United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
JEREMY K. SMITH, SERGIO SALTER, DAVID ROBERTSON, DEVELL CURRY, LISA NEIPERT, BAYLEIGH HARTMAN, MICHELLE WILLIAMS and PATRICIA HOXSEY, Plaintiffs,
BOND COUNTY JAIL, and JEFF BROWN, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Phil Gilbert United States District Judge
matter is before the Court for case management. The Complaint
(Doc. 1) was filed by 8 individuals who are in custody at
Bond County Jail (“Jail”) located in Greenville,
Illinois. Together, they filed a complaint that sets forth
claims against the Sheriff of Bond County Illinois, Jeff
Brown, and the Jail itself. (Doc. 1, p. 1). They claim that
there is black mold in the “bullpen” of the Jail
as well as in the living areas of the female plaintiffs.
(Doc. 1, p. 3). They also claim that “living in black
mold is dangerous to their lives” and that they have
symptoms of sneezing, coughing, headaches, nausea, and severe
stomach cramps and diarrhea. (Doc. 1, p. 3).
plaintiffs named in the case caption signed the Complaint.
(Doc. 1, p. 4). All of the plaintiffs have also signed what
appears to be Plaintiff Smith's motion seeking leave to
proceed in forma pauperis (“IFP”) (Doc.
2). None of the plaintiffs aside from Plaintiff Smith have
filed an IFP motion, nor have they paid their respective
filing fees. Under the circumstances, the Court deems it
necessary to address several preliminary matters before
completing a review of this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
Litigation by Multiple Prisoners
may bring their claims jointly in a single lawsuit if they so
desire. However, the Court must admonish 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
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 decisions 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.
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.
Circuit noted that there are 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 ten plaintiffs, the
plaintiffs' postage and copying costs of filing motions,
briefs or other papers in the case will be ten times greater
than if there was a single plaintiff.
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
Seventh 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
not every prisoner is likely to be aware of the potential
negative consequences of joining group litigation in federal
courts, the Seventh Circuit suggested in Boriboune
that district courts alert prisoners to the individual
payment requirement, as well as the other risks prisoner
pro se litigants face in joint pro se
litigation, and “give them an opportunity to drop
out.” Id. at 856. Therefore, in keeping with
this suggestion, the Court offers all of the plaintiffs,
other than Plaintiff Smith, whom it designates as the
“lead” plaintiff in this case, an opportunity to
withdraw from this litigation before the case progresses
further. Each plaintiff may wish to take into consideration
the following points in making his or her decision:
• He or she will be held legally responsible for knowing
precisely what is being filed in the case on his or her
• He or she will be subject to sanctions under Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 11 if such sanctions are found
warranted in any aspect of the case.
• He or she will incur a strike if the action is
dismissed as frivolous or malicious or for failure to state a
claim upon which relief may be granted.
• In screening the Complaint, the Court will consider
whether unrelated claims should be severed and, if it decides
severance is appropriate, he or she will be required to
prosecute his or her claims in a separate ...