29 F.3d 238 (6th Cir. 1994), 93-3110, Thompson v. County of Medina, Ohio

Docket Nº:93-3110.
Citation:29 F.3d 238
Party Name:Robert M. THOMPSON; and Larry R. Holdsworth, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. COUNTY OF MEDINA, OHIO; Ralph A. Berry; Sterling G. Sechrist; and John H. Happ, individually and as members of the Board of Commissioners of Medina County; and Al John Ribar, individually and as Sheriff of Medina County, Defendants-Appellees.
Case Date:June 23, 1994
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
 
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Page 238

29 F.3d 238 (6th Cir. 1994)

Robert M. THOMPSON; and Larry R. Holdsworth, Plaintiffs-Appellants,

v.

COUNTY OF MEDINA, OHIO; Ralph A. Berry; Sterling G.

Sechrist; and John H. Happ, individually and as members of

the Board of Commissioners of Medina County; and Al John

Ribar, individually and as Sheriff of Medina County,

Defendants-Appellees.

No. 93-3110.

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

June 23, 1994

Argued May 10, 1994.

Page 239

Thomas Kelley (argued), Robert Armbruster (briefed), Armbruster, Kelley, McKenna & Modugno, Akron, OH, for plaintiffs-appellants.

Timothy T. Reid (briefed), Reid, Berry & Stanard, Cleveland, OH, William L. Thorne, Office of the Pros. Atty., Medina, OH, Andrew M. Wargo (argued), Reid, Berry & Stanard, Cleveland, OH, for defendants-appellees.

Before: MARTIN and JONES, Circuit Judges; and CONTIE, Senior Circuit Judge.

BOYCE F. MARTIN, Jr., Circuit Judge.

Contending that the conditions of confinement in the Medina County Jail violated their constitutional rights, inmates Robert M. Thompson and Larry R. Holdsworth brought suit, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983, against the County of Medina, three members of the County's board of commissioners, and the

Page 240

County's sheriff. Thompson and Holdsworth now appeal, claiming that the district court erred in ruling on defendants' (the "County's") motion for summary judgment before addressing plaintiffs' motion for class certification, and in granting the County's summary judgment motion as to all but two of plaintiffs' claims. For the following reasons, we affirm the judgment of the district court.

I

At the time they brought this action in the winter of 1988, Thompson and Holdsworth were incarcerated at the Medina County Jail as pretrial detainees. Both remained at the facility for over six months.

Thompson and Holdsworth raised the following claims with respect to the operation of the jail:

(1) inadequate ventilation;

(2) inadequate medical care and staffing;

(3) inadequate recreation;

(4) lack of inmate classification;

(5) unsanitary conditions;

(6) inadequate mental treatment programs;

(7) lack of due process in disciplinary proceedings;

(8) lack of access to the courts; and

(9) interference with legal mail.

Alleging that these conditions violated their rights under the First, Eighth, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, and making related claims under the constitution and laws of the State of Ohio, Thompson and Holdsworth filed suit, individually and on behalf of all present and future inmates of the jail, in federal court on July 11, 1988. On January 9, 1989, plaintiffs filed a motion for class certification. The County filed a motion for summary judgment on May 31. On June 24, 1991, the district court, in a well-reasoned memorandum and order, granted summary judgment in favor of the County with respect to all claims except the allegations of denial of access to the courts and denial of due process in disciplinary procedures, and deferred ruling on the motion for class certification. See Thompson v. County of Medina, No. 91-3850 (N.D.Ohio June 24, 1991).

On December 30, 1992, after the district court had certified a class only on the remaining issues of denial of access and discipline, the court approved a consent agreement entered into by the parties resolving these two claims, and designated the June 24, 1991 order, granting in part and denying in part the County's motion for summary judgment, as final and appealable. This timely appeal followed.

II

A

Thompson and Holdsworth initially maintain that the district court erred by considering the merits of their case in deciding whether they would be appropriate class representatives, and abused its discretion by ruling on the motion for summary judgment prior to ruling on the motion for class certification. In support of this argument, plaintiffs offer the Supreme Court's observation in Eisen v. Carlisle and Jacquelin, 417 U.S. 156, 177, 94 S.Ct. 2140, 2152, 40 L.Ed.2d 732 (1974), that it could "find nothing in either the language or history of [Federal] Rule [of Civil Procedure] 23 that gives a court any authority to conduct a preliminary inquiry into the merits of a suit in order to determine whether it may be maintained as a class action." See also Weathers v. Peters Realty Corp., 499 F.2d 1197, 1201 (6th Cir.1974) ("when determining the maintainability of a class action, the district court must confine itself to the requirements of Rule 23 and not assess the likelihood of success on the merits"). Because they maintain that they were in fact appropriate class representatives, and had satisfied the other requirements of Rule 23(a), plaintiffs conclude that the district court erred in not certifying the class as to those issues disposed of on summary judgment. We disagree.

Rule 23 provides that "[a]s soon as practicable after the commencement of an action brought as a class action, the court shall determine by order whether it is to be so maintained." FED.R.CIV.P. 23(c). Addressing an identical plaintiffs' claim to that

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brought by the plaintiffs here--the district court erred in ruling on a motion for summary judgment prior to ruling on a motion for class certification--the Ninth Circuit held that:

Neither Fed.R.Civ.P. 23 nor due process necessarily requires that the district court rule on class certification before granting or denying a motion for summary judgment. Rule 23 clearly favors early determination of the class issue, but where considerations of fairness and economy dictate otherwise, and where the defendant consents to the procedure, it is within the discretion of the district court to decide the motion for summary judgment first.

Wright v. Schock, 742 F.2d 541, 545-46 (9th Cir.1984). Similarly, this Court has considered a claim that the district court was required to determine whether a plaintiff's complaint could be maintained as a class action before the court could dismiss the entire action. Marx v. Centran Corp., 747 F.2d 1536, 1552 (6th Cir.1984), cert. denied, 471 U.S. 1125, 105 S.Ct. 2656, 86 L.Ed.2d 273 (1985). In rejecting this contention, this Court responded directly to the reasoning and precedent relied upon by plaintiffs in...

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