Miller v. City of Chicago, No. 21-1536 (7th Cir. 2022)

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Justia Opinion Summary

In January 2019, Ali brought this civil rights action against Chicago and several police officers, alleging that the officers followed a city policy “of refusing to release on bond an arrestee taken into custody on an arrest warrant issued by an Illinois state court outside of Cook County.” Days before the deadline for completing fact discovery, Ali moved to certify a class. The district court granted the city’s motion to strike, noting that Ali had not added class allegations to his complaint. Ali sought leave to amend his complaint to include class allegations, arguing that he did not have evidentiary support for the existence of the city policy until a November 2019 deposition. The city replied that it had acknowledged the policy months earlier. The district court denied Ali's motion. Weeks later, Ali settled his case.

On January 25, the district court dismissed the case without prejudice. Also on January 25, Miller moved to intervene under Rule 24, asserting that he was a member of Ali’s proposed class. With his motion to intervene pending, Miller filed a notice of appeal from the January 25 order. On March 24, with that appeal pending, the district court denied Miller’s motion to intervene as untimely. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. There was no operative class action complaint. Miller’s motion to intervene was untimely; he is not a party to the lawsuit and cannot pursue other challenges.

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In the United States Court of Appeals For the Seventh Circuit ____________________ No. 21 1536 KHALID ALI, Plaintiff, v. CITY OF CHICAGO, et al., Defendants Appellees, APPEAL OF: GLENN MILLER, Petitioning Intervenor–Appellant. ____________________ Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 1:19 cv 00022 — Edmond E. Chang, Judge. ____________________ ARGUED FEBRUARY 17, 2022 — DECIDED MAY 17, 2022 ____________________ Before ROVNER, HAMILTON, and ST. EVE, Circuit Judges. HAMILTON, Circuit Judge. In this appeal, we consider the timeliness of appellant Glenn Miller’s motion to intervene af ter a settlement was reached in another person’s civil rights suit that had not been pled as a class action. In some circum stances, such a post settlement motion may be timely because 2 No. 21 1536 the would be intervenor had reasonably relied on other par ties—such as representatives of a putative class—to protect her interests. E.g., United Airlines, Inc. v. McDonald, 432 U.S. 385, 394–95 (1977). This case, however, had not been litigated as a class action. Plainti Khalid Ali brought the case as an individual claim against the City of Chicago and multiple po lice o cers. He alleged that his constitutional rights were vi olated when he was detained overnight on an out of county warrant for another person with the same name and was not permitted to post bond. About one year into the litigation, the district court re jected Ali’s attempt to move for class certification without amending his complaint. Ali then moved for leave to amend, but the court denied that motion as well. Shortly after that, Ali settled his claim. Appellant Miller was never a party to Ali’s case, but he wanted to challenge the district court’s rulings. He moved to intervene, represented by the same law firm that had represented Ali. The district court denied Miller’s motion as untimely. The court reasoned that, unlike potential inter venors in other cases, including United Airlines v. McDonald, Miller could not have relied on Ali to protect his interests be cause Ali had not brought his case as a class action. On appeal, Miller raises three issues: (1) whether the dis trict court abused its discretion in denying his motion to in tervene as untimely; (2) whether the district court erred by striking Ali’s motion for class certification because the com plaint did not include any class allegations; and (3) whether the court erred by later denying Ali’s motion for leave to amend his complaint to add class allegations. The first issue is decisive. The district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Miller’s motion to intervene as untimely. That means No. 21 1536 3 he is not a party to this lawsuit and cannot pursue the other challenges. See United States v. City of Milwaukee, 144 F.3d 524, 531 (7th Cir. 1998) (“We have recognized repeatedly that, until a movant for intervention is made a party to an action, it can not appeal any orders entered in the case other than an order denying intervention.”); see also SEC v. First Choice Manage ment Services, Inc., 767 F.3d 709, 711 (7th Cir. 2014) (holding that party whose motion to intervene was