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Henderson v. Walker

United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin

December 14, 2016

TITUS HENDERSON, Plaintiff,
v.
SCOTT WALKER, MIKE HUEBSCH, DOUGLAS LAFOLLETTE, CARLO ESQUEDA, LORETTA LYNCH, JOHN VANDRIEUL, GLENN FINE, ELLEN RAY, BARBARA CRABB, EDWARD WALL, GARY BOUGHTON, LEBEUS BROWN, DAVID GARDNER, WILLIAM BROWN, TAMMY DICKMAN, KATHRYN ANDERSON, STACEY HOEM, DIANE ALDERSON, STEPHANIE BROWN, JONI S. SHARPE, MARY TAYLOR, TRACEY GERBER, and TIMOTHY HAINES, Defendants.

          OPINION & ORDER

          JAMES D. PETERSON District Judge.

         Plaintiff Titus Henderson, an inmate at the Waupun Correctional Institution, brings this lawsuit alleging that various state and federal officials have blocked him from fully litigating lawsuits, and have retaliated and discriminated against him in several ways. Henderson has made an initial partial payment of the filing fee, as previously directed by the court.

         The next step in this case is to screen the complaint. In doing so, I must dismiss any portion 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 cannot be sued for money damages. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915 and 1915A. Because Henderson is a pro se litigant, I must read his allegations generously. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 521 (1972) (per curiam).

         After reviewing the complaint with these principles in mind, I conclude that Henderson's lengthy, vague allegations violate Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 8 and 20, because he does not explain how each of his claims belong in the same lawsuit and how each defendant was involved in violating his rights. I will dismiss Henderson's complaint, but I will give him a chance to file an amended complaint that fixes these problems.

         Henderson's complaint suffers from the same problem as other cases he has filed in this court, see Henderson v. Raemisch, No. 09-cv-170-bbc (W.D. Wis.), and Henderson v. Raemisch, No. 08-cv-390-bbc (W.D. Wis.). The complaint contains about 180 numbered allegations against 23 named defendants, and it appears to combine numerous unrelated claims. Most of these allegations are very vague, and do not explain what each defendant did to violate his rights. Rather, he names several defendants in each individual allegation, even though it is highly unlikely that several different state or federal officials took each action that harmed him.

         Henderson's allegations can be summarized as follows:

● Henderson's right to access the courts has been violated by (1) state and federal laws regulating how inmates pay filing fees, exhaust administrative remedies, make open records requests, conduct discovery, access electronic filing methods, and receive legal loans; and by (2) various state and federal officials' actions blocking him from litigating cases.

● State officials discriminate and retaliate against Henderson and other black inmates for challenging their convictions or prison sentences. Henderson says that defendants have Dated this by disciplining him, denying him parole, placing him in “supermax” conditions, contaminating his food, exposing him to an inmate with a communicable disease, refusing to hire black staff, and impeding his litigation.

         At least as presently written, I conclude that Henderson's allegations violate Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 8 and 20. Rule 8(a)(2) requires a complaint to include “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Under Rule 8(d), “each allegation must be simple, concise, and direct.” The primary purpose of these rules is fair notice. 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.” Vicom, Inc. v. Harbridge Merchant Serv's, Inc., 20 F.3d 771, 775 (7th Cir. 1994). Under Rule 20, defendants cannot be joined together in a lawsuit unless the claims asserted against them arise out of the same occurrence or series of occurrences.

         Henderson's vague allegations do not meet these standards. At best, his allegations might properly belong in two separate lawsuits-one about his access to courts and one about retaliation. Even if he picks one of the two sets of claims listed above, he will not be able to proceed on claims against each of the named state and federal officials named as defendants without amending his complaint to explain how each separate event is related and how each defendant was involved.

         The bulk of Henderson's claims center around several lawsuits he says he has lost because of onerous state or federal statues aimed at restricting prisoner litigation and because of officials' actions to restrict his litigation. Unless Henderson can explain a connection between each lost lawsuit, it is likely that these allegations will need to be broken up as well into smaller lawsuits. The various incidents described in Henderson's complaint are alleged to have taken place over a period of 12 years, which also makes it unlikely that they are all connected.

         Similar to case no. 09-cv-170-bbc, Henderson attempts to bring all of his allegations together by saying that all of the defendants are racially discriminating against him and other black prisoners. This court addressed Henderson's similar conspiracy allegations in the '170 case:

At this point, the facts alleged in plaintiff's complaint do not allow the inference to be drawn that more than 60 separate employees of the Wisconsin Department of Corrections, including the Secretary, administrative staff, the warden of the Wisconsin Secure Program Facility, medical staff and dozens of guards and supervisors, as well as prison employee union officials, plotted together to violate plaintiff's constitutional rights. “A suit stuffed with allegations that the plaintiff has been subjected to a variety of constitutional violations without some hint of a basis for plaintiff's belief that a genuine conspiracy exists will not suffice to satisfy the requirements of Rule 20.” Wine v. Thurmer, 2008 WL 1777264, *6 (W.D. Wis. Apr. 16, 2008).

Dkt. 28 in the '170 case, at 5.

         The same holds true for this case. Henderson simply does not explain how each of the many events mentioned in his complaint are tied ...


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