United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
QUENNEL AUGUSTA, SHAWN J. FLORES, Plaintiffs,
EMPLOYEES OF VANDALIA CORRECTIONAL CENTER, STEPHANIE WAGGONER, EMPLOYEES OF IDOC BRUCE RAUNER, JOHN BALDWIN, RANDY PFISTER, CORRECTIONAL OFFICER, S, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
M. YANDLE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the Court for case management. The Complaint
in this case was filed by two Vandalia Correctional Center
(“Vandalia”) inmates: Quennel Augusta and Shawn
J. Flores. Plaintiffs filed the action pro se
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiffs claim that they
have been subjected to unconstitutional conditions of
confinement at Vandalia and at Stateville correctional
centers. Together, they seek monetary damages. Both
Plaintiffs have signed the Complaint.
have also jointly filed a Motion for Leave to Proceed In
Forma Pauperis (Doc. 2) and a Motion for Recruitment of
Counsel (Doc. 3). Both motions are signed by both Plaintiffs.
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. § 1915A.
Litigation in Federal Courts
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.” That said, 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.
in 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
Court 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 2 plaintiffs, the
plaintiffs' postage and copying costs of filing motions,
briefs or other papers in the case will be double what it
would be 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. 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 Seventh Circuit.
not every prisoner is likely to be aware of the potential
negative consequences of joining group litigation in federal
courts, the 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 Plaintiffs, other than Plaintiff Pippins, whom it
designates as the “lead” Plaintiff in this case,
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 and pay a separate filing fee
for each new action.
• Whether the action is dismissed, severed, or allowed
to proceed as a group complaint, he will be required to pay a
full filing fee, either in installments or in full, depending
on whether he qualifies for ...