denied by the dis trict court had “no right to appeal from rulings of the court other than … the ruling denying intervention”). I. Facts and Procedural History In January 2019, plainti Ali brought this civil rights ac tion against the City of Chicago and several police o cers. He alleged that the o cers had violated his Fourth and Four teenth Amendment rights when they arrested and detained him overnight based on a warrant for a di erent “Khalid Ali.” That warrant had been issued by an Illinois state judge in an other county. In his second amended complaint, Ali alleged that the o cers were following a City policy “of refusing to release on bond an arrestee taken into custody on an arrest warrant issued by an Illinois state court outside of Cook County.” In each version of his complaint, Ali requested com pensatory and punitive damages. None of the complaints, however, included any class allegations or requests for class wide relief. In December 2019, two days before the deadline for com pleting fact discovery, Ali moved to certify a class of all per sons who, on or after January 1, 2017, were detained by Chi cago police o cers on out of county warrants and were not permitted to post bond at the police station. He asserted in a footnote that he was not required to amend his complaint to 4 No. 21 1536 include class allegations. The City moved to strike the motion for class certification, objecting that the complaint had never included any class allegations and that Ali had waited until the close of fact discovery to file his motion. The district court granted the City’s motion to strike. Since Ali had not added class allegations to his complaint, the cer tification motion “amounted to a request, at the end of fact discovery, to add a class action claim to the case.” The court concluded that such a request had to be denied because “no tice of some kind must be given to the defense that Plainti is pursuing a class action.” Ali petitioned this court for interloc utory review pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(f), but we denied the petition. Ali then moved for leave to amend his complaint to in clude class allegations. He argued that he did not have evi dentiary support for the existence of the alleged City policy until the deposition of a police lieutenant in November 2019. The City replied that it had admitted to following the policy in discovery responses served on Ali months earlier. The dis trict court agreed with the City and denied the motion for leave to amend. The court said that the request came too late in the case, particularly since it had been clear at least as early as September 2019 that Ali “was probably not alone in being subject to a broad policy requiring an appearance in bond court.” Ali v. City of Chicago, 503 F. Supp. 3d 661, 667 (N.D. Ill. 2020). Several weeks later, Ali settled his case. The settlement agreement did not permit him to appeal the district court’s class certification ruling. On January 25, 2021, the parties filed a stipulation to dismiss. The district court entered an order No. 21 1536 5 dismissing the case without prejudice and with leave to rein state by April 12, 2021. On the same day that Ali stipulated to dismissal, January 25, appellant Glenn Miller moved to intervene in the case un der Rule 24. Miller asserted that he was a member of Ali’s pro posed class because he had been arrested by Chicago police o cers in January 2018 and had not been permitted to post bond at the police station because of the City’s policy. Miller sought to appeal the district court’s orders striking Ali’s mo tion for class certification and denying leave to amend the complaint. Almost one month later, with his motion to intervene still pending, Miller filed a notice of appeal from the district court’s January 25 order. That appeal was docketed in this court as No. 21 1353. Miller asked this court to remand to the district court so that it could rule on his motion to intervene. The City responded that the appeal was premature because the district court had dismissed the case only “without preju dice and with full leave to reinstate via motion.” On March 24, while that appeal was pending, the district court denied Miller’s motion to intervene. The court con cluded that intervention was untimely because plainti Ali had “never presented an operative complaint with a proposed class action,” so Miller “did not reasonably rely on Ali’s case to pursue class certification.” Ali v. City of Chicago, No. 19 CV 00022, 2021 WL 1193791, at *2 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 24, 2021). Miller then filed a second notice of appeal, challenging both the de nial of intervention and the January 25 order. That second no tice was docketed in this court as this appeal, No. 21 1536. 