United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR
CLASS CERTIFICATION (ECF No. 113)
HONORABLE LINDA V. PARKER JUDGE
Michael Arnold (“Arnold”) brings this action
against Michigan Department of Corrections
(“MDOC”) Director Heidi Washington, claiming that
Jewish inmates requiring a kosher diet are receiving food not
prepared or served in a kosher manner. Arnold alleges that
this conduct violates the putative class members' First
Amendment rights and their rights under the Religious Land
Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”),
42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-1. Arnold seeks declaratory and
before the Court is his motion for class certification, filed
October 9, 2017. (ECF No. 113.) In the motion, Arnold
proposes the following class definition:
Jewish prisoners who are designated to receive religious
meals and have been served Vegan meals prepared in a
non-Kosher manner, including, but not limited to, where the
utensils used in the preparation of the Vegan meals are not
certified as being Kosher; where all the area where the Vegan
meals are prepared is not Kosher; and where all the equipment
used to clean the utensils is not Kosher are included within
deadline for Defendants to respond to the motion was October
30, 2017. See E.D. Mich. LR 7.1(e). No response has been
filed. For the reasons set forth below, the Court is granting
Law and Analysis
seeking class certification must meet the requirements of
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a) and 23(b)(1), (2),
or (3). The movant bears the burden of
“establish[ing] his right” to class
certification. Beattie v. Centurytel., Inc., 511
F.3d 554, 560 (6th Cir. 2007). A proposed class must meet
four prerequisites before being certified as a class, namely:
(1) it must be “so numerous that joinder of all members
is impractical;” (2) there must be “questions of
law or fact common to the class;” (3) “the claims
… of the representative parties” must be
“typical of the claims … of the class;”
and (4) “the representative parties” must be
capable of “fairly and adequately protect[ing] the
interests of the class.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(a).
the first requirement, there is no “strict numerical
test” that must be met for class certification.
Senter v. Gen. Motors Corp., 532 F.2d 511, 523 n.24
(6th Cir. 1976). The requirement can be satisfied with a
class size as low as 35 people. See Afro Am.
Patrolmen's League v. Duck, 503 F.2d 294, 298 (6th
Cir. 1974) (finding class sufficiently numerous at 35);
Ham v. Swift Transp. Co., 275 F.R.D. 475, 483 (W.D.
Tenn. 2011) (“Where the number of class members exceeds
forty, Rule 23(a)(1) is generally deemed satisfied.”).
Rather, numerosity “requires examination of the
specific facts of each case . . ..” Gen. Tel. Co.
of the N.W., Inc. v. EEOC, 446 U.S. 318, 330 (1980). In
addition to the number of proposed members, then, courts
commonly consider such factors as the ability of the members
to bring individual lawsuits and whether class certification
would promote judicial economy. See Gaspar v. Linvatec
Corp., 167 F.R.D. 51, 56 (N.D. Ill. 1996).
believes that there are at least 50 to 100 MDOC inmates who
are similarly situated to him-that is, they are Jewish
individuals incarcerated in an MDOC facility and are
designated to receive a kosher diet. Arnold contends that
their joinder is impractical. This Court agrees, particularly
because these individuals are prisoners housed at various
MDOC facilities throughout the State of Michigan. The ability
of these inmates to bring individual lawsuits is unlikely,
particularly in light of the filing fee, which is not waived
for indigent prisoners (although it can be paid
incrementally). See 28 U.S.C. § 1915. Moreover,
these individuals are unlikely able to afford counsel to
represent them and finding pro bono counsel is difficult.
Judicial economy therefore is promoted by joining their
claims in one action. As such, the Court finds that Arnold
meets the numerosity requirement.
23(a)(2)'s commonality requirement “simply requires
a common question of law or fact.” Bittinger v.
Tecumseh Prods. Co., 123 F.3d 877, 884 (6th Cir. 1997).
As the Sixth Circuit subsequently explained:
“‘The interests and claims of the various
plaintiffs need not be identical. Rather, the commonality
test is met when there is at least one issue whose resolution
will affect all or a significant number of the putative class
members.'” Fallick v. Nationwide Mut. Ins.
Co., 162 F.3d 410, 424 (6th Cir. 1998) (quoting
Forbush v. J.C. Penney Co., Inc., 994 F.2d 1101,
1106 (5th Cir. 1993)).
Rule 23(a)(3)'s typicality requirement demands that the
representative be a member of the class and share at least a
common element of fact or law with the class.
Senter, 532 F.2d at 525. Like the test for
commonality, the test for typicality is not demanding and the
interests and claims of the various plaintiffs need not be
identical. Bittinger, 123 F.3d at 884. The
Sixth Circuit has explained the typicality requirement as
“Typicality determines whether a sufficient
relationship exists between the injury to the named plaintiff
and the conduct affecting the class, so that the court may
properly attribute a collective nature to the challenged
conduct. In other words, when such a relationship is shown, a
plaintiff's injury arises from or is directly related to
a wrong to a class, and that wrong includes the wrong to the
plaintiff. Thus, a plaintiff's claim is typical if it
arises from the same event or practice or course of ...