United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin
MATTHEW C. STECHAUNER, Plaintiff,
CATHY JESS, et al., Defendants.
WILLIAM E. DUFFIN U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Matthew Stechauner, who is representing himself, filed a
complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that the
defendants violated his constitutional rights. He also filed
a motion to proceed without prepayment of the civil case
filing fee under 28 U.S.C. § 1915 and a motion to
appoint counsel. This decision resolves Stechauner's
motions and screens his complaint.
Motion for Leave to Proceed without Prepayment of the Filing
Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) applies to this case
because Stechauner was incarcerated when he filed his
complaint. 28 U.S.C. § 1915. That law allows a court to
give an incarcerated plaintiff the opportunity to proceed
with his case without prepaying the civil case filing fee as
long as he meets certain conditions. One of those conditions
is that the plaintiff pay an initial partial filing fee. 28
U.S.C. § 1915(b). Once the plaintiff pays the initial
partial filing fee, the court may allow him to pay the
balance of the $350 filing fee over time through deductions
from his prisoner account. Id.
13, 2019, the court ordered Stechauner to pay an initial
partial filing fee of $1.02; he paid the fee about a week
later. Accordingly, the court will grant his motion to
proceed without prepayment of the filing fee. Stechauner will
have to pay the remainder of the fee over time in the manner
described at the end of this order.
Screening the Complaint
court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners
seeking relief against a governmental entity or 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. 28 U.S.C. §
state a cognizable claim under the federal notice pleading
system, a 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). To state a claim for
relief under 42 U.S.C. § 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).
under the controlling principle of Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 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 PLRA. George v. Smith, 507 F.3d
605, 607 (7th Cir. 2007). “A party asserting a claim .
. . may join, as independent or alternate claims, as many
claims as it has against an opposing party.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 18(a). 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.
Joinder of multiple defendants into one case is proper only
if “any right to relief is asserted against them
jointly, severally, or in the alternative with respect to or
arising out of the same transaction, occurrence, or series of
transactions or occurrences; and any question of law or fact
common to all defendants will arise in the action.”
complaint violates Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 18 and 20 because it
advances unrelated claims against different sets of
defendants. First, Stechauner alleges that a correctional
officer gave him the wrong medication dosage, which resulted
in him having to go to the emergency room. He alleges that
the prison's policy of allowing correctional officers to
hand out medication instead of requiring nurses to hand out
medication violates his rights under the Eighth Amendment.
The court will refer to these allegations as Lawsuit #1.
alleges that a correctional officer refused to give him
copies of notarized documents before mailing the documents to
the court, thereby violating his right to access the courts.
The court will refer to these allegations as Lawsuit #2.
alleges that, on multiple occasions, some of the defendants
allowed him to hurt himself while he was housed in
segregation. He asserts that no one stopped him from choking
himself with his bedsheet, banging his head and punching the
cell walls until his head and hands were swollen and bloody,
and/or cutting himself with a razor. Stechauner alleges that
he did not receive adequate medical care after some
incidents. He also alleges that, after one of the incidents,
his injuries were so significant that he had to go to the
emergency room. The court will refer to these allegations as
Stechauner asserts that some of the defendants failed to
protect him from other inmates who were sexually harassing
and assaulting him. (It is not clear from Stechauner's
allegations how these defendants knew that Stechauner was
being harassed/assaulted by other inmates.) The court will
refer to these allegations as Lawsuit #4.
Rules 18 and 20, Stechauner cannot pursue Lawsuits #1, 2, 3,
and 4 in a single case. The lawsuits do not involve all of
the same defendants nor do they have questions of law and
fact in common. That does not mean that Stechauner cannot
pursue all four of the lawsuits. It means only that he must
pursue each one in a separate case and pay a separate filing
fee for each case. The court ...