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Smith v. Clinton County Sheriff

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

August 3, 2016

THOMAS SMITH, WILLIAM WEHKING, TERRY TIMMONS, and JOE SUGGS, Plaintiffs,
v.
CLINTON COUNTY SHERIFF, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          MICHAEL J. REAGAN U.S. CHIEF DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is, once again, before the Court for case management. This civil rights action was filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by four individuals at Clinton County Jail (“Jail”) in Carlyle, Illinois (Doc. 1). In the original complaint, Plaintiffs challenged the conditions of their confinement at the Jail (Doc. 1, pp. 1-4). They also complained of inadequate medical and mental health care (id.). The complaint included no request for relief (id. at 5).

         The Court entered a preliminary order on March 16, 2016 (Doc. 13). In it, the Court warned the four co-plaintiffs about the consequences of proceeding with their claims in a single group action (Doc. 13, pp. 2-5). Each plaintiff was offered the option of withdrawing from this group action and pursuing his claims in a separate action.[1] Plaintiffs were given until April 20, 2016, to advise the Court in writing whether he wished to pursue his claims in group litigation or alone in a separate suit (id. at 5-6). Regardless of the chosen path, each was instructed to file an amended complaint that includes a request for relief by the same deadline (id. at 6).

         The preliminary order included the following warning:

If, by that deadline, any . . . plaintiff . . . advises the Court that he does not wish to participate in the action and/or wishes to pursue his claims in a separate action, he will be dismissed from this lawsuit and will not be charged a filing fee for this action. This is the only way to avoid the obligation to pay a filing fee for this action. Any plaintiff who simply does not respond to this Order on or before April 20, 2016, will be obligated to pay the filing fee and will also be dismissed from this action for want of prosecution and/or for failure to comply with a court order under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(b).

(id. at 5-6) (emphasis in original).

         Plaintiffs William Wehking and Joe Suggs did not respond to the Court’s order and will both be terminated as plaintiffs in this action. Their claims will be dismissed with prejudice based on their failure to prosecute the claims and comply with an order of this Court. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 41(b). Further, they will each be responsible for paying a filing fee for the action.

         Plaintiff Terry Timmons will also be terminated from this action. He did not sign the original complaint, file an IFP motion, or respond to the court’s order. In fact, Plaintiff Timmons never communicated with the Court about this action. By all indications, he never intended to participate as a plaintiff in the action. Plaintiff Timmons’ claims will be dismissed without prejudice, and he will not be obligated to pay a filing fee for this action.

         Plaintiff Thomas Smith is the only plaintiff who responded to the Court’s preliminary order (Doc. 14). Plaintiff Smith indicated that he wishes to proceed alone with his claims, and he shall be allowed to do so. Because all of his co-plaintiffs will be terminated as parties in this action, it is not necessary to sever Plaintiff Smith’s claims into a separate case. Instead, he will proceed with his claims in this action.

         Along with his response to the Court’s preliminary order, Plaintiff Smith also filed an amended complaint (Doc. 14-1). The Clerk will be directed to re-file it as the “First Amended Complaint” in this action. Plaintiff Smith’s First Amended Complaint supersedes and replaces the original complaint (Doc. 1), rendering it void. See Flannery v. Recording Indus. Ass’n of Am., 354 F.3d 632, 638 n. 1 (7th Cir. 2004).

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

         The First Amended Complaint is now subject to preliminary review under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Under § 1915A, the Court is required to screen prisoner complaints to filter out non-meritorious claims. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must 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). The First Amended Complaint does not survive preliminary review under § 1915A and shall be dismissed without prejudice and with leave to file a Second Amended Complaint consistent with the below instructions.

         First Amended Complaint

         In the First Amended Complaint, Plaintiff Smith complains about the conditions of his confinement at the Jail (Doc. 14-1, p. 5). He was allegedly housed in a cell that lacked adequate heat. During the winter months, the cell became so cold that Plaintiff Smith could see his breath. He complained to a sergeant, who simply told ...


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