Richardson v. Dir., Fed. Bureau of Prisons, No. 15-2876 (3d Cir. 2016)Annotate this Case
Richardson was placed in Lewisburg Penitentiary's Special Management Unit (SMU) program, intended for inmates with histories of violence and individuals who “participated in or had leadership roles in geographical groups/gang related activity." In a purported class action, seeking damages and injunctive relief for “[a]ll persons who are currently or will be imprisoned in the SMU program at USP Lewisburg,” Richardson alleged that through a “pattern, practice or policy,” officials at USP Lewisburg frequently placed inmates with hostile cellmates, unnecessarily increasing the risk of violence and that if an inmate refused to accept a hostile cellmate, he would be placed in painful restraints. Richardson claims that he was subjected to this policy. The district court found Richardson’s class definition “untenable because it [wa]s not objectively, reasonably ascertainable.” Meanwhile, Richardson was transferred out of USP Lewisburg. The Third Circuit remanded, holding that Richardson’s class claims are not moot. When individual claims for relief are acutely susceptible to mootness, a would-be class representative may, in some circumstances, continue to seek certification after losing his personal stake in the case. Richardson may continue to seek class certification based on the Third Circuit’s intervening 2015 holding, in Shelton v. Bledsoe, that ascertainability is not required for Rule 23(b)(2) classes.