United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Division
MARANDA LYNN ODONNELL, et al., On behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
HARRIS COUNTY, TEXAS, et al., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER CERTIFYING A RULE 23(b)(2)
Rosenthal Chief United States District Judge
accordance with this court's Memorandum and Opinion of
today's date, the plaintiffs' motion for class
certification is granted. The following class is certified
under Rule 23(b)(2):
All Class A and Class B misdemeanor arrestees who are
detained by Harris County from the date of this order through
the final resolution of this case, for whom a secured
financial condition of release has been set and who cannot
pay the amount necessary for release on the secured money
bail because of indigence.
purpose of the preliminary injunction, the class period
extends from the date of this order through the disposition
of this case, or until further order from the court.
“Indigence” is determined by the affidavit of
financial condition Harris County Pretrial Services will make
available to misdemeanor arrestees under this court's
Order of Preliminary Injunction. (See Docket Entry
named plaintiffs, Maranda Lynn ODonnell, Robert Ryan Ford,
and Loetha McGruder, sued Harris County, the Harris County
Sheriff, five Harris County Hearing Officers, and sixteen
Harris County Criminal Courts at Law Judges, seeking
injunctive and declarative relief under 42 U.S.C. §
1983. The plaintiffs allege that Harris County has a custom
or practice having the force of policy of detaining before
trial misdemeanor defendants who are too poor to pay a
secured financial condition of release, in violation of the
Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses. (Docket Entry No.
54). The parties vigorously dispute whether money bail set on
a secured basis is the cause of pretrial detention in Harris
County. The parties presented evidence and argument at an
eight-day motion hearing in March 2017. The court has today
issued a Memorandum and Opinion setting out findings of fact
and conclusions of law. (Docket Entry No. 302). The
Memorandum and Opinion extensively addresses the factual
background of each plaintiff's arrest, the nature of the
plaintiffs' claims, the legal standards governing this
case, and the record evidence showing the plaintiffs'
likelihood of success on the merits and the balance of harms
if an injunction does not issue. (Id.).
plaintiffs move to certify the following class under Rule
23(b)(2): All Class A and B misdemeanor arrestees who are or
will be detained by Harris County for any amount of time
after arrest because they are unable to pay money bail.
(Docket Entry No. 146). For the reasons set out in detain
below, the court finds that the Rule 23 requirements are met
and certifies a Rule 23(b)(2) class. But the class definition
the plaintiffs proposed is modified, as follows: All Class A
and Class B misdemeanor arrestees who are detained by Harris
County from the date of this order through the final
resolution of this case, for whom a secured financial
condition of release has been set and who cannot pay the
amount necessary for release on the secured money bail
because of indigence.
reasons for this ruling are set out below.
The Legal Standard for Class Certification
certify a Rule 23 class, the plaintiffs must show that their
proposed class meets the requirements of Rule 23(a) and of at
least one Rule 23(b) subsection. See Fed. R. Civ. P.
23. The plaintiffs seek certification under Rule 23(b)(2).
(Docket Entry No. 146).
granting certification, a court must conduct a rigorous
analysis to determine whether the plaintiffs have met the
Rule 23 requirements. Benavides v. Chi. Title Ins.
Co., 636 F.3d 699, 701 (5th Cir. 2011); Castano v.
Am. Tobacco Co., 84 F.3d 734, 740 (5th Cir. 1996).
“Frequently that rigorous analysis will entail some
overlap with the merits of the plaintiff's underlying
claim. That cannot be helped. The class determination
generally involves considerations that are enmeshed in the
factual and legal issues comprising the plaintiff's cause
of action.” Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes,
564 U.S. 338, 351 (2011) (alterations, citations, and
internal quotation marks omitted); see also Castano,
84 F.3d at 744 (“Going beyond the pleadings is
necessary, as a court must understand the claims, defenses,
relevant facts, and applicable substantive law in order to
make a meaningful determination of the certification
does not depend on showing that the plaintiffs will
ultimately prevail on the merits of their claims. The
certification ruling does not turn on the strengths and
weaknesses of the claims or defenses. Rather, the court must
be able to resolve issues and consider the evidence used to
present them on a class-wide basis. Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(c)(1)
Committee n. (2003). The party seeking certification has the
burden of showing that the Rule 23 requirements are
satisfied. Comcast Corp. v. Behrend, 133 S.Ct. 1426,
1432 (2013); Benavides, 636 F.3d at 701; Allison
v. Citgo Petroleum Corp., 151 F.3d 402, 408 (5th Cir.
1998); Castano, 84 F.3d at 740.
threshold question is whether the proposed class meets the
four Rule 23(a) requirements:
(a) Prerequisites. One or more members of a class may sue or
be sued as representative parties on behalf of all members
(1) the class is so numerous that joinder of all members is
(2) there are questions of law or fact common to the class;
(3) the claims or defenses of the representative parties are
typical of the claims or ...