United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin
JOHN J. CASTELLANO, Plaintiff,
REBECCA MAHIN and WISCONSIN DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS DIVISION OF COMMUNITY CORRECTIONS, Defendants. v.
Stadtmueller U.S. District Judge.
John J. Castellano, who is incarcerated at Racine
Correctional Institution, proceeds in this matter pro
se. He filed a complaint alleging that the defendants
violated his constitutional rights. (Docket #1). This matter
comes before the court on Plaintiff's petition to proceed
without prepayment of the filing fee (in forma
pauperis). (Docket #2). Plaintiff has been assessed and
paid an initial partial filing fee of $1.35. See 28
U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1).
court shall screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking
relief against a governmental entity or an officer or
employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a).
The court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if the
prisoner has raised claims that are legally “frivolous
or malicious, ” that fail to state a claim upon which
relief may be granted, or that seek monetary relief from a
defendant who is immune from such relief. Id. §
is legally frivolous when it lacks an arguable basis either
in law or in fact. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25,
31 (1992); Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325
(1989); Hutchinson ex rel. Baker v. Spink, 126 F.3d
895, 900 (7th Cir. 1997). The court may, therefore, dismiss a
claim as frivolous where it is based on an indisputably
meritless legal theory or where the factual contentions are
clearly baseless. Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327.
“Malicious, ” although sometimes treated as a
synonym for “frivolous, ” “is more usefully
construed as intended to harass.” Lindell v.
McCallum, 352 F.3d 1107, 1109-10 (7th Cir. 2003)
state a cognizable claim under the federal notice pleading
system, the plaintiff is required to provide a “short
and plain statement of the claim showing that [he] is
entitled to relief[.]” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). It is not
necessary for the plaintiff to plead specific facts and his
statement need only “give the defendant fair notice of
what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it
rests.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S.
41, 47 (1957)). However, a complaint that offers mere
“labels and conclusions” or a “formulaic
recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not
do.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
(2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). To state
a claim, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter,
accepted as true, “that is plausible on its
face.” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S.
at 570). “A claim has facial plausibility when the
plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citing
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). The complaint's
allegations “must be enough to raise a right to relief
above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550
U.S. at 555 (citation omitted).
considering whether a complaint states a claim, courts should
follow the principles set forth in Twombly by first,
“identifying pleadings that, because they are no more
than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of
truth.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. Legal
conclusions must be supported by factual allegations.
Id. If there are well-pleaded factual allegations,
the court must, second, “assume their veracity and then
determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement
to relief.” Id.
state a claim for relief under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983, a
plaintiff must allege that: 1) he was deprived of a right
secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States; and
2) the deprivation was visited upon him by a person or
persons acting under color of state law. Buchanan-Moore
v. County of Milwaukee, 570 F.3d 824, 827 (7th Cir.
2009) (citing Kramer v. Village of North Fond du
Lac, 384 F.3d 856, 861 (7th Cir. 2004)); see also
Gomez v. Toledo, 446 U.S. 635, 640 (1980). The court is
obliged to give the plaintiff's pro se
allegations, “however inartfully pleaded, ” a
liberal construction. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551
U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429
U.S. 97, 106 (1976)).
submissions total over three-hundred pages, including an
eighty-one page complaint. See (Docket #1 and #9).
The general tenor of the complaint is twofold: 1) Plaintiff
believes that he was defamed by a psychiatrist involved in
his sex offender rehabilitation program, leading to his
probation revocation carried through by Defendant Rebecca
Mahin (“Mahin”), and 2) Plaintiff does not like
repercussions of his conditions of probation and his status
as a sex offender. See generally (Docket #1). Though
Mahin is the only individual defendant named, his allegations
seem to find fault with the actions of many others, including
those employed by the entity defendant, the Wisconsin
Department of Corrections. Id. The precise scope of
his claims is not helpfully clarified by the “relief
requested” portion either; most of the desired relief
comes from persons not named as defendants. See Id.
at 63-78. Much of the complaint wastes space with repetitive
statements of similar allegations. See generally id.
not the first time Plaintiff has advanced these concerns. In
September 2016, he filed an extremely similar complaint.
See Castellano v. Spotts, 16-CV-1248-JPS, (Docket
#1). In reviewing the initial and amended complaints in that
case, the Court repeatedly informed Plaintiff that his claims
included far too many unrelated defendants and that many of
the claims he attempts to advance here are not viable.
See Id. at (Docket #10, #12, and #14). He appears to
be aware of these rules, as he cites those orders in the
instant complaint, though he has largely ignored them.
current complaint is not viable for two reasons. First, if
Plaintiff seeks to assert claims against the many persons
named in the complaint, though not identified as defendants,
it violates the George principle. Namely, under the
controlling principle of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
(“FRCP”) 18(a), “[u]nrelated claims against
different defendants belong in different suits” so as
to prevent prisoners from dodging the fee payment or three
strikes provisions in the Prison Litigation Reform Act.
George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 607 (7th Cir. 2007).
Specifically, FRCP 18(a) provides that a “party
asserting a claim, counterclaim, crossclaim, or third-party
claim may join, as independent or alternate claims, as many
claims as it has against an opposing party.” Under this
rule, “multiple claims against a single party are fine,
but Claim A against Defendant 1 should not be joined with
unrelated Claim B against Defendant 2.”
George, 507 F.3d at 607.
and more importantly, Plaintiff's complaint violates
another pleading rule, FRCP 8. This Rule states that a
pleading must contain a “short and plain statement of
the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to
relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2) (emphasis added). Courts
must enforce this Rule when complaints are so long that they
become unintelligible, thereby failing to give the defendants
fair notice of claims asserted against them. Lindell v.
McCallum, 352 F.3d 1107, 1110 (7th Cir. 2003); Paul
v. Marberry, 658 F.3d 702, 705 (7th Cir. 2011). As noted
above, Plaintiff complaint is neither short nor plain,
including wide-ranging allegations include many other beyond
the named Defendants.
Court will permit Plaintiff the opportunity to correct these
deficiencies in his pleading. If he chooses to offer an
amended complaint, Plaintiff must do so no later than June
20, 2017. The amended complaint supersedes the prior
complaint and must be complete in itself without reference to
the original complaint. See Duda v. Bd. of Educ. of
Franklin Park Pub. Sch. Dist. No. 84, 133 F.3d 1054,
1056-57 (7th Cir. 1998). In Duda, the Seventh
Circuit emphasized that in such instances, the “prior
pleading is in effect withdrawn as to all matters not
restated in the amended pleading[.]” Id. at
1057 (citation omitted); see also Pintado v. Miami-Dade
Housing Agency, 501 F.3d 1241, 1243 (11th Cir. 2007)
(“As a general matter, ‘[a]n amended pleading
supersedes the former pleading; the original pleading is
abandoned by the amendment, and is no longer a part of the
pleader's averments against his adversary.'”)
(quoting Dresdner Bank AG, Dresdner Bank AG in Hamburg v.
M/V OLYMPIA VOYAGER, 463 F.3d 1210, 1215 (11th Cir.
2006)). If an amended complaint is received, it will be
screened pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.
IT IS ORDERED that the plaintiff's motion for leave to
proceed without prepayment of the filing fee (in forma
pauperis) (Docket #2) be and the same is hereby GRANTED;
FURTHER ORDERED that on or before June 20, 2017, the
plaintiff shall file an amended pleading curing the defects