.Supp.3d 1163, 1166 n.5 (M.D. Ala. 2016) (“[C]lass
certification under Rule 23 and associational standing are
evaluated on two different rubrics . . . .” (quoting
Bhd. of Maint. of Way Emps. v. Ind. Harbor Belt R.R.
Co., 20 F.Supp.3d 686, 691 (N.D. Ind. 2014))). In fact,
it is perfectly possible for a court to find Rule 23
unsatisfied and yet find that an organization representing
members of the proposed class has associational standing.
See S.S. ex rel. S.Y. v. City of Springfield, 332
F.Supp.3d 367, 375 (D. Mass. 2018) (noting that while a
denial of certification “raise[s] substantive questions
regarding the viability of the claims brought by [the
associational plaintiffs], [it] do[es] not, and should not,
have a direct bearing on the threshold issue of
standing”). In the absence of any contrary authority
identified by Defendants, this Court rejects their argument
that the Magistrate Judge's grant of leave to amend to
add an associational plaintiff violated Rule 23.
The Requirements for Associational Standing
imposes three requirements an association must meet to have
standing to sue on its members' behalf: “(a) its
members would otherwise have standing to sue in their own
right; (b) the interests it seeks to protect are germane to
the organization's purpose; and (c) neither the claim
asserted nor the relief requested requires the participation
of individual members in the lawsuit.” 432 U.S. at 343.
The first two prongs of this test are mandated by Article
III, while the third prong is prudential. United Food
& Commercial Workers Union Local 751 v. Brown Grp.,
Inc., 517 U.S. 544, 555-57 (1996). As a “rule of
judicial self-governance, ” a prudential limitation on
standing may be abrogated by statute. Warth v.
Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 509 (1975).