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Brown v. Duncan

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

January 26, 2015

MAURICE BROWN, #K-7247, and STEVEN RUTLEDGE, #N-87582, Plaintiff,


STACI M. YANDLE, District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court for review of Plaintiffs' First Amended Complaint (Doc. 13) and Motion for Preliminary Injunction and/or Motion for Temporary Restraining Order (Doc. 14) filed on January 8, 2015. Plaintiffs Maurice Brown and Steven Rutledge, inmates who are currently incarcerated at Lawrence Correctional Center ("Lawrence"), bring this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiffs assert an Eighth Amendment claim against Defendants Duncan, Weaver, Hopper, Hughes[1], Dellinger, Ray, and Godinez for their deliberate indifference to Plaintiffs' safety. Plaintiffs seek monetary damages and immediate injunctive relief.

Procedural History

Plaintiff Maurice Brown originally attempted to initiate this case by filing a motion requesting immediate injunctive relief. (Doc. 1). In an Order dated November 18, 2014 (Doc. 3), the Court advised Plaintiff Brown that he must first file a complaint in compliance with Rule 3 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, before the Court could conduct a preliminary review of the case, as required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(A). The Court delayed ruling on the motion for immediate injunctive relief (Doc. 1) and ordered Brown to file a complaint by December 23, 2014. Plaintiff Brown filed a complaint (Doc. 5) within the allotted time frame, but it was stricken for failure to comply with Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. ( See Doc. 11). However, the Court granted Plaintiff Brown leave to refile an amended complaint on or before January 14, 2015.

On January 8, 2015, Plaintiff Brown filed his First Amended Complaint[2] (Doc. 13) and a motion for preliminary injunction and/or temporary restraining order (Doc. 14). The First Amended Complaint seeks to join Steven Rutledge as a co-plaintiff and names several new Defendants. Under the circumstances, the Court deems it necessary to address some preliminary matters before reviewing this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

Group Litigation by Multiple Prisoners

Plaintiffs may bring their claims jointly in a single lawsuit if they so desire. However, the Court must warn them as to the consequences of proceeding in this manner, including their filing fee obligations, and give them the opportunity to withdraw from the case or sever their claims into individual actions.

In Boriboune v. Berge, 391 F.3d 852 (7th Cir. 2004), the Seventh Circuit addressed the difficulties in administering group prisoner complaints. District courts are required to accept joint complaints filed by multiple prisoners if the criteria of permissive joinder under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 20 are satisfied. Rule 20 permits plaintiffs to join together in one lawsuit if they assert claims "arising out of the same transaction, occurrence, or series of transactions or occurrences and if any question of law or fact common to these persons will arise in the action." Nonetheless, a district court may turn to other civil rules to manage a multi-plaintiff case. If appropriate, claims may be severed pursuant to Rule 20(b), pretrial orders may be issued providing for a logical sequence of decision pursuant to Rule 16, parties improperly joined may be dropped pursuant to Rule 21, and separate trials may be ordered pursuant to Rule 42(b). Boriboune, 391 F.3d at 854.

In reconciling the Prisoner Litigation Reform Act with Rule 20, the Seventh Circuit determined that joint litigation does not relieve any prisoner of the duties imposed upon him under the Act, including the duty to pay the full amount of the filing fees, either in installments or in full if the circumstances require it. Id. In other words, each prisoner in a joint action is required to pay a full civil filing fee, just as if he had filed the suit individually.

The Circuit further noted at least two other reasons a prisoner may wish to avoid group litigation. First, group litigation creates countervailing costs. Each submission to the Court must be served on every other plaintiff and the opposing parties pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 5. This means that if there are three plaintiffs, the plaintiffs' postage and copying costs of filing motions, briefs or other papers in the case will be three times greater than if there was a single plaintiff.

Second, a prisoner litigating on his own behalf takes the risk that "one or more of his claims may be deemed sanctionable under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11." Boriboune, 391 F.3d at 854-55. According to the Circuit, a prisoner litigating jointly assumes those risks for all of the claims in the group complaint, whether or not they concern him personally. Furthermore, if the Court finds that the complaint contains unrelated claims against unrelated defendants, those unrelated claims may be severed into one or more new cases. If that severance of claims occurs, each Plaintiff will be liable for another full filing fee for each new case. Plaintiffs may wish to take into account this ruling in determining whether to assume the risks of group litigation in the federal courts of the Seventh Circuit going forward.

In the present case, both Plaintiffs have filed motions to proceed in forma pauperis. ( See Docs. 4 and 16). Moreover, both Plaintiffs have signed the complaint, as well as all subsequent motions. The Court is convinced that each Plaintiff has sufficiently demonstrated his interest in pursuing the present action. As such, each Plaintiff may not escape his obligation to pay the filing fee for this action, which was incurred when the action was filed. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1); Lucien v. Jockisch, 133 F.3d 464, 467-68 (7th Cir. 1998). Nonetheless, each Plaintiff may still elect to voluntarily dismiss or sever his individual claims.

In addition, if Plaintiffs Brown and Rutledge desire to continue this litigation as a group, any proposed amended complaint, motion, or other document filed on behalf of multiple Plaintiffs must be signed by each of the Plaintiffs. As long as the Plaintiffs appear without counsel in this action, each Plaintiff must sign documents for himself. See Lewis v. Lenc-Smith Mfg. Co., 784 F.2d 829, 831 (7th Cir. 1986); FED. R. CIV. P. 11.[3] A non-attorney cannot file or sign papers for another litigant. Plaintiffs are ADVISED that future group motions or pleadings that do not comply with this requirement shall be stricken pursuant to Rule 11(a).

Plaintiffs are further advised that even if they elect to proceed together, the Court may determine at some later stage that the case should be severed in accordance with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. At this juncture, it ...

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