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Inmates of the Northumberland County Prison v. Reish

June 11, 2008

INMATES OF THE NORTHUMBERLAND COUNTY PRISON, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
RALPH REISH, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Jones

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

THE BACKGROUND OF THIS ORDER IS AS FOLLOWS

Pending before the Court are two (2) Motions filed by all Plaintiffs in this action: a "Motion for Class Certification" ("Motion to Certify") (doc. 9 at 1 (emphasis omitted)) and a "Motion Requesting an Expedited Ruling on Class Certification" ("Motion to Expedite") (doc. 36 at 1 (emphasis omitted)).*fn1 For the reasons that follow, the Motion to Certify will be denied without prejudice and the Motion to Expedite will be granted to the extent outlined herein.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND/PROCEDURAL HISTORY

This suit was initiated by the filing of a Complaint by twelve (12) individuals in their capacity as inmates, or former inmates, of the Northumberland County Prison ("NCP"). (See Rec. Doc. 1). The Complaint's introduction characterizes the actions as follows:

Inmates of the Northumberland County Prison bring this Section 1983 class action to challenge conditions and practices that are undermining their constitutional rights. Grounding their claims on the First, Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, they seek declaratory and injunctive relief to remedy systemic defects in the Prison's delivery of medical, mental health and dental care; life-threatening fire hazards in the institution's housing units; chronic environmental problems in the living and kitchen areas; the hostile effects of profound overcrowding in the Women's Dormitory; the use of protracted bunk-restriction as a form of discipline in the Women's Dormitory and policies associated with that abusive practice; medieval-like conditions and practices in the Prison's basement cells; callous practices associated with the use of four-point physical restraints; the unequal, discriminatory treatment of female prisoners in the contexts of outdoor exercise, work release, and other institutional programs; the policy-based failure to provide incoming inmates with essential clothing supplies; and the lack of a confidential area for inmate consultations with their attorneys.

Id. at 2.

On March 12, 2008, Plaintiffs filed the instant Motion to Certify. (Rec. Doc. 9). Therein, Plaintiffs describe the class for which they seek certification as follows:

Themselves and all other persons who are incarcerated in the Northumberland County Prison or who in the future will be incarcerated in the Prison.

Id. at ¶ 3. As the Motion to Certify has been fully briefed (see docs. 10, 29, 32), it is ripe for our disposition.

Because we had not yet issued a ruling on the Motion to Certify by the time that defense counsel began to object to certain of Plaintiffs' discovery requests on the ground that they were overbroad due to the absence of certification, Plaintiffs filed on May 5, 2008 the instant Motion to Expedite. (Rec. Doc. 36). The Motion to Expedite has now been fully briefed (see docs. 38, 50, 55), and, thus, it is also ripe for disposition.

DISCUSSION

In the broadest of terms, a court evaluating whether or not class certification is appropriate must conduct a "rigorous analysis" in order the determine whether those individuals seeking to sue a party as representatives of a class have adhered to the mandates of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23. Gen. Tel. Co. of the Southwest v. Falcon, 457 U.S. ...


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