United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
MICHAEL J. REAGAN United States Chief District Judge
matter is, once again, before the Court for case management
and for preliminary review of the Complaint pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1915A. The action was originally filed on March
27, 2017 by 27 inmates that at one time were incarcerated at
Menard Correctional Center (“Menard”). (Doc. 1).
Despite the fact that this action has not yet received
preliminary review, it has a long procedural history. Most
important to this history for the purpose of this Order is
that the Court entered a preliminary order in this matter on
April 12, 2017. (Doc. 29). In it, each plaintiff, aside from
the lead plaintiff David Bentz, was ordered to advise the
Court in writing, no later than April 27, 2017, whether he
wished to pursue his claims in group litigation. Id.
Plaintiffs were also advised to ensure they submitted a
signed Complaint in compliance with Rule 11 of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure to avoid dismissal from the action.
Id. Many of the plaintiffs have been dismissed from
this action at their request, for failure to submit a signed
complaint, for failure to pay the filing fee or submit a
motion to proceed in forma pauperis, or for failure
to comply with an order of the Court. Plaintiff Blaney
requested to proceed in a separate action, so he was
dismissed from this action and his claims were severed into a
new one. Four of the original plaintiffs, Bentz, Fields,
Elias Diaz, and Crenshaw, remain in this action after taking
the necessary steps per this Court's orders to be
included. See (Docs. 13, 16, 25, 31, 76, 80, 81, 93,
102, 105, 116).
initial matter, the Court concludes that joinder is not
appropriate. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 20(a)-(b), 21;
Chavez v. Illinois State Police, 251 F.3d 612, 632
(7th Cir. 2001). Therefore, each remaining plaintiff will be
required to pursue his claims in a separate action. But
before doing so, each remaining plaintiff, other than
Plaintiff Bentz who will remain in this action and will not
be granted leave to file an amended complaint at this time,
must file an amended complaint in his separate case because
the First Amended Complaint (Doc. 99) does not survive
screening under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.
First Amended Complaint lists 27 individuals who were or are
in custody at Menard as plaintiffs. (Doc. 99). Together, they
set forth claims against over 100 defendants. (Doc. 99, pp.
1-3). In the First Amended Complaint, the plaintiffs seek to
bring a plethora of claims for conditions of confinement,
retaliation, deliberate indifference to health and safety,
access to the courts, due process, and conspiracy under the
First, Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments, as well as
Illinois law. (Doc. 99). The plaintiffs seek monetary damages
and injunctive relief addressing the plaintiffs' numerous
grievances related to cell size, lockdowns, cell lighting,
cell shelving, cell outlets, plumbing, exercise equipment,
bedding, activity scheduling, cleaning supplies, state pay,
out-of-cell time, soap, harassment, job assignments,
recreational activities, educational and rehabilitation
programs, food portions, staff unions, staff accountability,
meal timing, food tray materials, and the law library. (Doc.
99, pp. 44-50).
Court entered a preliminary order in this matter on April 12,
2017. (Doc. 29). There, the Court explained the difficulties
associated with group litigation. Id. The Court
warned the plaintiffs of the risks and costs inherent in such
proceedings. Id. Plaintiffs were then given an
opportunity to withdraw from the group litigation, or be
obligated to pay a filing fee. See Boriboune v.
Berge, 391 F.3d 852 (7th Cir. 2004).
Fields, Elias Diaz, and
Crenshaw took the necessary steps to remain
together in this group litigation. Lead plaintiff
Bentz was not required to respond in order
to remain in this action. The rest of the plaintiffs in this
action have previously been dismissed for various reasons.
After conducting a preliminary review of the First Amended
Complaint, the Court will discuss why group litigation of the
remaining plaintiffs' claims is inappropriate.
Review Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A
First Amended Complaint is now subject to preliminary review
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, which provides:
(a) Screening - The court shall review,
before docketing, if feasible or, in any event, as soon as
practicable after docketing, a complaint in a civil action in
which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or
officer or employee of a governmental entity.
(b) Grounds for Dismissal - On review, the
court shall identify cognizable claims or dismiss the
complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint-
(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim on
which relief may be granted; or
(2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from
action or claim is frivolous if “it lacks an arguable
basis either in law or in fact.” Neitzke v.
Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). Frivolousness is an
objective standard that refers to a claim that any reasonable
person would find meritless. Lee v. Clinton, 209
F.3d 1025, 1026-27 (7th Cir. 2000). An action fails to state
a claim upon which relief can be granted if it does not plead
“enough facts to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). The claim of
entitlement to relief must cross “the line between
possibility and plausibility.” Id. at 557. At
this juncture, the factual allegations of the pro se
complaint are to be liberally construed. See Rodriguez v.
Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir.
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) ...