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Illinois DOC Control Unit Case Certified as Class Action

An Illinois federal court certified a suit related to prisoner confinement in an Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) maximum security unit as a class action.

Thirty-two past and present prisoners of the Tamms Correctional Center (Tamms) maximum security unit brought federal suit alleging that: (1) they were assigned to Tamms in retaliation for exercising their First Amendment right to file grievances and lawsuits regarding the conditions of their confinement; and (2) the placement violated their procedural due process rights.

The district court granted Plaintiff's motion to certify the suit as a class action under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (Rule) 23, on their due process claim.

The court first determined that Plaintiffs satisfied the numerosity prong, finding that "it is reasonable to assume that the proposed class in this case numbers in the very least hundreds of persons."

As for commonality, the court found that "this case clearly presents common questions of fact and law… The Court agrees with Plaintiffs that these common questions satisfy the requirements of Rule 23(a)(2)."

The court also determined that the Plaintiffs satisfied the typicality requirement, finding that "the named Plaintiffs' claims are typical of those of the putative class members because the same set of policies and practices are allegedly applied to both the named Plaintiffs and the proposed class members in the same way and have resulted in the same alleged deprivation of constitutional rights."

Next, the court found that the class representatives will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class. It also noted that "Alan S. Mills of the Uptown People's Law Center in Chicago, Illinois, seeks appointment as class counsel." Defendants did not allege that he was inadequate to serve as class counsel. "Mr. Mills has extensive experience representing prisoners in civil rights litigation, including class action litigation."

The Court also found that Plaintiffs satisfied the additional class certification requirements of Rule 23(b), and rejected Defendants' objections to class certification. "Defendants' objections fail to make a convincing case against certifying for classwide resolution Plaintiffs' request for declaratory and injunctive relief as to their procedural due process claims." the court found.

"If Defendants are suggesting that conditions at Tamms may become less restrictive in the future," the Court found "this unlikely—as Plaintiffs allege, Tamms is designed to be highly punitive, in order to discourage inmates at other IDOC prisons from committing actions likely to cause them to be sent there." See: Westefer v. Snyder 472 F. Supp. 2d 1034 (SD Ill., 2006).

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Related legal case

Westefer v. Snyder