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Johnson v. Eckstein

United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin

July 9, 2018

MICHAEL JOHNSON, Plaintiff,
v.
SCOTT ECKSTEIN, JIM SCHWOCHERT, STEVEN SCHUELER, JOHN KIND, MICHAEL SCHULTZ, CHRISTOPHER STEVENS, JAY VAN LANEN, WILLIAM SWIEKATOWSKI, JAMES ELSINGER, DARCY STEVENS, CHRIS HEIL and CPT. BAUMAN, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          BARBARA B. CRABB District Judge.

         Pro se plaintiff Michael Johnson is incarcerated at the Green Bay Correctional Institution. He filed this proposed civil action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, contending that staff at the institution violated his rights under the First, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments in various ways. Because plaintiff is incarcerated, his complaint must be screened under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Also before the court is plaintiff's motion for temporary injunctive relief. Dkt. #9.

         I cannot conduct the required screening because plaintiff's complaint violates Rule 20 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Rule 20 prohibits litigants from bringing unrelated claims against different defendants in a single action. As explained in more detail below, plaintiff's complaint contains four, unrelated lawsuits against various defendants. Accordingly, plaintiff must choose which lawsuit he wishes to pursue as Case No. 18-cv-184- bbc. Once plaintiff has made his selection, I will then screen the relevant claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. The other, unrelated claims will be dismissed without prejudice, which means that plaintiff may bring them in new, separate lawsuits. Plaintiff's motion for temporary injunctive relief will be denied.

         OPINION

         Fed. R. Civ. P. 20 prohibits a plaintiff from asserting unrelated claims against different defendants or sets of defendants in the same lawsuit. Multiple defendants may not be joined in a single action unless the plaintiff: (1) asserts at least one claim to relief against each defendant that arises out of the same transaction or occurrence or series of transactions or occurrences; and (2) presents questions of law or fact common to all. George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 607 (7th Cir. 2007). Plaintiff's complaint includes many claims against different defendants concerning retaliation for refusing to cooperate with prison investigations and for filing inmate complaints, deliberate indifference to a substantial risk of serious harm, due process violations in three different disciplinary hearings, the denial of telephone communication with his family and friends, the conditions of confinement in segregation and the denial of certain religious items necessary to practice his Muslim faith.

         Although Fed.R.Civ.P. 18 allows a party to join unrelated claims against defendants in a single suit, this rule applies only after Rule 20's requirements for joinder of parties have been satisfied. Intercon Research Association, Ltd. v. Dresser Industries, Inc., 696 F.2d 53, 57 (7th Cir. 1983). This means that the core set of allowable defendants must be determined under Rule 20 before a plaintiff may join additional unrelated claims against one or more of those same defendants under Rule 18. Fed.R.Civ.P. 18(a).

         Applying Rules 18 and 20 to plaintiff's complaint, his allegations may be grouped into three possible, separate lawsuits consisting of the following claims:

         Lawsuit #1: Plaintiff's claims that defendant Van Lanen was deliberately indifferent to plaintiff's conditions of confinement in segregation, including continuous noise from a group of inmates called the “cranks, ” poor air quality from the staff's daily use of tear gas in the unit and the lack of an inside recreation area.

         Lawsuit #2: Plaintiff's claims that several defendants retaliated against him in the following ways for refusing to cooperate in the investigation and reduction of gang violence in the prison or for complaining about the retaliation:

(1) issuing plaintiff three conduct reports (##2902164, 2942095 and 2922533) for which he received three separate disciplinary hearings, during which he did not receive due process and was sentenced to significant periods of disciplinary separation;
(2) falsely accusing plaintiff of ordering gang hits, which placed him at a substantial risk of serious harm from other inmates and staff;
(3) demoting plaintiff's ranking in the behavior modification step program, which deprived him of certain privileges; and
(4) monitoring plaintiff's mail.

         Lawsuit #3: Plaintiff's claim that a policy instituted by defendant Security Director Kind and approved by defendant Warden Eckstein denied him access to his religious ...


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