6 No. 21 1536 In June 2021, a motions panel of this court dismissed the first appeal (No. 21 1353) as “unnecessary, if not premature because the district court had not issued its ruling on [Mil ler’s] motion to intervene” at the time the appeal was filed. II. Appellate Jurisdiction Before turning to the merits, we must clarify the basis and scope of our jurisdiction. In general, federal courts of appeals have jurisdiction over “appeals from all final decisions of the district courts of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 1291. A judg ment “is not final for purposes of § 1291 until it disposes of all claims in the suit.” Wisconsin Central Ltd. v. TiEnergy, LLC, 894 F.3d 851, 854 (7th Cir. 2018); see also Borrero v. City of Chicago, 456 F.3d 698, 700 (7th Cir. 2006) (explaining that judgment is final under § 1291 “if the district judge is finished with the case”). The district court’s January 25 order was not final. The or der said that “the case is dismissed without prejudice and with full leave to reinstate via motion filed by 04/12/2021. If no motion to reinstate is filed by that date, then the dismissal will automatically convert to a dismissal with prejudice, with out further action by the Court.” We have often expressed concerns about dismissals with leave to reinstate and their potential to create jurisdictional confusion, which we tried to reduce in Otis v. City of Chicago, 29 F.3d 1159, 1163 (7th Cir. 1994) (en banc). We have ex plained: “Because the conditional ability to revive the case renders the dismissal a disposition without prejudice, neither side may appeal immediately.” Id. Instead, we treat “the order dismissing the case as the appealable order, with finality springing into existence when the time to satisfy the condition No. 21 1536 7 expires.” Id. at 1166. A dismissal without prejudice and with leave to reinstate “does not terminate the litigation in the dis trict court in any realistic sense and so is not a final decision within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. § 1291.” JTC Petroleum Co. v. Piasa Motor Fuels, Inc., 190 F.3d 775, 776 (7th Cir. 1999); see also Baltimore & Ohio Chicago Terminal Railroad Co. v. Wisconsin Central Ltd., 154 F.3d 404, 408 (7th Cir. 1998) (“A dismissal with leave to reinstate is not appealable as a final order….”); cf. Davis v. Advocate Health Center Patient Care Express, 523 F.3d 681, 683 (7th Cir. 2008) (“When a judge conditionally dis misses a suit, but gives the plainti time to fix the problem that led to dismissal … the order becomes an appealable ‘final decision’ once the time for correction has expired, whether or not the court enters a final judgment.”).1 Miller invites us to reconsider the motions panel’s deci sion to dismiss his first appeal. Miller did not raise this point in that first appeal, No. 21 1353, as perhaps through a petition for panel rehearing. The dismissal of that appeal became final long ago. In any event, the motions panel correctly concluded that Miller’s initial appeal was not viable because the January 25 order was not final and the district court had not ruled on his motion to intervene. Our jurisdiction over Miller’s second appeal is secure, however, because a denial of intervention “is a final, appeala ble decision.” Driftless Area Land Conservancy v. Huebsch, 969 F.3d 742, 745 (7th Cir. 2020), quoting CE Design, Ltd. v. Cy’s 1 In this case, the district judge followed our guidance in Otis by mak ing crystal clear that the dismissal would convert to one “with prejudice” on April 12 absent a motion to reinstate. In other words, the judge “an nounced a plan to dismiss in the future unless something happened.” Otis, 29 F.3d at 1163. 8 No. 21 1536 Crab House North, Inc., 731 F.3d 725, 730 (7th Cir. 2013); see also Illinois v. City of Chicago, 912 F.3d 979, 984 (7th Cir. 2019) (“Because denial of a motion to intervene essentially ends the litigation for the movant, such orders are final and appeala ble.”). Miller filed a timely notice of appeal once the district court denied his motion to intervene, so we have jurisdiction over that order under § 1291. III. Timeliness of Intervention The decisive issue here is whether Miller’s motion to inter vene was timely. