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Coleman v. U.S. Marshal Service

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

March 26, 2018

JEFFREY COLEMAN, No. 13853-028, RANDALL A. MILLER, and ANDREW DUNK, Plaintiffs,
v.
U.S. MARSHAL SERVICE, and RANDY COBB Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          J. Phil Gilbert United States District Judge.

         This matter is before the Court for case management and for preliminary review of the Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Plaintiff Jeffrey Coleman filed the instant action naming himself and five other individuals as plaintiffs. At the time of filing, all of the Plaintiffs were incarcerated at White County Jail (“Jail”). Initially, with the exception of Coleman, none of the Plaintiffs signed the Complaint or submitted an IFP motion.

         On December 18, 2017, the Court entered a preliminary order pursuant to Boriboune v. Berge, 391 F.3d 852 (7th Cir. 2004) (“Boriboune Order”). (Doc. 5). In it, each plaintiff, aside from the lead plaintiff Coleman, was ordered to advise the Court in writing, no later than January 15, 2018, whether he wished to pursue his claims in group litigation. The Court also ordered each non-lead plaintiff who wanted to continue in this group action to submit a signed copy of the Complaint on or before the January 15, 2018 deadline.

         The deadline passed with varying responses. Accordingly, on February 1, 2018, the Court entered a second case management order. (Doc. 16). In it, Plaintiffs Edwards and Rander were dismissed from the action based on their failure to timely respond to the Boriboune Order. Plaintiff Jones was also dismissed, after responding to the Boriboune Order and indicating that he did not wish to proceed with this group litigation. Plaintiffs Miller and Dunk submitted incomplete responses. Therefore, the Court allowed Miller and Dunk a brief extension, until February 15, 2018, in which to comply with the Boriboune Order. To date, both Miller and Dunk have asked to remain parties to this group action, have submitted signed complaints, and have filed IFP motions. (See Docs. 7, 9, 17, 18, and 21).

         Despite the above, as an 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 must file an amended complaint in his separate case because the Complaint (Doc. 1) does not survive screening under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

         Background

         Only three plaintiffs remain in this action: (1) lead plaintiff Coleman; (2) non-lead plaintiff Miller; and (3) non-lead plaintiff Dunk. The Complaint was filed by Coleman, purportedly on behalf of himself and 5 other individuals who, at that time of filing, were in custody at the Jail. (Doc. 1). It appears that Miller and Dunk are still in custody at the Jail. Coleman, however, is presently in custody at FCI McDowell in the Southern District of West Virginia. (Doc. 22).

         The Complaint includes three sets of claims: (1) claims pertaining to recreational/exercise opportunities and cell conditions; (2) claims pertaining to food served at the Jail; and (3) claims pertaining to law library access. For the most part, the allegations in the first set of claims are associated with a single plaintiff, presumably Coleman, the apparent author of the Complaint (e.g., “plaintiff has been incarcerated at White County Jail for numerous months” and “plaintiff is forced to breathe in recycled air”). However, these claims occasionally reference a group of individuals (e.g., “we have not been permitted to engage in recreational activities”). The allegations in the second set of claims are primarily associated with Coleman. The allegations in the third set of claims are associated with “plaintiffs” in general.

         Cell Conditions

         According to the Complaint, Coleman was housed in a cell with eight other inmates that was approximately the size of a single car garage. (Doc. 1, p. 5). Coleman claims that it was difficult to exercise or stretch in his cell and that, as a result, he suffered from neck, back, and leg pain. Id. Coleman also claims that the cell lacked fresh air and that the lack of fresh air exacerbated his asthma. Id. Finally, Coleman alleges that, during his time at the Jail, he and other federal inmates were not allowed to engage in out of cell recreational activities. Id. When Coleman inquired about participating in recreational activities, Cobb (the Jail Administrator) told him the head of the United States Marshal Service said that federal inmates were not allowed to participate in recreational activities. Id. It is unclear whether Miller and Dunk were subjected to the same complained of conditions.

         Diet at the Jail

         Coleman complains that the Jail diet consists of overly processed foods and is devoid of fresh food such as fruit. (Doc. 1, p. 7). According to the Complaint, the lack of variety in the Jail diet violates state rules that require county jails to rotate the menu every ninety days. Id. Coleman filed grievances with Cobb regarding the diet, but did not receive a response. Id. Coleman also blames the United States Marshal Service for the allegedly inadequate diet because this agency is supposed to provide county jails with funds to ensure that the needs of federal prisoners are met. (Doc. 1, p. 8).

         Law Library Access

         Coleman generally claims that the rights of “plaintiffs” are being violated because the Jail does not have a law library. (Doc. 1, p. 9). Coleman states that, even though referenced plaintiffs are represented by counsel, they need access to a law library because their attorneys are often overworked and/or make mistakes. Id. Coleman claims the United States Marshals are aware of the law library issues but have not done anything to correct the problem. Id.

         28 U.S.C. § 1915A

         The 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 such relief.

         An 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. 2009).

         Dismissal of ...


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