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Seals v. Karimi

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

January 13, 2020

ROBERT SEALS, WILLIAM WIKS, KENNADO K. TAYLOR, DARNELL TUCKER, JAYERYON COWFORD, [1]RAY DAVIS, TERVEL TODROV, and LOYS A. MASER, Plaintiff,
v.
DR. KARIMI, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court sua sponte for case management. Plaintiffs Seals, Wiks, Tucker, Cowford, Davis, Todrov, and Maser, who are currently held at Chester Mental Health Center (“Chester”), and Plaintiff Taylor, who is currently held at Sangamon County Jail, bring this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101-213, and the Rehabilitation Act regarding the treatment they received at Chester. (Doc. 1). Plaintiffs seek monetary damages and to proceed as a class 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.

         Signatures

         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 eight Plaintiffs in this case, but only seven have signed the Complaint-Seals, Wiks, Cowford, Davis, Todrov, Tucker, and Maser; only two Plaintiffs have filed Motions for Leave to Proceed in forma pauperis (IFP Motion)- Seals and Taylor (Docs. 2, 3); and a Motion for Recruitment of Counsel has been filed by Cowford containing two signatures (Doc. 5), but it is unclear which other Plaintiff has signed the motion seeking counsel. Because Plaintiff Taylor has not complied with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11, the Court will order Plaintiff Taylor to submit a properly signed Complaint. Furthermore, Plaintiffs Wiks, Cowford, Davis, Tucker, Todrov, and Maser will be ordered to submit either 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, pp. 1, 7). “[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) (“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[.]” (quoting Craig v. Cohn, 80 F.Supp.2d 944, 946 (N.D. Ind. 2000)) (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. But 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 these 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 Wiks, Taylor, Cowford, Davis, Todrov, Tucker, and Maser an opportunity to withdraw from this litigation before the case progresses further.[2] 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 ...

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