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Watts v. Big Muddy Correctional Ctr.

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

July 6, 2015



STACI M. YANDLE, District Judge.

Plaintiff Zachary Watts, currently incarcerated at Pinckneyville Correctional Center, has brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

Merits Review Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915

Under § 1915A, the Court is required to promptly screen prisoner complaints to filter out nonmeritorious claims. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court is required to dismiss any portion of the complaint that is legally frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or asks for money damages from a defendant who by law is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b). Upon careful review of the complaint, the Court finds it appropriate to exercise its authority under § 1915A and dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim.

In the document before the Court, Plaintiff names as Defendants Big Muddy River Correctional Center and Zachary Rockeman (warden at Big Muddy), but he provides no statement of his claim. In fact, the section designated for Plaintiff's statement is blank. ( See Doc. 1, p. 5). In addition, Plaintiff fails to include any request for relief. Id. Attached to the complaint is a grievance Plaintiff filed regarding a body cavity search that he was subjected to while he was an inmate at Big Muddy. The allegations contained in the grievance suggest that Plaintiff may have a colorable civil rights claim, but since the Complaint itself contains no statement, the Court has no way to assess Plaintiff's complaint or to determine whether Plaintiff has any legitimate claims against the named Defendants.

The reason that plaintiffs, even those proceeding pro se, for whom the Court is required to liberally construe complaints, see Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972), are required to associate specific defendants with specific claims is to ensure that defendants are put on notice of the claims brought against them so that they can properly answer the complaint. "Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires only a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ' in order to give the defendant fair notice of what the... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). Thus, where a plaintiff has not provided a statement of his claim, the defendant cannot be said to be adequately put on notice of which claims in the complaint, if any, are directed against him. Furthermore, merely invoking the name of a potential defendant is not sufficient to state a claim against that individual. See Collins v. Kibort, 143 F.3d 331, 334 (7th Cir. 1998) ("A plaintiff cannot state a claim against a defendant by including the defendant's name in the caption.").[1]

For this reason, the Court finds that the complaint, as currently drafted, fails to state a claim in compliance with Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and should be dismissed. However, the dismissal is without prejudice to Plaintiff filing an amended complaint that cures the defects noted in this Order, according to the instructions set forth in the disposition below.

In addition, the Court notes that Plaintiff filed the present action without payment of a filing fee or the filing of a Motion and Affidavit to Proceed in District Court without Prepaying Fees or Costs ("IFP Motion"). On June 24, 2015, the Clerk of Court in this District sent Plaintiff a letter, reminding him of his obligation to pay the full $400.00 filing fee or to file an IFP Motion. (Doc. 2). The Clerk warned Plaintiff that failure to pay the full filing fee or to file an IFP motion within 30 days from the date of that letter would result in dismissal of this case. Id. Plaintiff is reminded of this warning. The Clerk has already provided Plaintiff with a copy of the Motion and Affidavit to Proceed in District Court without Prepaying Fees or Costs, along with Doc. 2, and will not need to send another IFP Motion form at this time.


IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Plaintiff's complaint (Doc. 1) is DISMISSED without prejudice for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

Plaintiff is GRANTED leave to file his "First Amended Complaint" within THIRTY-FIVE DAYS of entry of this Memorandum and Order (on or before August 10, 2015). Should Plaintiff fail to file his First Amended Complaint within the allotted time or consistent with the instructions set forth in this Order, this case will be dismissed for failure to comply with an order of this Court and the case will be closed. FED. R. CIV. P. 41(b). See generally Ladien v. Astrachan, 128 F.3d 1051 (7th Cir. 1997); Johnson v. Kamminga, 34 F.3d 466 (7th Cir. 1994).

Plaintiff is ADVISED that should he decide to file an amended complaint, it is strongly recommended that he use the forms designed for use in this District for such actions. He should label the form, "First Amended Complaint, " and he should use the case number for this action. The amended complaint shall present each claim in a separate count, and each count shall specify, by name, each defendant alleged to be liable under the count, as well as the actions alleged to have been taken by that defendant.[2] Plaintiff should attempt to include the facts of his case in chronological order, inserting each defendant's name where necessary to identify the actors. Plaintiff should refrain from filing unnecessary exhibits. To enable Plaintiff to comply with this order, the Clerk is DIRECTED to mail Plaintiff a blank civil rights complaint form.

An amended complaint supersedes and replaces the original complaint, rendering the original complaint void. See Flannery v. Recording Indus. Ass'n of Am., 354 F.3d 632, 638 n. 1 (7th Cir. 2004). The Court will not accept piecemeal amendments to the original complaint. Thus, the First Amended Complaint must stand on its own, without reference to any previous pleading, and Plaintiff must re-file any exhibits he wishes the Court to consider along with the First Amended Complaint. The First Amended Complaint is subject to review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

Plaintiff is further ADVISED that his obligation to pay the filing fee for this action was incurred at the time the action was filed, thus the filing fee remains due and payable, regardless of whether Plaintiff elects to file an amended complaint. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1); Lucien v. Jockisch, 133 F.3d 464, 467 (7th Cir. 1998).

Finally, Plaintiff is ADVISED that he is under a continuing obligation to keep the Clerk of Court and each opposing party informed of any change in his address; the Court will not independently investigate his whereabouts. This shall be done in writing and not later than seven (7) days after a transfer or other change in address occurs. Failure to comply with this order will cause a delay in the transmission of court documents and may result in dismissal of this action for want of prosecution. See FED. R. CIV. P. 41(b).


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