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Hyatt v. Portage County Jail

United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin

October 25, 2016

JASON JAMES HYATT, Plaintiff,
v.
PORTAGE COUNTY JAIL, LINCOLN COUNTY JAIL and WAUPACA COUNTY JAIL, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          STEPHEN L. CROCKER Magistrate Judge.

         Pro se plaintiff Jason James Hyatt brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that the Portage County Jail, Lincoln County Jail and Waupaca County Jail each has violated a number of his constitutional rights. Hyatt's complaint is before this court for screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. In addressing any pro se litigant's complaint, the court must construe the allegations generously. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 521 (1972). Even under this lenient standard, however, Hyatt may not proceed with any of his claims at this time because there are a number of problems with his complaint. Accordingly, the court will give Hyatt the opportunity to file an amended complaint that corrects these problems, which I discuss in more detail below. If Hyatt does not file a proper amended complaint, then it is likely that the court will dismiss his lawsuit.

         OPINION

         I. Improper Defendants.

         As a starting point, Hyatt has failed to name any suable defendants in the caption of his complaint. The only defendants he names are the three county jails, but jails are just buildings -- they are not suable entities under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Smith v. Knox County Jail, 666 F.3d 1037, 1040 (7th Cir. 2012). To the extent that Hyatt is seeking money damages, he must name a human defendant who was personally involved in and responsible for the claimed constitutional violations. See Minix v. Canarecci, 597 F.3d 824, 833-34 (7th Cir. 2010) (“individual liability under § 1983 requires ‘personal involvement in the alleged constitutional deprivation'”); brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 580 (7th Cir. 2009). If Hyatt is seeking injunctive relief against the jails, then he must name a high-ranking person at each jail-and name that person in his or her official capacity-who would have the authority to implement the injunction. Will v. Michigan Dept. of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989). Finally, if Hyatt is contending that any alleged constitutional violation occurred as a result of specific policy or custom of the county in whose jail he was being held, then he may sue that relevant county, so long as he can allege specific facts from which this court could infer that it was the county's policy or custom that caused the violation of Hyatt's constitutional rights. See Monell v. Dept. of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 691 (1978). At this point, Hyatt has failed to name any defendants who meet these requirements. This is enough by itself to send the complaint back to Hyatt for a do-over. But there's more:

         II. Rules 8 and 20 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

         Next, Hyatt cannot proceed with his complaint because it violates Rules 8 and 20 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Rule 20 prohibits a plaintiff from asserting unrelated claims against different sets of defendants in the same lawsuit. A plaintiff cannot group a bunch of defendants into one lawsuit unless: (1) the plaintiff states at least one claim for relief against each defendant that arises out of the same transaction or occurrence or the same series of transactions or occurrences; and (2) the plaintiff's claims against these defendants also present questions of law or questions of fact that are common to all of them. George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 607 (7th Cir. 2007).

         In his complaint, Hyatt alleges 18 different types of claims arising out of his detention at three different jails, and he implicates many possible defendants but as already noted, has named no one. In particular, Hyatt alleges that he has been detained pretrial since October 2013 at the Portage County Jail, the Lincoln County Jail and the Waupaca County Jail. Hyatt alleges that while he has been detained at these jails, he has suffered “a variety of deliberate, routine abuses and systematic violations of [his] rights.” (Plt.'s Cpt., dkt. 1, at 3.) Here are the categories of misbehavior by state and county employees that Hyatt alleges:

• The state has refused to preserve evidence relating to his arrest.
• He has been moved between jails unnecessarily.
• His mail has been opened and inspected without his consent.
• He has been denied or deprived of property without sufficient justification.
• He has been denied religious property.
• He has been delayed access to or charged for legal ...

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