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Decoteau v. Raemisch

United States District Court, District of Colorado

April 13, 2015

RYAN DECOTEAU, ANTHONY GOMEZ, and DOMINIC DURAN Plaintiffs,
v.
RICK RAEMISCH, in his official capacity as the Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Corrections, and TRAVIS TRANI, in his official capacity as the Warden of the Colorado State Penitentiary and Centennial Correctional Facility, Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFFS’ MOTION TO REDEFINE THE CLASS AND DENYING DEFENDANTS’ CROSS-MOTION TO REDEFINE THE CLASS

William J. Martínez United States District Judge

This class action lawsuit seeks a ruling regarding the right to exercise outdoors for certain prisoners at the Colorado State Penitentiary (“CSP”). This Court previously granted Plaintiffs’ motion to certify the following class: “All inmates who are now or will in the future be housed in administrative segregation at the Colorado State Penitentiary and who are now or will in the future be subjected to the policy and practice of refusing to provide such inmates access to outdoor exercise.” Decoteau v. Raemisch, __ F.R.D. __, __, 2014 WL 3373670, at *6 (D. Colo. July 10, 2014).

The Colorado Department of Corrections (“DOC”) has since amended its regulations to eliminate “administrative segregation” and replace it with various different classifications. The parties agree that these amended regulations require refinement of the class definition, but they disagree on the proper redefinition. Accordingly, before the Court is Plaintiffs’ Motion to Modify Class Definition (ECF No. 41) and Defendants’ Cross-Motion to Redefine the Class (ECF No. 51). For the reasons stated below, the Court adopts Plaintiffs’ proposed redefinition.

I. BACKGROUND

Before DOC’s recent regulatory amendments, it would place certain CSP prisoners in “administrative segregation, ” which was effectively solitary confinement with no opportunity for outdoor exercise. (ECF No. 1 ¶¶ 1–4.) Effective June 30, 2014, however, DOC eliminated the term “administrative segregation” and replaced it with a new classification: “Restrictive Housing Maximum Security Status” (“Restrictive Housing”). (ECF No. 51-2 at 1.) Restrictive Housing still does not allow for outdoor exercise. (ECF No. 41 at 4.) Under the new regulations, the major difference between administrative segregation and Restrictive Housing is that inmates in Restrictive Housing have a presumptive limit on their stay-either six or twelve months, depending on the offense that warranted their placement in Restrictive Housing. (ECF No. 51-2 at 4.) “Any extension beyond twelve (12) months must be approved by the Director of Prisons as well as the Deputy Executive Director, and must be based upon documented exigent circumstances.” (Id. at 14.)

After their time in Maximum Security, inmates are expected to transfer to a “Management Control Unit” (“MCU”) at DOC’s Sterling facility. (ECF No. 51 at 9; ECF No. 51-4 at 1.) MCU inmates at Sterling receive outdoor exercise three times per week. (ECF No. 51 at 9.) However, some “overflow” MCU inmates reside at CSP, although DOC claims their time at CSP should be short. (Id.)

Prisoners who behave well in MCU status can then progress to a Close Custody Transition Unit (“CCTU”), which also permits a limited amount of outdoor exercise. (ECF No. 51 at 9–10; ECF No. 51-4 at 2.)

II. LEGAL STANDARD

“An order that grants or denies class certification may be altered or amended before final judgment.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(c)(1)(C). Such amendments or alterations are a matter within this Court’s discretion. DG ex rel. Stricklin v. Devaughn, 594 F.3d 1188, 1201 (10th Cir. 2010). Nonetheless, the amended class must still meet Rule 23’s requirements, meaning: (1) the class is so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable (“numerosity”); (2) there are questions of law or fact common to the class (“commonality”); (3) the claims or defenses of the representative party are typical of the claims or defenses of the class (“typicality”); and (4) the representative parties will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class (“ability to represent”). Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(a).

If those requirements have been satisfied, the action must still fall within one of the three categories set forth in Rule 23(b). Shook v. El Paso Cnty., 386 F.3d 963, 971 (10th Cir. 2004). Here, both parties propose class definitions that rely on Rule 23(b)(2), which requires that “the party opposing the class has acted or refused to act on grounds that apply generally to the class, so that final injunctive relief or corresponding declaratory relief is appropriate respecting the class as a whole.”

III. ANALYSIS

The parties have reacted to DOC’s regulatory changes by proposing the following class redefinitions:

Plaintiffs

Defendants

All inmates who are now or will in the future be housed in administrative segregation at the Colorado State Penitentiary and who are now or will in the future be subjected to the policy and practice of refusing to provide such inmates access to outdoor exercise.

All inmates who are now or will in the future be housed in administrative segregation Restrictive Housing at the Colorado State Penitentiary and who are now or will in the future be subjected to the policy and practice of refusing to provide such inmates access to outdoor exercise for more than nine continuous months.

Obviously these definitions differ in only two ways, i.e., Defendants’ two insertions. The Court will ...


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