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Class Certified in Conditions Suit at SD Juvenile Prison

Plaintiffs challenged conditions in a juvenile training school, including the use of mechanical restraints, strip searches by opposite sex guards, excessive force, arbitrary lockdown or isolation, lack of disciplinary due process, etc.

The court certifies a class of a present membership of 89, because that number "is large in itself" and because "[t]he anonymity of the juveniles that may be at Plankinton in the future and the fluid nature of the population at the facility make joinder impracticable." (667) The class may be certified with respect to use of restraints because the challenge is to conditions, policies, and practices and not particular applications of restraints.

The court certifies a subclass of female plaintiffs, finding numerosity even though there are no females at the institution now and the female unit is closed, since the class includes future members and since it is not clear that the closure is permanent.

The fact that the named plaintiffs have been transferred does not make them inadequate class representatives under the "capable of repetition, yet evading review" doctrine, since they could be transferred back. The court doesn't cite any of the legion of cases that hold that the prospect of a retransfer does not avoid mootness; it does note that the defendants could transfer everybody and keep the conditions from ever being litigated. It then goes on to hold that even a discharged plaintiff can be a class representative because this is an inherently transitory claim. The court does not discuss actual lengths of stay. See: Christina A. ex rel. Jennifer A. v. Bloomberg, 197 F.R.D. 664 (D.S.D. 2000).

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Related legal case

Christina A. ex rel. Jennifer A. v. Bloomberg