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Greene v. Lake

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

June 25, 2018

Guy I. Greene, Plaintiff,
v.
Kelly Lake; Paul Coughlin; Brian Belich; Dave Kumanen; Jason Wilmes; Cammi Werner; Travis Warnygora; Tom Roy; John Does, an unknown number; and Jane Does, and unknown number; sued in their individual and official capacities, Defendants.

          Guy I. Greene, pro se.

          Susan M. Tindal, Iverson Reuvers Condon, for Defendants Kelly Lake; Paul Coughlin; Brian Belich; Dave Kumanen; Jason Wilmes; Cammi Werner; and Travis Warnygora.

          Kelly S. Kemp, Minnesota Attorney General's Paul, Minnesota for Defendant Tom Roy.

          ORDER ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          SUSAN RICHARD NELSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on the Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) of Magistrate Judge Katherine M. Menendez dated January 16, 2018 [Doc. No. 47] recommending denial of Plaintiff's Motion for Class Certification [Doc. No. 37]. Plaintiff Guy I. Greene (“Plaintiff”) filed “Plaintiff's Objection to the Report and Recommendation.” (Pl.'s Obj. to R&R [Doc. No. 48].) Defendants Lake, Coughlin, Belich, Kumanen, Wilmes, Werner, and Warnygora (collectively, “Carlton County Defendants”) filed a timely response [Doc. No. 50].[1] For the reasons set forth below, the Court overrules Plaintiff's Objection, adopts the R&R in its entirety, and denies Plaintiff's Motion for Class Certification.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The factual and procedural background of Plaintiff's case is detailed in three separate R&Rs by Magistrate Judge Menendez and is incorporated herein by reference. (See Docs. No. 9, 47, 62.) Plaintiff is housed with the Minnesota Sex Offender Program at Moose Lake, where he has limited access to legal resources and to the internet. (See June 4, 2018 Order [Doc. No. 70].) He brought this civil rights action pro se under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for alleged harms arising out of an unrelated period of incarceration in the Carlton County Jail. Plaintiff sued the Jail itself, its employees, and the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Public Corrections.[2] (Am. Compl. at 2-3 ¶¶ 1-10 [Doc. No. 25].)[3] Plaintiff alleged fourteen counts, including a variety of constitutional and state law tort claims. (Id. at 25-30.)

         On December 14, 2017, Plaintiff moved for class certification pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23. (Pl.'s Mot. Class Certification [Doc. No. 37] at 5 (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(a), (b).) He does not define the scope of the proposed class, but asserts that his “Amended Complaint makes allegations that concern all of the individuals detained in the Carlton County Jail and who are threatened with future unconstitutional detention in Carlton County Jail.” (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that his proposed class meets all of the Rule 23(a) and (b)(2) requirements. (Id.) He also requests court-appointed counsel on behalf of the class. (Id. at 4-5.)

         In response to the class certification motion, Defendants argue that Plaintiff has failed to show that his proposed class meets the Rule 23 requirements.[4] (Carlton Cty. Defs.' Opp'n Mem. [Doc. No. 45]; Def. Tom Roy's Opp'n Mem. [Doc. No. 44].) They emphasize that Plaintiff cannot be an adequate class representative acting pro se. (Carlton Cty. Defs.' Opp'n Mem. at 4-6; Def. Tom Roy's Opp'n Mem. at 5.) Defendants alternatively contend that Plaintiff's class fails for lack of standing. (Carlton Cty. Defs.' Opp'n Mem. at 4; Def. Tom Roy's Opp'n Mem. at 4.)

         In the R&R, Magistrate Judge Menendez recommends that Plaintiff's Motion for Class Certification be denied. (R&R at 3.) She concludes that Plaintiff could not be an adequate class representative acting pro se. (Id. at 2.) She additionally recommends that the Court not appoint class counsel because doing so is outside the scope of Rule 23(g). (Id.) Magistrate Judge Menendez declines to address whether Plaintiff's claims were otherwise appropriate for class resolution. (Id.)

         Plaintiff's objections are difficult to decipher, but must be read liberally in light of his pro se status. See Horsey v. Asher, 741 F.2d 209, 211 n.3 (8th Cir. 1984) (citing Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972)). While plaintiff appears to largely repeat the arguments he made to the magistrate judge, he does specifically contend that the magistrate judge erred by (1) finding that a pro se plaintiff cannot be an adequate class representative as a matter of law, and (2) declining to appoint class counsel. (See Pl.'s Obj. to R&R.)

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Adequacy of a Pro Se Class Representative

         The District Court must conduct a de novo review of a magistrate judge's report and recommendation on dispositive motions to which specific objections have been made. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b); D. Minn. L.R. 72.2(b). A motion for class certification is a dispositive ...


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