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Inmates’ Class Action Against Sheriff Revived

(CN) - The 7th Circuit reinstated a class action brought by inmates of Tippecanoe County Jail, who say jail staff ignored their grievances, opened their legal mail in their absence and barred them from using the law library.

Lead plaintiff Jeffery Mark Olson sued county sheriff Tracy Brown, alleging numerous violations of the First Amendment and Indiana law.

The district court dismissed the case as moot, since Olson had been transferred out of the county jail 13 days after filing for class certification.

On appeal, Olson argued that the case should proceed, because it was inherently transitory for any possible named plaintiff.

The Chicago-based appellate panel agreed with Olson and revived the class action.

"We find that this case fits within the exception to the mootness doctrine carved out for inherently transitory cases," Judge Joel Flaum wrote.

"The duration of [Olson's] claim was at the discretion of the Indiana Department of Correction," Flaum added. The uncertainty of his release or transfer "is precisely what makes the 'inherently transfer' exception applicable in this case."

The judges reversed and remanded.

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