United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin
THOMAS W. ZACH, Plaintiff,
SCOTT HETH, ROBERT SCHENCK, TROY HERMANS, SECURITY GUARD HANSEN, R.N. GRAY, SECURITY GUARD TRAAS, SECURITY GUARD KOHLOFF, MS. JACKIE, ANN KRUEGER, WELCOME ROSE, CHARLES COLE, CHARLES FACKTOR, KAREN GOURLIE, MS. CHRISTIAN, BECKY RASMUSSEN, and at least one JOHN DOE AND JANE DOE, Defendants.
OPINION & ORDER
D. PETERSON DISTRICT JUDGE.
Thomas W. Zach, a former Wisconsin Department of Corrections
inmate appearing pro se, has filed this proposed civil action
about prison officials retaliating against him in various
ways while he was incarcerated. In particular, he alleges
that they withdrew funds to pay for restitution even though
his sentencing court did not order those funds to be
withdrawn, and that they made him sleep on an unsafe upper
bunk even though they knew that he had limited mobility
following a back injury. The court has already concluded that
Zach may proceed in forma pauperis in this case
without prepayment of any portion of the $350 filing fee.
next step is for the court to screen Zach's complaint and
dismiss any portion that is legally frivolous, malicious,
fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or
asks for monetary damages from a defendant who by law cannot
be sued for money damages. 28 U.S.C. § 1915. In
screening a pro se litigant's complaint, I must read the
allegations of the complaint generously, Haines v.
Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972) (per curiam), and
accept Zach's allegations as true, Bonte v. U.S.
Bank, N.A., 624 F.3d 461, 463 (7th Cir. 2010).
reviewing the complaint with these principles in mind, I
conclude that Zach's 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 Zach's complaint, but I will give him a chance to
file an amended complaint that fixes these problems.
identifies fifteen people as defendants and at least one
“John Doe” defendant. His allegations generally
fit into two categories:
• Prison officials withdrew money from his prison
account even though his sentencing court did not order such
• Prison officials forced him to sleep on an unsafe
upper bunk even though he had limited mobility after a back
injury. He fell off the bunk and was injured.
conclude that Zach's allegations, at least as they are
presently written, violate Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
20, and many of his allegations violate Rule 8 as well. 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. 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.
allegations do not meet these standards. At best, his
allegations might properly belong in two separate
lawsuits-one about the withdrawal of funds and the other
about being forced to sleep on an unsafe upper bunk. But 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
state officials named as defendants without amending his
complaint to explain how each separate event is related and
how each defendant was involved.
the major problems with the complaint is that at many points
Zach provides lists of defendants he says are responsible for
depriving his rights in a certain way, but he does not
actually say what each defendant did to harm him. The other
major problem is that, as with one of his previous lawsuits,
Zach attempts to connect his various allegations together by
saying that all of defendants' alleged misdeeds are the
result of prison officials' organized effort to retaliate
against him for filing previous lawsuits. See Zach v.
Beahm, No. 13-cv-849-bbc (W.D. Wis. Mar. 13, 2014).
state a claim for retaliation under the First Amendment, a
plaintiff must identify (1) the constitutionally protected
activity in which he was engaged; (2) one or more retaliatory
actions taken by the defendant that would deter a person of
“ordinary firmness” from engaging in the
protected activity; and (3) sufficient facts to make it
plausible to infer that the plaintiff's protected
activity was one of the reasons defendant took the action he
did against him. Bridges v. Gilbert, 557 F.3d 541,
556 (7th Cir. 2009). But as with his previous lawsuit,
Zach's allegations of retaliation are so vague that they
fail to state a claim and thus cannot serve to connect his
various underlying claims together under Rule 20. “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).
give Zach a short time to submit an amended complaint that
complies with these rules. He should draft his amended
complaint as if he were telling a story to people who know
nothing about his situation. In particular, he should avoid
listing the names of several defendants and vaguely alleging
that they violated his rights. Instead, he should explain
what each defendant specifically did to violate his rights.
And if he would still like to bring all of his claims
together, he will need to explain how he knows that each
defendant is retaliating against him, and how he knows that
they are working together.
is unable to provide allegations explaining how each of the
two categories of claims belong together, he will have to
choose one set of allegations to pursue in this lawsuit, and
then explain whether he would like to pursue the other set in
a brand-new lawsuit, ...