Barber v. SchmidtAnnotate this Case
Six Alaska prisoners jointly filed a pro se putative class-action complaint against various Department of Corrections officials. Their complaint listed 18 causes of action, many of which addressed changes in Department policy regarding inmate purchase and possession of gaming systems and restrictions on mature-rated video games. One of the prisoners moved for class certification and for appointment of counsel. The superior court denied the class action motion on the grounds that pro se plaintiffs could not represent a class, and denied the appointment of counsel. The Department then moved for dismissal of the prisoners’ complaint for failing to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. The superior court granted this motion on the ground that all of the claims were class action claims that could not be pursued. Two of the plaintiffs, Jack Earl, Jr. and James Barber, each filed an appeal (which were consolidated for the purposes of this opinion). They argued that the superior court erred in denying the motion for class certification, denying the motion for appointment of counsel, and dismissing the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Upon review of their arguments on appeal, the Supreme Court concluded the superior court did not err in denying class certification and appointment of counsel, but reversed the dismissal of the action and remanded for further proceedings.