Thursday, January 26, 2006

Sixth Circuit Rejects 23(b)(2) Class Certification of Civil Rights Action Claiming Injunctive and Compensatory Relief

Per the Sixth Circuit in Reeb v. Ohio Dept. of Rehabilitation and Correction, --- F.3d ----, 2006 WL 162836 (6th Cir. Jan. 24, 2006):

Four named female employees of the Belmont Correctional Institution (“Belmont”), a prison operated by the State of Ohio, filed a class action against Belmont and certain officials under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, alleging that female corrections officers have been treated differently from similarly situated male corrections officers and accordingly have been denied promotions, denied leave and overtime, given undesirable positions, and replaced by men. The plaintiffs specifically requested money damages and an injunction, though they did not specify the conduct they sought to have enjoined. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio certified the plaintiff class, finding that the plaintiffs had shown the requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a) and (b)(2) had been met, and refused to certify the class under subdivision (b)(3). Reeb v. Ohio Dep't of Rehab. & Corr., 203 F.R.D. 315 (S.D.Ohio 2001) (hereinafter Reeb I ). We granted an interlocutory appeal pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(f) and reversed the grant of certification, finding that the record did not demonstrate that the district court had engaged in the rigorous analysis required to determine whether the Rule 23(a) requirements had been met. Reeb v. Ohio Dep't of Rehab. & Corr., 81 Fed. Appx. 550 (6th Cir.2003) (hereinafter Reeb II ).

Upon remand, the district court received no new evidence and re-certified the plaintiff class, again finding the requirements of Rule 23(a) and (b)(2) met and declining to certify the class under subdivision (b)(3). Reeb v. Ohio Dep't of Rehab. & Corr., 221 F.R.D. 464, 469 (S.D.Ohio 2004) (hereinafter Reeb III ). We again permitted Belmont's appeal. Because the district court did not follow our instructions and conduct a “rigorous analysis” of the requirements of Rule 23(a), and because Title VII cases in which plaintiffs seek individual compensatory damages are not appropriately brought as class actions under Rule 23(b)(2) because such individual claims for money damages will always predominate over requested injunctive or declaratory relief, we VACATE the district court's grant of class certification and REMAND the case to the district court for further proceedings.


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