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Castellano v. Mahin

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

May 30, 2017

JOHN J. CASTELLANO, Plaintiff,
v.
REBECCA MAHIN and WISCONSIN DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS DIVISION OF COMMUNITY CORRECTIONS, Defendants. v.

          ORDER

          J. P. Stadtmueller U.S. District Judge.

         Plaintiff 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).

         The 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. § 1915A(b).

         A claim 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) (citations omitted).

         To 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).

         In 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.

         To 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)).

         Plaintiff's 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.

         This is 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.

         Plaintiff's 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.

         Second 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.

         The 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.

         Accordingly, 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;

         IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that on or before June 20, 2017, the plaintiff shall file an amended pleading curing the defects ...


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