United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
JEFFREY COLEMAN, No. 13853-028, RANDALL A. MILLER, QUINCY O. EDWARDS, JOSEPH K. RANDER, JAMAR JONES, and ANDREW DUNK, Plaintiffs,
U.S. MARSHAL SERVICE, and RANDY COBB Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Phil Gilbert United States District Judge
matter is before the Court for case management. Plaintiff
Coleman filed the instant action naming himself and five
other individuals as Plaintiffs, all of whom are incarcerated
at White County Jail (“Jail”). However, only
Coleman signed the Complaint. Additionally, Coleman is the
only Plaintiff to file an IFP Motion. (Doc. 3). The Complaint
alleges Defendants have violated Plaintiffs' rights by
subjecting them to unconstitutional conditions of confinement
and by providing an unhealthy diet. Before the Court
addresses the need for additional signatures on the
Complaint, it is necessary to deal with some preliminary
matters related to the attempt to jointly file this case as a
group action including multiple plaintiffs.
Litigation by Multiple Prisoners
may bring their claims jointly in a single lawsuit if they so
desire. However, the Court must caution them regarding the
consequences of proceeding in this manner, including their
filing fee obligations, and give them the opportunity to
withdraw from the case or sever their claims into individual
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 individually.
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 two 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, each plaintiff will be
liable for another full filing fee for each new case.
Plaintiffs may wish to take this ruling into account in
determining whether to assume the risks of group litigation
in the federal courts of the Seventh Circuit.
it appears that Coleman drafted the Complaint, as he is the
only individual to have signed the pleading and to have
submitted an IFP Motion. Therefore, the Court will designate
him as the “lead” Plaintiff in this case. The
non-lead Plaintiffs (Miller, Edwards, Rander, Jones, and
Dunk) will be given an opportunity to withdraw from this
litigation before the case progresses further. Each non-lead
Plaintiff may wish to take the following into consideration
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 ...