Board of School Commissioners of City of Indianapolis v. Jacobs 8212 1347

Decision Date18 February 1975
Docket NumberNo. 73,73
Citation420 U.S. 128,95 S.Ct. 848,43 L.Ed.2d 74
PartiesThe BOARD OF SCHOOL COMMISSIONERS OF the CITY OF INDIANAPOLIS et al., Petitioners, v. Jeff JACOBS et al. —1347
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

Lila J. Young, Indianapolis, Ind., for petitioners.

Craig Eldon Pinkus, Indianapolis, Ind., for respondents.


This action was brought in the District Court by six named plaintiffs seeking to have declared unconstitutional certain regulations and rules promulgated by the petitioner Board and to have the enforcement of those regulations and rules enjoined, as well as seeking other relief no longer relevant to this case.* In the complaint, the named plaintiffs stated that the action was brought as a class action pursuant to Fed.Rules Civ.Proc. 23(a) and (b)(2), and further stated that '(p)laintiff class members are all high school students attending schools managed, controlled, and maintained by the Board of School Commissioners of the City of Indianapolis.' At the time this action was brought, plaintiffs were or had been involved in the publication and distribution of a student newspaper, and they alleged that certain actions taken by petitioner Board or its subordinates, as well as certain of its rules and regulations, interfered or threatened to interfere with the publication and distribution of the newspaper in violation of their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The plaintiffs (respondents here) prevailed on the merits of their action in the District Court, 349 F.Supp. 605 (SD Ind.1972), and the Court of Appeals, one judge dissenting in part, affirmed, 490 F.2d 601 (CA7 1973). Petitioners brought the case to this Court, and we granted certiorari, 417 U.S. 929, 94 S.Ct. 2638, 41 L.Ed.2d 232 (1974). At oral argument, we were informed by counsel for petitioners that all of the named plaintiffs in the action had graduated from the Indianapolis school system; in these circumstances, it seems clear that a case or controversy no longer exists between the named plaintiffs and the petitioners with respect to the validity of the rules at issue. The case is therefore moot unless it was duly certified as a class action pursuant to Fed.Rule Civ.Proc. 23, a controversy still exists between petitioners and the present members of the class, and the issue in controversy is such that it is capable of repetition yet evading review. Sosna v. Iowa, 419 U.S. 393, 95 S.Ct. 553, 42 L.Ed.2d 532 (1975). Because in our view there was inadequate compliance with the requirements of Rule 23(c), we have concluded that the case has become moot.

The only formal entry made by the District Court below purporting to certify this case as a class action is con- tained in that court's 'Entry on Motion for Permanent Injunction,' wherein the court 'conclude(d) and ordered' that 'the remaining named plaintiffs are qualified as proper representatives of the class whose interest they seek to protect.' 349 F.Supp., at 611. No other effort was made to identify the class or to certify the class action as contemplated by Rule 23(c)(1); nor does the quoted language comply with the requirement of Rule 23(c)(3) that '(t)he judgment in an action maintained as a class action under subdivision . . . (b)(2) . . . shall include and describe those whom the court finds to be members of the class.' The need for definition of the class purported to be represented by the named plaintiffs is especially important in cases like this one where the litigation is likely to become moot as to the initially named plaintiffs prior to the exhaustion of appellate review. Because the class action was never properly certified nor the class properly identified by the District Court, the judgment of the Court of Appeals is vacated and the case is remanded to that court with instructions to order the District Court to vacate its judgment and to dismiss the complaint.

So ordered.

Judgment of Court of Appeals vacated and case remanded with instructions.

Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, dissenting.

In Sosna v. Iowa, 419 U.S. 393, 95 S.Ct. 553, 42 L.Ed.2d 532 (1975), we found no mootness problem where a named plaintiff belatedly satisfied the durational residency requirement which she had initially sought to attack. Our holding to that effect was based upon three factors which we found present in that case: (1) a certification of the suit as a class action; (2) a continuing injury suffered by other members of the class; and (3) a time factor which made it highly probable that any single individual would find his claim inevitably mooted before the full course of litigation had been run. Applying those principles to the present case, I would hold that an Art. III controversy exists and that the parties are therefore entitled to a ruling on the merits.

This suit was instituted as a class action on behalf of all high school students attending Indianapolis public schools. The record does not contain any written order formally certifying the class, but the absence of such a written order is too slender a reed to support a holding of mootness, particularly in the face of the incontrovertible evidence that certification was intended and did, in fact, take place. At the close of the second day of the proceedings on plaintiffs' application for a temporary restraining order, the District Judge stated: 'I will make a finding that this is an appropriate action, or a class action is appropriate insofar as this controversy is concerned.'1 Later, in his written opinion, he stated that the two named plaintiffs who had not graduated by the time of these proceedings were 'qualified as proper representatives of the class whose interest they seek to protect.'2 349 F.Supp., 605 611. At oral argument, moreover, counsel for the Board of School Commissioners stated, in response to a question from us, that there had been a declaration of certification of class action.3 The findings of the lower court, coupled with the representations of counsel for the petitioners, provide, in my view, a more than ample basis for holding that the first Sosna criterion has been met.4

The Court today, however, purports to find this case distinguishable from Sosna in terms of the adequacy of compliance below with the requirements of Fed.Rule Civ.Proc. 23(c). A review of the record in Sosna discloses that the judgment entered by the District Court in that case does not in any way 'include and describe those whom the court finds to be members of the class,' as required by Rule 23(c)(3); nor is there anything in the record identifiable as a separate certification of the class in the sense which the Court finds to be contemplated by Rule 23(c)(1). The District Court in Sosna, in its pretrial order, adopted a stipulation of the parties to the effect that the prerequisites for a class action were met, and that there were numerous persons barred by Iowa's residency requirement from having their marriages dissolved; and in its final opinion, the District Court incorporated a bare reference to the fact that the suit was being treated as a class action. Sosna v. Iowa, 360 F.Supp. 1182, 1183 n. 5 (ND Iowa 1973). If these two factors alone were sufficient to establish proper certification of the class in Sosna, then I am at a loss to see why the factors catalogued earlier are not sufficient to establish proper certification in the instant case.

It is undoubtedly true that many federal district...

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  • Class Actions-washington Style: a Look at Washington Superior Court Rule 23
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