United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
ADMASSU REGASSA, No. 09303-007, Plaintiff,
K. SANDERS, et al., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Phil Gilbert, U.S. District Judge
Admassu Regassa, presently incarcerated at the United States
Penitentiary in Marion, Illinois (“USP Marion”),
brings this pro se action for deprivations of his
constitutional rights by persons acting under the color of
federal authority pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown
Agents of the Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971)
and the Federal Torts Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. §§
1346, 2671-2680. Plaintiff asserts claims against 116
defendants at three different institutions (USP Marion
(Illinois), USP Lewisburg (Pennsylvania), and FCC Allenwood
(Pennsylvania)) for conduct that spans approximately five
years. (Doc. 1). In connection with his claims, Plaintiff
seeks monetary damages and injunctive relief. (Doc. 1, pp.
81-87). The Complaint is a total of 87 typewritten pages
(single spaced) and includes 214 pages of exhibits.
case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the
Complaint (Doc. 1) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.
one week after filing his Complaint, Plaintiff began filing
voluminous supplemental exhibits with the Court. (Docs. 5,
7-13). The Court does not accept piecemeal pleadings.
Accordingly, the subsequently filed exhibits have been
disregarded and the Clerk of the Court shall be instructed to
strike the same from the record. Id.
Review - Applicable Standards
Section 1915A, the Court is required to promptly screen
prisoner complaints to filter out nonmeritorious claims. 28
U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court is required to dismiss any
portion of the Complaint that is legally frivolous,
malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be
granted, or asks for money damages from a defendant who by
law is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).
Although the Court is obligated to accept factual allegations
as true, see Smith v. Peters, 631 F.3d 418, 419 (7th
Cir. 2011), some factual allegations may be so sketchy or
implausible that they fail to provide sufficient notice of a
plaintiff's claim. Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574,
581 (7th Cir. 2009). Additionally, Courts “should not
accept as adequate abstract recitations of the elements of a
cause of action or conclusory legal statements.”
Rules of Civil Procedure - Rule 8
to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8, in order to state a
claim, a pleading must provide “a short and plain
statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled
to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(1). “Rule 8(a)
requires 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). Although a district court is “not
authorized to dismiss a complaint merely because it contains
repetitious and irrelevant matter, . . . dismissal of a
complaint on the ground that it is unintelligible is
unexceptional. Length may make a complaint unintelligible, by
scattering and concealing in a morass of irrelevancies the
few allegations that matter.” Id. (internal
citations and quotation marks omitted).
Rule 8, Plaintiffs are also required to associate specific
defendants with specific claims, so that defendants are put
on notice of the claims brought against them and so they can
properly answer the complaint. See Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007); Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2).
Merely invoking the name of a potential defendant is not
sufficient to state a claim against that individual. See
Collins v. Kibort, 143 F.3d 331, 334 (7th Cir. 1998).
Moreover, vague references to a group of “defendants,
” without specific allegations tying the individual
defendants to the alleged unconstitutional conduct, do not
raise a genuine issue of material fact with respect to those
defendants. See Alejo v. Heller, 328 F.3d 930, 936
(7th Cir. 2003) (finding dismissal of named defendant proper
where plaintiff failed to allege defendant's personal
involvement in the alleged wrongdoings); Starzenski v.
City of Elkhart, 87 F.3d 872, 879 (7th Cir. 1996).
part of screening, the Court is also allowed to sever
unrelated claims against different defendants into separate
lawsuits. See George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 607
(7th Cir. 2007). In George, the Seventh Circuit
emphasized that the practice of severance is important,
“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. Id. This
practice is encouraged. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals
has recently warned district courts not to allow inmates
“to flout the rules for joining claims and defendants,
see Fed. R. Civ. P. 18, 20, or to circumvent the
Prison Litigation Reform Act's fee requirements by
combining multiple lawsuits into a single complaint.”
Owens v. Godinez, 860 F.3d 434, 436 (7th Cir. 2017).
See also Wheeler v. Talbot, ___ F. App'x ___,
2017 WL 2417889 (7th Cir. 2017) (district court should have
severed unrelated and improperly joined claims or dismissed
one of them).
first step in assessing whether claims and defendants have
been properly joined is to apply Rule 20 governing party
joinder. See Intercon Research Assn., ltd. V. Dresser
Industries, Inc., 696 F.2d 53, 57 (7th Cir. 1982)
(“joinder of claims under Rule 18 becomes relevant only
after the requirements of Rule 20 relating to joinder of
parties has been met with respect to the party against whom
the claim is sought to be asserted.”); Fed.R.Civ.P. 18,
Committee Comments. Pursuant to Rule 20, a plaintiff may join
multiple persons in one action as defendants only if the
claims (1) are transactionally related and (2) present a
question of law or fact common to all defendants.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 20(a)(2)(A)(B). Once defendants are properly
joined under Rule 20, Rule 18 may be applied. See
Fed. R. Civ. P. 18.
generally alleges that “over the years” various
officials have violated his rights and treated him unfairly.
(Doc. 1, p. 62). Plaintiff periodically alleges that he has
been the victim of a conspiracy. However, Plaintiff has not
sufficiently alleged a conspiracy claim against any single
defendant, let alone as to all 116 defendants. Moreover,
Plaintiff does not assert a single claim against all 116
Complaint includes a plethora of allegations focusing on
conduct occurring at three federal penitentiaries, located in
two different states, during a five year period: (1) USP
Lewisburg (March 22, 2012 through May 27, 2015); (2) FCC
Allenwood (May 27, 2015 through November 19, 2015); and USP
Marion (March 21, 2016 through approximately June 2017).
Although Plaintiff asserts similar claims against officials
at these institutions (e.g., retaliation, false
disciplinary reports, excessive/unwarranted restrictions),
the claims against the various officials at the different
institutions are not transactionally related.