United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE
MICHAEL J. REAGAN United States Chief District Judge
David Bentz, currently incarcerated at Menard Correctional
Center (“Menard”), brought this pro se
civil rights action, along with multiple other plaintiffs,
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on March 27, 2017. (Doc.
1). Though this case has yet to receive preliminary review
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court has issued
several orders in it to address various preliminary issues.
In the course of addressing these issues, it has come to the
Court's attention that Plaintiff Bentz appears to have
intentionally committed a fraud on the Court by submitting at
least one document in this action on which at least one, if
not more, signatures were forged or otherwise included as a
result of subterfuge.
action was opened on March 27, 2017 after the Complaint (Doc.
1) was received. Because the Complaint was unsigned, the
Court entered an Order on March 30, 2017 notifying the
Plaintiffs that, pursuant to Rule 11(a) of the Federal Rules
of Civil Procedure, "[e]very pleading, written motion,
and other paper must be signed . . . by a party personally if
the party is unrepresented." (Doc. 3). The Court
directed the Clerk to send a copy of the 50-page Complaint to
each plaintiff so that any plaintiff who desired to
participate in this lawsuit could return a signed copy in
compliance with Rule 11. Id. Soon thereafter, on
April 7, 2017, a batch of Motions for Leave to Proceed In
Forma Pauperis (Docs. 5-16) were filed. Some of these
appear to be handwritten by Plaintiff Bentz, with signatures
of other plaintiffs and occasional additional information
included on the motions in different handwriting. (Docs. 5-8,
April 10, 2017, the First Amended Complaint (Doc. 99),
originally construed as a Motion to Certify Class (Doc. 25),
was filed by Plaintiff Bentz. At the end of the First Amended
Complaint is a page numbered “50-A, ” which
includes a “Declaration Under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 11” that states:
I, the undersigned, certify to the best of my knowledge,
information, and belief that this Complaint is in full
compliance with Rule 11(a) and (b) of the Federal Rule[s] of
Civil Procedure. The undersigned also recognizes that failure
to comply with Rule 11(a) and (b) may result in sanctions,
monetary or non-monetary, pursuant to F.R.C.P. Rule 11(c).
(Docs. 25, 99, p. 51).
the declaration are signatures for fifteen of the named
plaintiffs in this action, including for Plaintiffs Bentz,
Reed, Barry, Nelson, Abdullah, Perez, Daniel Diaz, Fields,
Hunt, Morgan, Stanford, Barnwell, Sharp, Blaney, and Jones.
Id. Despite their apparent signatures on the
pleading, several plaintiffs have submitted filings that have
cast doubt on whether their signatures on the pleading are
legitimate or, if they signed the document, whether they were
aware that they were signing a pleading for a lawsuit, and if
so, whether they were aware of the contents of the pleading.
Court will begin with the most damning statements made by
Bentz's fellow plaintiffs. Plaintiff John Anthony Reed,
whose name appears directly below Plaintiff Bentz's on
the First Amended Complaint, claims that he “did not
sign” the First Amended Complaint or the Motion to
Proceed In Forma Pauperis filed under his name,
claiming that he “believe[s] David Robert Bentz had
somehow doctored [his] signature to appear on those”
documents. (Doc. 119, p. 2). He also notes that Bentz would
have had access to his signature because he signed a witness
document for Bentz in 2015. Id. Plaintiff Keith
Nelson similarly claims that he neither filed nor signed
“one single piece of paper” in this action prior
to his attempts to remove himself from the action. (Doc. 126,
p. 1). He also asserts that he “never gave consent to
be added to his lawsuit” and “never saw the
handwritten copy of the motion for in forma pauperis
that allegedly had ‘[his]' signature attached to
it.” (Doc. 111, p. 1); (Doc. 128, p. 1).
Robert Hunt claims that he does “not know what this
case is and . . . never gave anyone permission to put [his]
name on any complaint.” Plaintiff Muhammad Abdullah
admits that the signature on the First Amended Complaint is
his but then adds that he “was not aware that [he] was
pleading for this lawsuit prior to signing it.” (Doc.
109, p. 1). Plaintiff Markus Barry asserts that he
“never signed [the Complaint] initially, ” and
that “prior to signing [the First Amended Complaint],
[he] was not afforded an opportunity to review” it.
(Doc. 52, p. 1); (Doc. 95, p. 1). Similarly, Daniel Diaz
claims that he never saw or reviewed the “motion or
lawsuit” that was filed. (Doc. 94, p. 1). Finally,
Plaintiff Jesse Perez asserts that he has “nothing to
do with the civil suit filed by Mr. Bentz” without his
permission and “[has] not or will not be submitting any
complaints through a third party.” (Doc. 120, pp. 2-3).
Signatures for each of the aforementioned plaintiffs are
included on the First Amended Complaint submitted by Bentz.
plaintiffs whose signatures did not appear on the First
Amended Complaint also submitted letters to the Court that
call into question whether they ever consented to be added as
plaintiffs to this lawsuit at all. Brandon Harris requested
to be removed from the suit on April 28, 2017, and in his
request, he noted that he “[has] not signed, nor [is
he] interested in signing [his] name to any complaints,
motions nor petitions concerning the said cause.” (Doc.
60, p. 1). Further, on April 10, 2017, Plaintiff Wiggins
submitted a letter to the Court asking, in part, “what
the actual complaint is.” (Doc. 21, p. 1).
Bentz has repeatedly attempted to file Motions and other
documents on behalf of all Plaintiffs without their having
signed the documents, even after being warned that doing so
was improper and in violation of Rule 11. See (Docs.
3, 29, 37, 50, 85, 125) (warnings); (Docs. 19, 36, 44, 67,
89, 110, 113) (stricken documents). Bentz has also filed
notices to the Court stating that the plaintiffs in this
action signed the original Complaint (Doc. 1). See
(Docs. 71, 122). He claims that he lost the declaration page
with those signatures and filed the original Complaint
without realizing it was absent. (Doc. 122). His claims do
not address the aforementioned plaintiffs' claims that
Bentz added them to this action without their permission,
forged their signatures, and/or used their signatures on a
filing that they did not have an opportunity to review.
Bentz has been warned recently that sanctions would be
imposed against him for attempting to deceive the Court.
Bentz v. Maue, Case No. 16-cv-1349-DRH (S.D. Ill.
Feb. 10, 2017) (“Maue 2017”), Doc.
In fact, in Maue 2017, the Court outlined two recent
instances that Bentz appeared to have attempted to deceive
the Court. The first occurred in Bentz v. Maue,
16-cv-854 (S.D. Ill. Sept. 22, 2016) (“Maue
2016”), which was dismissed with prejudice for reasons
that included Plaintiff making false allegations regarding
his financial status in his Motion to Proceed In Forma
second attempt at deception took place in Maue 2017.
In that case, the complaint was severed, and Plaintiff Bentz
received a strike pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g).
Maue 2017, Doc. 6. Bentz then filed a motion for
reconsideration claiming that he intended the complaint in
Maue 2017 to be filed as an amended complaint in
Maue 2016. Maue 2017, Doc. 10. The Court
found that those arguments were entirely unfounded and
contradicted by the complaint itself. See Maue 2017,
Doc. 11. The Court also noted that Bentz appeared to be