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Pyles v. Unknown Party

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

July 25, 2017

TERRY LEE PYLES, #34864 Plaintiff,
v.
UNKNOWN PARTY, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          J. Phil Gilbert, United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Terry Lee Pyles, a pretrial detainee at the Madison County Jail, brings this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff's claims arise out of his arrest and pending prosecution in Madison County, Illinois for meth manufacturing and possession of meth manufacturing material. State of Illinois vs. Pyles, Case No. 2017-cv-690 (trial set for September 11, 2017).

         This case is now before the Court for case management. As is set forth more fully below, Plaintiff's Complaint (Doc. 1) fails to comply with Rule 10(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and is therefore subject to dismissal without prejudice. See Myles v. United States, 416 F.3d 551 (7th Cir. 2005). Additionally, Plaintiff's pending motions (Docs 5-7, 9) shall be denied.

         Dismissal for Failure to Comply with Rule 10(a)

         The Complaint is actually in the form of a letter to the Court (addressed “to whom it may concern”) and purports to raise claims pursuant to § 1983. (Doc. 1, p. 1). The Complaint describes Plaintiff's arrest on March 7, 2017 and indicates that Plaintiff was the victim of excessive force by one or more arresting officers. (Doc. 1, pp. 1-10). The Complaint also alludes to other alleged violations of Plaintiff's constitutional rights in connection with his arrest and pending trial. Some of the allegations are directed against unknown officials/officers at the Madison County Sherriff's Office (Doc. 1, pp. 1-3, 6-10) and other allegations appear to be directed against Plaintiff's attorneys in his pending criminal case (Doc. 1, pp. 4-5).

         Although the Clerk of the Court designated “Unknown Party, Arresting Officers of Madison County Sheriff's Department” as the Defendant in CM/ECF, these individuals are not actually identified as defendants in the caption of the Complaint. In fact, the Complaint does not include a case caption or a list of defendants.

         Pursuant to Rule 10(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure “[e]very pleading must have a caption with the court's name, a title, a file number, and a Rule 7(a) designation. The title of the complaint must name all parties...” (emphasis added). Though seemingly pedestrian, compliance with this aspect of Rule 10(a) is mandatory.[1] As the Seventh Circuit explained in Myles v. United States, 416 F.3d 551 (7th Cir. 2005), in order to make someone a party, the plaintiff must name the individual in the case caption and arrange for service of process. Myles, 416 F.3d at 551. See also Id. (“Naming and serving defendants is vital. How can one defend without first becoming a party?”). A pro se civil rights complaint that includes allegations against individual officials not specifically identified as defendants in the caption of the complaint does not comply with Rule 10(a) and is subject to dismissal. Id. at 551-53. In this scenario, it is “unacceptable for a court to add litigants on its own motion. Selecting defendants is a task for the plaintiff, not the judge.” Id. at 552-53.

         Here, without a case caption, none of the individuals mentioned in the body of the Complaint can properly be considered a party under Rule 10(a).[2] The Court cannot cure this deficiency on its own motion by selecting individuals from the body of the Complaint and adding them as defendants to the instant action. Accordingly, as written, the Complaint does not specify a defendant and is subject to dismissal. However, the dismissal shall be without prejudice and with leave to amend. See Donald v. Cook Cnty. Sheriff's Dep't, 95 F.3d 548, 555 (7th Cir. 1996) (“When the substance of a pro se civil rights complaint indicates the existence of claims against individual officials not specifically named in the caption of the complaint, the district court must provide the petitioner with an opportunity to amend the complaint.”)

         Motion/Notice to File for a Habeas Corpus Petition

         Plaintiff has filed a pleading entitled “Notice to file for a Habeas Corpus Petition.” (“Notice”) (Doc. 6). In the Notice, Plaintiff asks to be “granted a habeas corpus.” (Doc. 6, p. 1). Plaintiff contends that he has been the victim of excessive force and raises several arguments in support of his request for release from jail, including alleged due process violations, lack of probable cause for arrest, and false charges. Plaintiff has also filed a Supplement in support of his Notice (Doc. 10) raising similar arguments.

         Plaintiff's Notice, which challenges the fact of his confinement and seeks release from jail, must be denied. A request for release from jail cannot be combined with a § 1983 action for monetary damages. See Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 500 (1973). If Plaintiff wishes to challenge his confinement, he must file a separate habeas corpus action in either state or federal court.

         Because Plaintiff is challenging his pretrial custody, any federal habeas corpus action would arise under 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Jacobs v. McCoaughtry, 251 F.3d 596, 597 (7th Cir. 2001); Walker v. O'Brien, 216 F.3d 626, 633 (7th Cir. 2000). Section 2241 allows a pretrial detainee to bring a habeas corpus petition, but this ability is limited by Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971). Pursuant to Younger, unless “exceptional circumstances” exist, federal courts must abstain from interfering with pending state proceedings to enforce a state's criminal laws. Stroman Realty, Inc., v. Martinez, 505 F.3d 658, 662 (7th Cir. 2007); see also Younger, 401 U.S. at 43, 49. Exceptional circumstances have been found where irreparable damage would occur, such as prosecutorial harassment and bad faith, or speedy trial and double jeopardy claims-and then only after the petitioner has exhausted available state court remedies. Younger, 401 U.S. at 43, 49; Braden v. 30th Judicial Circuit Court of Ky., 410 U.S. 484, 489-92 (1973) (collecting cases).

         Plaintiff should keep these principles in mind in deciding whether to initiate a federal habeas corpus action.

         Motion ...


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