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 24 permits intervention on “timely motion.” We review timeliness deci sions under Rule 24 for abuse of discretion, City of Chicago, 912 F.3d at 984, meaning that we will a rm if the district court’s decision was a reasonable one under the circumstances, re gardless of whether we would have made the same decision in the district court’s position. For intervention under Rule 24, timeliness “is not limited to chronological considerations but is to be determined from all the circumstances.” Lopez Aguilar v. Marion County Sheri ’s Department, 924 F.3d 375, 388 (7th Cir. 2019), quoting City of Bloomington v. Westinghouse Electric Corp., 824 F.2d 531, 534 (7th Cir. 1987). Four factors are relevant to whether a motion to intervene is timely: “(1) the length of time the intervenor knew or should have known of his interest in the case; (2) the prejudice caused to the original parties by the delay; (3) the prejudice to the intervenor if the motion is denied; (4) any other unusual circumstances.” City of Chicago, 912 F.3d at 984, quoting Grochocinski v. Mayer Brown Rowe & Maw, LLP, 719 F.3d 785, 797–98 (7th Cir. 2013). This is essentially a reasona bleness test: “potential intervenors need to be reasonably dil igent in learning of a suit that might a ect their rights, and No. 21 1536 9 upon so learning they need to act reasonably promptly.” Lopez Aguilar, 924 F.3d at 388, quoting Reich v. ABC/York Estes Corp., 64 F.3d 316, 321 (7th Cir. 1995). A. The McDonald Rule Instead of engaging with this totality of the circumstances test, Miller argues that United Airlines, Inc. v. McDonald, 432 U.S. 385 (1977), established a bright line rule that makes his motion to intervene timely. In his view, a motion to intervene is timely so long as it is filed “within the applicable time for filing an appeal.” Id. at 396 n.16. Since Miller filed on the same day the district court entered its order of dismissal, he says, his motion was timely. The argument is not persuasive. Unlike Ali, the named plainti in McDonald had brought the case as a class action from the beginning. She sued the airline on behalf of herself “and all other United stewardesses discharged because of the no marriage rule,” which required “female stewardesses to remain unmarried as a condition of employment.” 432 U.S. at 387–88. The district court had granted United’s motion to strike the class allegations in the complaint, finding that the numerosity requirement of Rule 23 was not satisfied. This court declined to accept an interlocutory appeal challenging that order. But the district court did allow “12 married stew ardesses who had protested the termination of their employ ment to intervene as additional parties plainti .” Id. at 388. From there, the lawsuit had “proceeded as a joint suit on behalf of the original and the intervening plainti s.” 432 U.S. at 389. The district court eventually entered a judgment of dis missal after the parties agreed to reinstatement and backpay for the plainti s. Respondent McDonald had been a member 10 No. 21 1536 of the putative class as defined in the original complaint. When the plainti s settled, McDonald realized that they did not intend to appeal the denial of class certification. She filed a motion to intervene within the thirty day appeal period. The district court denied her motion as untimely, explaining that she had not sought any relief from the court during five years of litigation. This court reversed, holding that McDonald was entitled to intervene when she did, that the district court had erred years earlier in denying class certification, and that the class was entitled to relief. Romasanta v. United Airlines, Inc., 537 F.2d 915, 920 (7th Cir. 1976). Reviewing only the timeliness issue, the Supreme Court a rmed. The Court held that “once the entry of final judg ment made the adverse class determination appealable, [McDonald] quickly sought to enter the litigation.” McDonald, 432 U.S. at 394. And in every case, the “critical inquiry … is whether in view of all the circumstances the intervenor acted promptly after the entry of final judgment.” Id. at 395–96. This court has made clear that McDonald did not create a bright line rule for evaluating the timeliness of a motion to intervene. We have described the rule as follows: The motion [to intervene] is timely if filed promptly after the entry of the final judgment in the class action—at least in a case in which, be cause “the named plainti s had attempted to take an interlocutory appeal from the order of denial at the time the order was entered, there was no reason for the respondent to suppose that they would not later take an appeal until she was advised to the contrary after the trial court had entered its final judgment.” No. 21 1536 11 Larson v. JPMorgan Chase & Co., 530 F.3d 578, 582 (7th Cir. 2008), quoting McDonald, 432 U.S. at 393–94. In Larson, the would be intervenor sought to appeal a three and a half year old summary judgment order. Id. at 580. But since that party “had no good excuse for failing to seek intervention (or bringing its own suit) years ago,” we held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying intervention. Id. at 583–84. In doing so, we expressly rejected the bright line rule that Miller proposes: “We do not read United Airlines as establishing an inflexible rule that a motion to intervene in a class action to appeal an earlier order in that action is always timely provided it is filed shortly after the final judgment in the class action.” Id. at 583. Miller’s case for post settlement intervention is even weaker than the intervention sought and rejected in Larson, which at least had been brought as a class action. See 530 F.3d at 580. In McDonald, moreover, the respondent promptly moved to intervene once it became clear that her interests “would no longer be protected by the named class represent atives.” 