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Kammeyer v. True

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

July 31, 2019




         This matter is before the Court sua sponte for case management. The original Complaint in this case (Doc. 1) was filed by pro se plaintiff James Kammeyer, who is currently incarcerated at the United States Penitentiary located in Marion, Illinois (“USP Marion”). In the original Complaint Plaintiff Kammeyer alleged violations of his constitutional rights by persons acting under the color of federal authority that occurred in connection with prison restrictions imposed after several incidents involving drug overdoses. See Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971) and the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”), 28 U.S.C. §§ 1346, 2671 -2680. Following an initial screening of the original Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court dismissed the Complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted and granted Plaintiff Kammeyer leave to file an amended complaint. (Doc. 14).

         On July 23, 2019, Plaintiff Kammeyer along with an additional Plaintiff, Phillip Carrier, filed an amended complaint. (Doc. 15). Both Plaintiffs signed the Amended Complaint. Under the circumstances, the Court deems it necessary to address several preliminary matters before completing a review of the Amended Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

         Group Litigation by Multiple Prisoners

          Plaintiffs may bring their claims jointly in a single lawsuit if they so desire. The Court must advise them of the consequences of proceeding in this manner, however, 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, a 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 Plaintiff Carrier an opportunity to withdraw from this litigation before the case progresses further.[1] Plaintiff Carrier 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 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 may be required to prosecute his claims in a separate action ...

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