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Smith v. Precythe

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Northern Division

February 14, 2019

MARCUS SMITH, Plaintiff,
v.
ANNE PRECYTHE, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          JOHN M. BODENHAUSEN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court upon review of plaintiff's pro se complaint. For the reasons explained below, the Court will give plaintiff the opportunity to file a signed amended complaint, and to either pay the $400 filing fee or file a motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis.

         Background

         On February 4, 2019, four inmates at the Moberly Correctional Center (“MCC”), including plaintiff herein Marcus Smith, filed a lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, naming 16 defendants. Because the Court does not allow prisoners to join together and proceed in forma pauperis in a single lawsuit, the Court severed the plaintiffs and opened new cases for each one, using the complaint filed in the originating action. The complaint now before the Court alleges many unrelated claims, including a denial of adequate medical care, inhumane conditions of confinement, and a lack of adequate legal resources.

         Discussion

         This action is subject to dismissal for several reasons. First, the complaint alleges violations of the rights of a group of inmates as a whole, and also of one William Grace-Bey, the first-named plaintiff from the originating action. While federal law authorizes plaintiff to plead and conduct his own case personally, see 28 U.S.C. § 1654, he lacks standing to bring claims on behalf of others. In addition, plaintiff does not allege, nor is it apparent, that he is a licensed attorney. Only a licensed attorney may represent another person's interests in federal court. See Lewis v. Lenc-Smith Mfg. Co., 784 F.2d 829, 830 (7th Cir. 1986) (a person who is not licensed to practice law may not represent another individual in federal court).

         Additionally, the complaint alleges a myriad of unrelated claims against a total of 16 defendants. This is an impermissible pleading practice. Rule 20(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governs joinder of defendants, and provides:

Persons . . . may be joined in one action as defendants if: (A) 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 (B) any question of law or fact common to all defendants will arise in the action.

         Rule 18(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governs joinder of claims, and provides:

A party asserting a claim to relief as an original claim, counterclaim, cross-claim, or third-party claim, may join, either as independent or as alternate claims, as many claims, legal, equitable, or maritime, as the party has against an opposing party.

         Therefore, multiple claims against a single defendant are valid.

         The complaint also violates Rules 8 and 10 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Rule 8 requires that the complaint contain a short and plain statement of the claim showing entitlement to relief, and it also requires that each averment of a pleading shall be simple, concise and direct. Rule 10 requires plaintiff to state his claims in separately numbered paragraphs, each limited as far as practicable to a single set of circumstances. Additionally, the complaint is unsigned. Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires an unrepresented party to personally sign all of his pleadings, motions, and other papers, and requires courts to “strike an unsigned paper unless the omission is promptly corrected after being called to the . . . party's attention.” Finally, plaintiff has neither paid the $400 filing fee, nor sought leave to proceed in forma pauperis.

         The Court will give plaintiff the opportunity to file an amended complaint to set forth his own claims for relief. In addition, plaintiff must either pay the $400 filing fee, or file a motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis that is accompanied by a certified copy of his institution account statement for the six-month period immediately preceding the filing of the complaint.

         Plaintiff is warned that the amended complaint will replace the original complaint. E.g., In re Wireless Telephone Federal Cost Recovery Fees Litigation, 396 F.3d 922, 928 (8th Cir. 2005). Plaintiff must submit the amended complaint on a court-provided form, and he must comply with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, including Rules 8 and 10 as explained above. In the “Caption” section of the amended complaint, plaintiff must state the first and last name, to the extent he knows it, of each defendant he wants to sue. Plaintiff should also indicate whether he intends to sue each defendant in ...


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