432 U.S. at 394. In this case, however, as the district court observed, plainti Ali was not a named class representa tive and “never even successfully proposed a class action.” Ali, 2021 WL 1193791, at *2. He filed three complaints, but none included any class allegations or demands for class wide re lief. Unlike the McDonald intervenor, therefore, Miller could not have been reasonably relying on any “named class repre sentatives” to protect his interests because this case was not proceeding as a class action. Cf. McDonald, 432 U.S. at 392–93 (emphasizing that lawsuit “had been commenced by the timely filing of a complaint for classwide relief, providing United with ‘the essential information necessary to determine both the subject matter and size of the prospective 12 No. 21 1536 litigation’”), quoting American Pipe & Construction Co. v. Utah, 414 U.S. 538, 555 (1974).2 To be sure, where a party has failed to intervene because she reasonably expected named plainti s or other relevant parties to protect her interests, that expectation is relevant to the timeliness inquiry. E.g., McDonald, 432 U.S. at 394 (ex plaining that “there was no reason for [McDonald] to suppose that [the named plainti s] would not later take an appeal un til she was advised to the contrary after the trial court had en tered its final judgment”); Flying J, Inc. v. Van Hollen, 578 F.3d 569, 572 (7th Cir. 2009) (holding that post judgment motion to intervene was timely where state attorney general had been defending statute but then did not appeal district court’s rul ing that it was unconstitutional). No such expectation would have been reasonable in this case. Ali was litigating only his own claim against the City; he was not representing Miller’s interests. The district court did not abuse its discretion in denying intervention. B. “Stealth” Class Actions? In his reply brief, Miller argues that the lack of class alle gations in Ali’s complaint is not relevant to the timeliness is sue. According to Miller, “nothing in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires that a complaint include class 2 As Miller points out, McDonald also recognized in a footnote that post judgment intervention “has been found to be timely even in litigation that is not representative in nature.” 432 U.S. at 395 n.16. All that shows, however, is that intervention might be allowed as timely in such cases if the would be intervenor has acted promptly in light of all the circum stances. That does not establish the bright line rule Miller urges nor indi cate that the district court abused its discretion in denying Miller’s motion to intervene. No. 21 1536 13 allegations.” In e ect, Miller’s position would allow a plainti to bring a class action—and therefore give potential interve nors a right to assert the reliance interests of class members— without including class allegations or demands for class wide relief in either the original complaint or an amended com plaint. That is not how the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure work. Rule 23(a) says explicitly that class actions allow class mem bers to “sue or be sued as representative parties.” Rule 23(c)(1)(A) provides that the district court must decide “[a]t an early practicable time after a person sues or is sued as a class representative … whether to certify the action as a class action.” The district court cannot make that determination early in the case if the plainti is allowed to keep his class action intentions hidden. We have also said that Rule 23(e) “presumptively applies to all complaints containing class alle gations.” Baker v. America’s Mortgage Servicing, Inc., 58 F.3d 321, 324 (7th Cir. 1995) (emphasis added), quoting Glidden v. Chro malloy American Corp., 808 F.2d 621, 626 (7th Cir. 1986).3 Rule 8 requires that a pleading contain “a short and plain statement of the claim” and “a demand for the relief sought.