United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
COREY TRAINOR, # B-51552, MICHAEL TURNER, # K-51650, TERRANCE GARRETT, # N-92748, JAMES GROLEAU, # R-52557, DYLAN METZEL, # B-56652, and KEVEREZ TANZY, # B-76690, Plaintiffs,
LARRY GEBKE, ROBERT C. MUELLER, MONICA CHRISTIANSON, and OFFICER ROVENSTEIN, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
R. HERNDON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the Court for case management. On June 14,
2017, Plaintiff Trainor filed the instant action naming
himself and 5 other individuals as Plaintiffs, all of whom
are incarcerated at Centralia Correctional Center
(“Centralia”). Only Trainor signed the Complaint,
however. (Doc. 1, p. 17). The Complaint alleges that
Defendants have denied each Plaintiff permission to receive
certain publications, in violation of the First Amendment.
the 6 Plaintiffs have filed a motion to proceed in forma
pauperis (“IFP”) (Docs. 2, 6, 8, & 10).
The Complaint indicates that Plaintiffs wish to seek class
certification for this action, however, no motion to this
effect has been filed.(Doc. 1, pp. 14-16). Before the Court
addresses the need for additional signatures on the Complaint
or considers the pending motions, it is necessary to deal
with some preliminary matters related to the attempt to
jointly file this case as a group action including multiple
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 court 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.
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 six plaintiffs, the
plaintiffs' postage and copying costs of filing motions,
briefs or other papers in the case will be six times greater
than if there were 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, the plaintiffs will be liable for another full filing
fee for each new case. See George v. Smith, 507 F.3d
605 (7th Cir. 2007). The Seventh Circuit in Owens v.
Godinez, 860 F.3d 434 (7th Cir. 2017), recently issued
strong encouragement to district courts to enforce the
directive of George. 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.” Boriboune, 391 F.3d at 856. Therefore,
in keeping with this suggestion, the Court offers all of the
Plaintiffs, other than Plaintiff Trainor, 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 decision:
• He will be held legally responsible for knowing
precisely what is being filed in the case on his behalf.
• He 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 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 will be required to prosecute
his claims in a separate action ...