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Williams v. Adams

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

September 23, 2019

JAMIE ADAMS, et al., Defendants.


          William C. Griesbach, Chief Judge United States District Court.

         Plaintiff Travis Delaney Williams, an inmate confined at the Wisconsin Secure Program Facility, filed a pro se complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that the defendants violated his constitutional rights. This order resolves Plaintiff’s motion for leave to proceed without prepaying the filing fee and his motion for preliminary injunction and screens his complaint.

         A. Motion for Leave to Proceed without Prepaying the Filing Fee

         The Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) applies to this case because Plaintiff was a prisoner when he filed his complaint. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(h). The PLRA allows the court to give a prisoner plaintiff the ability to proceed with his case without prepaying the civil case filing fee. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(2). When funds exist, the prisoner must pay an initial partial filing fee. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). He must then pay the balance of the $350 filing fee over time, through deductions from his prisoner account. Id.

         On August 30, 2019, the court waived Plaintiff’s obligation to pay an initial partial filing fee. ECF No. 10. The court will grant Plaintiff’s motion for leave to proceed without prepaying the filing fee. He must pay the entire $350 filing fee over time in the manner explained at the end of this order.

         B. Screening the Complaint

         Under the PLRA, the court must screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The court must dismiss a complaint if the prisoner raises 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. § 1915A(b).

         To state a claim under the federal notice pleading system, a plaintiff must provide a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that [he] is entitled to relief[.]” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). A plaintiff should not plead every fact supporting his claims; he only has to “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)). There is a reason that the rule specifies a “short and plain” statement. “Rule 8(a) requires parties to make their pleadings straightforward, so that judges and adverse parties need not try to fish a gold coin from a bucket of mud.” U.S. ex rel. Garst v. Lockheed-Martin Corp., 328 F.3d 374, 378 (7th Cir. 2003). “[L]ength may make a complaint unintelligible, by scattering and concealing in a morass of irrelevancies the few allegations that matter.” Kadamovas v. Stevens, 706 F.3d 843, 844 (7th Cir. 2013) (quoting U.S. ex rel. Garst, 328 F.3d 374, 378 (7th Cir. 2003)). “District judges are busy, and therefore have a right to dismiss a complaint that is so long that it imposes an undue burden on the judge, to the prejudice of other litigants seeking the judge’s attention.” Id.

         Plaintiff’s complaint is 250 handwritten pages. ECF No. 1. He names sixty defendants and incorporates by reference more than 100 pages of exhibits. As the Seventh Circuit observed in Kadamovas, if Plaintiff has included meritorious factual allegations, they are buried in pages and pages of conclusions, allegations, and excessive and unnecessary detail.

         Not only is the complaint long and wordy, but, as best the court can tell, it contains allegations of different kinds of injuries allegedly committed by different groups of defendants over several years. Fed.R.Civ.P. 18(a) allows a plaintiff to “put in one complaint every claim of any kind against a single defendant, ” but a plaintiff may “present claim #1 against Defendant A, and claim #2 against Defendant B, only if both claims arise ‘out of the same transaction, occurrence, or series of transactions or occurrences.’ Rule 20(a)(2)(A).” Wheeler v. Wexford Health Sources, Inc., 689 F.3d 680, 683 (7th Cir. 2012). Further, Fed.R.Civ.P. 20(a)(2)(B) states that persons may be joined in a case as defendants only if there are questions of law or fact common to “all” defendants. In other words, “[a] litigant cannot throw all of his grievances, against dozens of different parties, into one stewpot.” Id. (citing George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605 (7th Cir. 2007)).

         Plaintiff has done what the Seventh Circuit and Rules 18 and 20 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure state that he cannot do. He tries to state claims, which are against dozens of people, that arise out of different circumstances and events over a long period of time. The mere fact that Plaintiff came into contact with the people he sues during his incarceration or as a result of his physical disabilities is not a sufficient basis for the court to conclude that his claims are all related or that there are common questions of law and fact.

         The court will allow Plaintiff to file an amended complaint that complies with Fed.R.Civ.P. 8, 18 and 20. The amended complaint must provide a “simple, concise, and direct” statement of his claims. Bennett v. Schmidt, 153 F.3d 516, 518 (7th Cir. 1998). The amended complaint should “avoid a rambling, incoherent complaint.” Ford v. Flannery, No. 2-07-CV-267, 2008 WL 821686, *2 (N.D. Ind. March 26, 2008). Plaintiff should not include every detail giving rise to his claim(s); he should provide only enough facts that the court can reasonably infer that the people he sues did what Plaintiff alleges they did. Plaintiff must be careful to choose from among his many claims only those claims that are related to one another and that arise out of the same underlying circumstances or events.

         As Plaintiff considers which claims to include in his amended complaint, he should remember that “[p]ublic officials do not have a free-floating obligation to put things to rights . . . .” Burks v. Raemisch, 555 F.3d 592, 595 (7th Cir. 2009). This is because “public employees are responsible for their own misdeeds but not for anyone else’s.” Id. at 596. Accordingly, Plaintiff should name only those individuals who were personally involved in or responsible for the alleged constitutional violation. Employers are not liable for the misconduct of their employees, supervisors are not liable for the misconduct of their subordinates, and employees are not liable for the misconduct of their co-workers.

         The court will include a blank prisoner complaint form with this order, which the court will require Plaintiff to use. See Civil L. R. 9(b) (E.D. Wis.). If, after crafting his allegations in clear, concise, “who, what, when, where, why” language, Plaintiff believes he needs more space than is provided in the form, he may attach a maximum of ten handwritten pages. Plaintiff is an experienced ...

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