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2)–(3). The purpose of those requirements is “to provide a defendant with fair notice of the claims against him.” Hahn v. Walsh, 762 F.3d 617, 632 (7th Cir. 2014); 3 The “early practicable time” phrasing of Rule 23(c)(1)(A) was adopted in 2003, replacing an earlier requirement that the court decide class certification “as soon as practicable after commencement of an ac tion.” See Fed. R. Civ. P. 23 advisory committee’s notes to 2003 amend ment. The change was intended to give district courts more flexibility in managing putative class actions. It was certainly not intended to allow “stealth” class actions. 14 No. 21 1536 see also 7B Wright & Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1798 (3d ed.) (“As in all federal suits, the pleading stage of a class action is designed to inform the parties of the nature of the claims and defenses being asserted and the relief de manded.”). Miller’s theory would contravene that purpose and the requirement that relief be demanded by allowing plainti s to spring “stealth” class actions on defendants late in a case, without earlier warning. A class action “must be brought as a class action.” LG Display Co. v. Madigan, 665 F.3d 768, 772 (7th Cir. 2011) (holding that state attorney general’s parens patriae action was not a class action under federal Class Action Fairness Act). The complaint should identify the case as a class action if the plainti intends to pursue a class ac tion.4 Miller rests his argument that class allegations need not be included in the complaint on Chapman v. First Index, Inc., 796 F.3d 783 (7th Cir. 2015), a class action complaining about un wanted receipt of an advertiser’s faxes. The plainti proposed in his complaint, and later moved to certify, a class of all per sons who had received faxes from the defendant without giv ing their consent. After the court denied the motion, the plain ti proposed a di erent class, this time including all persons who had received faxes without an opt out notice or with a deficient notice. The court declined to certify that class as well, 4 That is not to say, of course, that the absence of class allegations in the original complaint controls all later developments. A plaintiff may move for leave to amend the complaint to assert a class claim, thus notify ing the defendant of the possibility of class wide liability, as Ali eventually tried to do here (albeit too late in the district court’s view). Such amend ments are governed by the generally liberal standards of Rule 15 for amending pleadings. No. 21 1536 15 concluding that the plainti could not change the focus of the litigation almost five years into the case. Id. at 784–85. On appeal, we observed that both parties and the district court had proceeded as if the second certification proposal re quired an amendment to the complaint, but we could not see why: “A complaint must contain three things: a statement of subject matter jurisdiction, a claim for relief, and a demand for a remedy. Class definitions are not on that list.” 796 F.3d at 785 (internal citation omitted). Instead, we noted, “the obli gation to define the class falls on the judge’s shoulders.” Id. Although the judge may ask the parties for help, “motions practice and a decision under Rule 23 do not require the plain ti to amend the complaint.” Id. Those comments cannot bear the weight Miller tries to place on them. For one, they were dicta, as we said that the amendment issue did “not a ect the disposition.” 796 F.3d at 785; see also id. at 788 (a rming denial of class certification). More fundamental, this case did not involve an e ort to mod ify a class definition that was already in the case. Unlike the plainti in Chapman, Ali did not bring his case as a class ac tion. His complaint did not include “a claim for relief” and “a demand for a remedy,” see id. at 785, notifying the defendant that it faced the prospect of class wide liability. If Ali had filed such a complaint and had then later sought to change the def inition of his class, Chapman suggests that amending the com plaint would not have been necessary. That makes sense. As the district court here observed, proposed class definitions are often narrowed or expanded as the parties engage in discov ery at the class certification stage. Cf. Beaton v. SpeedyPC Soft ware, 907 F.3d 1018, 1023 (7th Cir. 2018) (“District courts may amend class definitions either on motion or on their own 16 No. 21 1536 initiative.”); Schorsch v. Hewlett Packard Co., 417 F.3d 748, 750 (7th Cir. 2005) (“Litigants and judges regularly modify class definitions ….”). Since there was no operative class action complaint in Ali’s case, however, Chapman is not relevant on this point. The denial of Miller’s motion to intervene is AFFIRMED.
Primary Holding
Seventh Circuit upholds the denial of a motion by a purported "class member" to intervene in a civil rights action that did not include class allegations.

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