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Regassa v. Sanders

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

April 26, 2018

ADMASSU REGASSA, 09303-007, Plaintiff,
v.
K. SANDERS, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          J. Phil Gilbert U.S. District Judge.

         Plaintiff Admassu Regassa, presently incarcerated at the United States Penitentiary in Petersburg, Virginia, brings this pro se action for deprivations of his constitutional rights by persons acting under the color of federal authority pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Agents of the Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). Plaintiff also references the Federal Torts Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. §§ 1346, 2671-2680 and tort law. Plaintiff's claims pertain to his prior incarceration at the United States Penitentiary in Marion, Illinois (“USP-Marion”).

         Plaintiff's original 87-page Complaint, which included 214 pages of exhibits and directed claims against 116 defendants at three different institutions, did not survive preliminary review. (Doc. 14). Thereafter, Plaintiff timely filed a First Amended Complaint. (Docs. 16 and 16-1). Although the amended pleading appears to limit Plaintiff's claims to a single institution (USP-Marion), the 91-page complaint, [1] which includes 428 pages of exhibits and directs claims against 88 defendants, suffers from the same deficiencies as the original Complaint.

         This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the First Amended Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Under § 1915A, the Court is required to screen prisoner complaints to filter out non-meritorious claims. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must dismiss any portion of the complaint that is legally frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or asks for money damages from a defendant who by law is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

         Although the Court is obligated to accept factual allegations as true, see Smith v. Peters, 631 F.3d 418, 419 (7th Cir. 2011), some factual allegations may be so sketchy or implausible that they fail to provide sufficient notice of a plaintiff's claim. Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 581 (7th Cir. 2009). In addition, the factual allegations in the complaint must be sufficient to raise the possibility of relief above the “speculative level.” E.E.O.C. v. Concentra Health Servs., Inc., 496 F.3d 773, 776 (7th Cir. 2007) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). “A pleading that offers ‘labels and conclusions' or a ‘formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.' ” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). See also Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 581 (7th Cir. 2009) (courts “should not accept as adequate abstract recitations of the elements of a cause of action or conclusory legal statements”).

         In order to state a claim, a complaint must also comply with Rule 8 by providing “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Moreover, “[e]ach allegation must be simple, concise, and direct.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(d)(1). The primary purpose of these pleading requirements is to give defendants fair notice of the claims against them and the grounds supporting the claims. Killingsworth v. HSBC Bank Nev., N.A., 507 F.3d 614, 618 (7th Cir. 2007) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)). See also United States ex rel. Garst v. Lockheed-Martin Corp., 328 F.3d 374, 378 (7th Cir. 2003) (“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.”).

         “[U]ndue length alone ordinarily does not justify the dismissal of an otherwise valid complaint.” Standard v. Nygren, 658 F.3d 792, 797 (7th Cir. 2011). However, “[l]ength may make a complaint unintelligible[ ] by scattering and concealing in a morass of irrelevancies the few allegations that matter.” United States ex rel. Garst v. Lockheed-Martin Corp., 328 F.3d 374, 378 (7th Cir. 2003). “Again, the issue is notice; where the lack of organization and basic coherence renders a complaint too confusing to determine the facts that constitute the alleged wrongful conduct, dismissal is an appropriate remedy.” Standard, 658 F.3d at 798. For example, in Garst, the Seventh Circuit “affirmed the dismissal of a 155-page, 400-paragraph complaint that would have forced the defendants to spend countless hours ‘fishing' for the few relevant allegations.” Id. citing Garst, 328 F.3d at 378. Thus, a complaint is appropriately dismissed if it presents a “vague, confusing, and conclusory articulation of the factual and legal basis for the claim and take[s] a general ‘kitchen sink' approach to pleading the case. Such complaints frustrate Rule 8's objective: ‘framing the issues and providing the basis for informed pretrial proceedings.' ” Cincinnate Life Ins. Co. v. Beyrer, 722 F.3d 939, 946-47 (7th Cir. 2013) (quoting Stanard, 658 F.3d at 797-98) (internal brackets omitted). See also Kadamovas v. Stevens, 706 F.3d 843, 844 (7th Cir. 2013) (“District judges are busy, and therefore have a right to dismiss a complaint that is so long that it imposes an undue burden on the judge, to the prejudice of other litigants seeking the judge's attention.”).

         Original Complaint

         In dismissing Plaintiff's original Complaint, the Court explained why Plaintiff's claims failed to meet basic pleading requirements:

The allegations in the Complaint refer to a broad range of claims with little or no elaboration. Often, the allegations are little more than conclusory legal statements and vague references to constitutional violations. In most instances, Plaintiff generally claims that large groups of individuals are subject to liability for violating his rights, but fails to describe how each individual was personally involved in the alleged violation. This style of pleading violates Rule 8. See Vicom, Inc. v. Harbridge Merch. Serv., Inc., 20 F.3d 771, 775-76 (7th Cir.1994) (quoting Wade v. Hopper, 993 F.2d 1246, 1249 (7th Cir.) (citations omitted), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 868 (1993)) (“Under Rule 8, a complaint ‘must be presented with intelligibility sufficient for a court or opposing party to understand whether a valid claim is alleged and if so what it is.' ”). Moreover, even when specific conduct is associated with specific individuals, the allegations fall short of stating a constitutional violation.
The Complaint is also problematic under Rule 8 for its length (87 typewritten pages and 214 pages of exhibits) and impractical number of defendants (116). Here, the length of the Complaint is problematic because the few potentially viable allegations are scattered and concealed in “a morass of irrelevancies, ” making the Complaint unintelligible. See United States ex rel. Garst v. Lockheed-Martin Corp., 328 F.3d 374, 378 (7th Cir. 2003).
Given the above pleading deficiencies, the Court cannot discern what claims are being asserted as to each of the 116 defendants.

(Doc. 14, p. 9).

         First ...


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