United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MICHAEL ASAD VILLAGRAN, #834583, and DENZIL LAWRENCE, Plaintiffs,
BRUCE WILLIAMS, WILL MILLER, and CHESTER MENTAL HEALTH CENTER, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
M. YANDLE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the Court for case management. The Complaint
(Doc. 1) was filed by two individuals who are in custody at
Chester Mental Health Center (“Chester”).
Together, they filed a Complaint that sets forth claims
against three defendants for retaliation, discrimination, and
due process violations. (Doc. 1).
Villāgrān signed the Complaint and filed a Motion
to Proceed In Forma Pauperis (“IFP”)
(Doc. 1, pp. 6-7); (Doc. 2). Plaintiff Lawrence did not sign
the Complaint, nor has he filed an IFP Motion or paid the
filing fee for this action. Under the circumstances, the
Court deems it necessary to address several preliminary
matters before completing a review of this case pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 1915A.
Litigation by Multiple Prisoners
may bring their claims jointly in a single lawsuit if they so
desire. However, the Court must admonish them as to 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 inmate Complaints. District courts are
required to accept joint Complaints filed by multiple inmates
if the criteria for 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.” Nevertheless,
a district court may turn to other civil rules to manage a
multi-plaintiff case. For example, 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.
reconciling the Prisoner Litigation Reform Act with Rule 20,
the Seventh Circuit determined that joint litigation does not
relieve any inmate 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 inmate in a
joint action is required to pay a full civil filing fee, just
as if he had filed the suit individually.
Seventh Circuit identified at least two other reasons an
inmate 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 two times greater
than if there was a single plaintiff.
an inmate 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. According to the
Seventh Circuit, an inmate 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, the unrelated claims may be severed
into one or more new cases. If that occurs, the plaintiffs
will be liable for another full filing fee for each new case.
not every inmate is likely to be aware of the potential
negative consequences of joining group litigation in federal
courts, the Seventh Circuit suggested in Boriboune
that district courts alert prisoners to the individual
payment requirement, as well as the other risks prisoner
pro se litigants face in joint pro se
litigation, and “give them an opportunity to drop
out.” Id. at 856. Therefore, in keeping with
this suggestion, since the Court designates Plaintiff
Villāgrān as the lead plaintiff in this case, the
Court offers Plaintiff Lawrence an opportunity to withdraw
from this litigation before the case progresses further.
Plaintiff Lawrence may wish to take into consideration the
following factors 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 ...