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Fowler v. Guerin

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma

July 25, 2019

MICKEY FOWLER, LEISA MAURER, and a class of similarly situated individuals, Plaintiffs,
TRACY GUERIN, Director of the Washington State Department of Retirement Systems, Defendant.



         This matter comes before the Court on putative class representatives Mickey Fowler and Leisa Maurer's (“Plaintiffs”) motion for class certification. Dkt. 43. The Court has considered the pleadings filed in support of and in opposition to the motion, the supplemental briefing submitted in response to the Court's request, and the remainder of the file and hereby grants the motion for the reasons stated herein.


         Plaintiffs are public school teachers who participate in Washington's Teachers' Retirement System (“TRS”), a public retirement system managed by the Washington State Department of Retirement Services (“DRS”). Dkt. 18-1 at 20-21. The TRS is comprised of three separate retirement plans: Plan 1, Plan 2, and Plan 3. Id. at 21. Plaintiffs are current members of Plan 3 and former members of Plan 2. See Dkt. 1, ¶ 18; Dkt. 18-1 at 48. As members of Plan 2, Plaintiffs made contributions to their Plan 2 accounts from each paycheck. Dkt. 1, ¶ 18. DRS tracked the contributions and accumulated interest in individual accounts. Dkt. 18-1 at 2. All contributions were transferred to a state-managed comingled trust fund for investment purposes. Dkt. 18 at 4; Dkt. 18-1 at 8.

         Plaintiffs' contributions to Plan 2 accrued interest at a rate specified by DRS. Dkt. 18-1 at 21. DRS set the rate of interest at 5.5%, compounded quarterly. Id. at 16, 18, 21. DRS used the quarter's ending balance to calculate interest. Dkt. 18 at 17, 20, 22. If an account had a zero balance at the end of the quarter, it earned no interest for that quarter. Id. at 22. Plaintiffs transferred their contributions from Plan 2 to Plan 3. See Id. at 48.

         On June 15, 2015, Plaintiffs filed suit against Defendant Marcie Frost (“Frost”) under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Dkt. 1.[1]Plaintiffs' only cause of action was that the method DRS used to calculate the interest on funds transferred between two plans within TRS deprived them of their property in violation of the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment. Dkt. 1.

         On September 23, 2015, the parties stipulated to class certification. Dkt. 20. On February 24, 2015, the Court denied the stipulated motion for class certification without prejudice. Dkt. 21.

         On December 22, 2015, the Court granted Frost's motion for summary judgment on the grounds that Plaintiffs' claims were not ripe. Dkt. 28. On January 20, 2016, Plaintiffs appealed to the Ninth Circuit. Dkt. 30. In the intervening months, Tracy Guerin (“Guerin”) succeeded Marcie Frost as the Director of DRS, becoming the named defendant in this matter. Dkt. 52. On August 16, 2018, the Ninth Circuit reversed and remanded. Dkt. 32. On March 13, 2019, the Ninth Circuit denied Guerin's motion for panel rehearing and petition for rehearing en banc. Dkt. 39. On March 21, 2019, the Ninth Circuit issued its mandate. Dkt. 40; Fowler v. Guerin, 899 F.3d 1112 (9th Cir. 2018), reh'g and reh'g en banc denied, 918 F.3d 644 (2019).

         On April 4, 2019, Guerin moved for a stay pending resolution of her petition for writ of certiorari with the Supreme Court. Dkt. 41. On April 10, 2019, Plaintiffs moved for an order certifying the class. Dkt. 43. On April 29, 3019, Guerin responded to the motion for class certification. Dkt. 49. On May 1, 2019, Plaintiffs replied to their motion. Dkt. 50. On May 2, 2019, the Court denied Guerin's motion to stay. Dkt. 51. On June 11, 2019, Guerin filed a petition for a writ of certiorari with the Supreme Court. Dkt. 53. On June 13, 2019, the Court renoted and requested supplemental briefing on Plaintiffs' motion for class certification (the “June 13th Order”). Dkt. 52. On June 24, 2019, Plaintiffs submitted supplemental briefing. Dkt. 54. On June 28, 2019, Guerin submitted a supplemental response. Dkt. 56.


         A. Class Certification

         “Class certification is governed by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23.” Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, 564 U.S. 338, 345 (2011). “As the party seeking class certification, [Plaintiffs] bear[] the burden of demonstrating that [they] ha[ve] met each of the four requirements of Rule 23(a) and at least one of the requirements of Rule 23(b).” Zinser v. Accufix Research Inst., Inc., 253 F.3d 1180, 1186 (9th Cir. 2001), amended by 273 F.3d 1266 (9th Cir. 2001).

         “Rule 23 does not set forth a mere pleading standard.” Dukes, 564 U.S. at 350. Rather, “[a] party seeking class certification must affirmatively demonstrate his compliance with the Rule . . . .” Id. Before certifying a class, the Court must conduct a “rigorous analysis” to determine whether Plaintiffs have met the requirements of Rule 23. Zinser, 253 F.3d at 1186. “While the trial court has broad discretion to certify a class, its discretion must be exercised within the framework of Rule 23.” Id.

         Under Rule 23(a), Plaintiffs must satisfy four requirements: (1) numerosity; (2) commonality; (3) typicality; and (4) adequacy of representation. Parsons v. Ryan, 754 F.3d 657, 674 (9th Cir. 2014). In addition to these four requirements, Plaintiffs must ...

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