United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MARLON L. WATFORD, #R15678, Plaintiff,
THOMAS LaFOND, SARAH WOOLEY, KIMBERLY BUTLER, LYNETTE COLVIS, OFFICER SEVERS, SERGEANT BRADLEY, OFFICERROSE, UNKNOWN PARTIES, and JOHN R. BALDWIN, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
MICHAEL J. REAGAN U.S. District Judge.
Marlon Watford, an inmate who is currently incarcerated at
Stateville Correctional Center (“Stateville”),
brings this pro se civil rights action pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 1983 against officials who allegedly
violated his rights under federal and state law at Menard
Correctional Center (“Menard”) from 2014 until
2016. The complaint (Doc. 1) is now before the Court for
preliminary review. Because it violates the pleading
requirements set forth in the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure, the complaint shall be dismissed.
handwritten complaint totals 126 pages (Docs. 1, 1-1, and
1-2). In it, he names eight known defendants and six
additional unknown defendants for numerous violations of his
rights under federal and state law at Menard. His statement
of claim, alone, spans 58 pages and 112 paragraphs (Doc. 1,
allegations set forth in the statement of claim take the form
of a narrative and are loosely organized into five separate
“claims.” The organization of these claims is
misleading, to say the least. For one thing, Plaintiff fails
to identify “Claim I” at all. He devotes the
first 13 pages of his statement of claim to a discussion of
the prison-issued bars of soap, which he maintains are too
small to adequately clean his body. Presumably, Plaintiff
intends this section to represent his first claim. In light
of the fact that he invokes the First Amendment, Religious
Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act
(“RLUIPA”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-1 et
seq., Eighth Amendment, and Fourteenth Amendment in this
section, however, it appears that Claim I encompasses four or
more distinct claims against various defendants.
organizes the remainder of his statement of claim into four
additional sections, entitled “Claim II, ”
“Claim III, ” “Claim IV, ” and
“Claim V.” Here again, each “claim”
encompasses numerous additional claims against different
groups of defendants. The factual allegations are far less
focused. They describe instances of alleged misconduct by the
defendants that occurred at different times and are
miscellaneous in nature. For example, Plaintiff complains
about the denial of hygiene supplies, denial of a religious
diet, deprivation of personal property while on a court writ,
mishandling of his grievances, excessive prison lockdowns,
denial of access to e-filing, prison's photocopying
policy, and interference with his mail (i.e., a
claim he refers to as “Operation Spygate”).
Plaintiff then states that he “re-developed H.
Pylori” (and scar tissue), chronic stomach
inflammation, irritable bowel syndrome, and mental and
emotional distress as a result. He also asserts claims
against the defendants for financial, religious, and social
oppression. Plaintiff seeks millions in monetary damages and
length of Plaintiff's complaint is a problem; its lack of
organization and unintelligibility are fatal. Like so many
pro se litigants, Plaintiff mistakes quantity for
quality. When it comes to preparing a complaint, however, the
Court must emphasize that less is
of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires a complaint
to provide “a short and plain statement of the claim
showing that the pleader is entitled to relief” and
also “a demand for the relief sought.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a). Rule 8(d) requires that each allegation
within the complaint “must be simple, concise, and
direct.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(d)(1). The purpose of these
rules is to “give defendants fair notice of the claims
against them and the grounds for supporting the
claims.” Stanard v. Nygren, 658 F.3d 792, 797
(7th Cir. 2011) (citing Killingsworth v. HSBC Bank Nev.,
N.A., 507 F.3d 614, 618 (7th Cir. 2007); Bell
Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)).
These rules “require[ ] parties to make their pleadings
straightforward, so that judges and adverse parties need not
try to fish a gold coin from a bucket of mud.”
United States ex rel. Garst v. Lockheed-Martin
Corp., 328 F.3d 374, 378 (7th Cir. 2003). The 126-page,
112-paragraph complaint, which includes an unknown number of
claims, clearly violates Rule 8.
length alone does not typically warrant dismissal of a
complaint, unintelligibility and a lack of organization do.
Stanard, 658 F.3d a 797-98; Garst, 328 F.3d
at 378. The two problems are often intertwined because
“[l]ength may make a complaint unintelligible[ ] by
scattering and concealing in a morass of irrelevancies the
few allegations that matter.” Garst, 328 F.3d
at 378. This is the problem with Plaintiff's complaint.
Stanard, 658 F.3d at 798. He has buried potentially
viable claims in a sea of irrelevancies. The Court will not
waste its scarce judicial resources searching this
“bucket of mud” for a colorable claim.
veritable stream of consciousness, Plaintiff complains about
many aspects of prison life at Menard. He does not focus on a
single event or a group of related events. He does not assert
a single claim or group of related claims against the same
defendants. Instead, Plaintiff lists each complaint,
disagreement, or, for that matter, inconvenience that arose
over the course of two years at Menard. He then claims that
each act of alleged misconduct by the defendants caused him
to suffer from health problems, religious oppression,
financial oppression, and social oppression. The connection
between the defendants' alleged misconduct and
Plaintiff's constitutional claims is often so weak that
the Court is left to guess how it is even remotely possible
that one caused the other.
not the first complaint that Plaintiff has ever drafted. He
is an experienced litigant. He has prepared and filed
numerous complaints, like the one under review. In fact,
Plaintiff has found himself subject to this same criticism by
this, and other, federal district courts. See Watford v.
Natasha Doe, et al., No. 15 C 9540 (N.D. Ill. May 16,
2016) (Doc. 18) (finding that Plaintiff's 185-page
“amended complaint suffers from the same defects [as]
the previous complaint . . ., namely that it is so jam-packed
full of details that the Court cannot discern whether the
allegations state a claim”). See also Watford v.
Officer Ellis, No. 15-cv-00567-MJR-SCW (S.D. Ill.Dec. 1,
2015) (noting Rule 8 problems with Plaintiff's amended
complaint); Watford v. Quinn, No. 14-cv-00571-MJR
(S.D. Ill. July 8, 2014) (noting that Plaintiff's
complaint was both “unintelligible and
the Rule 8 violations, Plaintiff's complaint also appears
to violate the rules of joinder. See Fed. R. Civ. P.
20. Rule 20 permits multiple defendants to be joined in a
single action if: “(A) [a]ny right to relief is
asserted against them jointly, severally, or in the
alternative with respect to or arising out of the same
transaction, occurrence, or series of transactions or
occurrences; and (B) [a]ny question of law or fact common to
all defendants will arise in the action.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
20(a)(2)(A)-(B). “Thus multiple claims against a single
party are fine, but Claim A against Defendant 1 should not be
joined with unrelated Claim B against Defendant 2.”
George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605-607 (7th Cir. 2007).
Unrelated claims against different defendants belong in
separate lawsuits “not only to prevent the sort of
morass” produced by multi-claim, multi-defendant suits,
“but also to ensure that prisoners pay the required
filing fees” under the Prison Litigation Reform Act.
George, 507 F.3d at 607. Under such circumstances,
the Court is authorized to sever “discrete and
separate” claims into one or more additional cases and
assess a filing fee in each. Rice v. Sunrise
Express, 209 F.3d 1008, 1016 (7th Cir. 2000);
George, 507 F.3d at 607.
complaint does not survive preliminary review because it
violates Rule 8. For this reason, it shall be dismissed.
However, the dismissal will be without prejudice, and
Plaintiff will have an opportunity to file an amended
complaint that focuses on a single claim or a single set of
related claims against the defendants. If he chooses to file
an amended complaint, Plaintiff must follow the ...