Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Felton v. Sheriff

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

June 27, 2019

TROY F. FELTON, #0926198242, DAVID A. KIFER, #1002196075, TYLER NEAL JOHNSON, #201391 Plaintiff,



         This matter is before the Court sua sponte for case management. Plaintiffs Troy Felton, David Kifer, and Tyler Neal Johnson, who are currently held at the Jefferson County Justice Center, bring this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for the alleged illegal transfer of inmates from Vanderburgh County Jail in Indiana to Jefferson County Justice Center in Illinois, which has resulted in inadequate amount of food and legal materials, as well as unreasonable prices for medical services and commissary items and poison being sprayed in the cell blocks for pest control. (Doc. 1). Plaintiffs seek injunctive relief. 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.


         As an initial matter, it is unclear whether Plaintiffs intend to bring their claims jointly. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11(a) requires every pleading, written motion, and other paper to be signed by “a party personally if the party is unrepresented.” A non-attorney cannot file papers for another litigant. There are three plaintiffs in this case, Felton, Kifer, and Johnson, but only Felton has signed the Complaint. A week after the Complaint was filed, a Motion for Emergency Preliminary Injunction (Doc. 5) and a Supplement to the Complaint (Doc. 6) were filed, however, neither document is signed by any of the Plaintiffs. Additionally, only Plaintiff Felton has submitted a Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis (“IFP”). (Doc. 2). Because Plaintiffs Kifer and Johnson have not complied with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11, the Court will order Plaintiffs Kifer and Johnson to submit properly signed Complaints, along with IFP Motions or filing fees, or risk dismissal from the action.

         The Court also notes that the Complaint states that this is a class action, but no motion for class certification has been filed. (Doc. 1, p. 1). “[U]ntil certification there is no class action but merely the prospect of one; the only action is the suit by the named plaintiffs.” Morlan v. Universal Guar. Life Ins. Co., 298 F.3d 609, 616 (7th Cir.2002)). Even if a motion had been filed, however, the motion would be subject to denial because a prisoner bringing a pro se action cannot represent a class of plaintiffs. See Lee v. Gardinez, No. 11-cv-570-GPM, 2012 WL 143612, at *1 n.1 (S.D. Ill., Jan. 18, 2012; Craig v. Cohn, 80 F.Supp.2d 944, 946 (N.D. Ind. 2000)(“Every court that has considered the issue has held that a prisoner proceeding pro se is inadequate to represent the interests of his fellow inmates in a class action) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted)).

         Group Litigation by Multiple Prisoners

         Plaintiffs may bring their claims jointly in a single lawsuit if they so desire. However, the Court must advise them of the consequences of proceeding in this manner, including their filing fee obligations, and give them an opportunity to withdraw from the case or sever their claims into individual actions.

         The Seventh Circuit addressed the difficulties in administering group prisoner Complaints in Boriboune v. Berge, 391 F.3d 852 (7th Cir. 2004). 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 rules of civil procedure 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 decision 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.

         Additionally, 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.

         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 for filing motions, briefs, or other papers will be twice as much as that of a single plaintiff.

         Second, 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. On the other hand, a prisoner litigating jointly assumes those risks for all of the claims in the group Complaint, whether or not they concern him personally. Also, 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, each of which involves an additional filing fee obligation and the risk of a “strike” within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g). Plaintiffs may wish to consider Boriboune and the afore-mentioned factors in determining whether to assume the risks of group litigation.

         Because not every prisoner 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. In keeping with this suggestion, the Court offers Plaintiffs Kifer and Johnson an opportunity to withdraw from this litigation before the case progresses further.[1] Each Plaintiff may wish to take into consideration the following points 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 ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.