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Johnson v. Precythe

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

February 26, 2019

ANTHONY JOHNSON, Plaintiff,
v.
ANNE PRECYTHE, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          PATRICIA L. COHEN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on review of plaintiff Anthony Johnson's pro se complaint. For the reasons discussed below, the Court will order plaintiff to file a signed, amended complaint on a Court-provided form. Plaintiff will also be directed to either file a motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis or pay the $400 filing fee.

         Background

          On February 4, 2019, four inmates at the Moberly Correctional Center (MCC) in Moberly, Missouri, including plaintiff, filed a lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Docket No. 1). The complaint names sixteen separate defendants and purports to be a “class action lawsuit.” However, the Court does not allow prisoners to join together and proceed in forma pauperis in a single lawsuit. Accordingly, the complaint was severed, and new cases opened for each individual inmate. The complaint before the Court alleges many unrelated claims against defendants, including a denial of medical care, inhumane conditions of confinement, improper censorship, 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. While federal law authorizes plaintiff to plead his own conduct personally, he lacks standing to bring claims on behalf of others. See Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 499 (1975) (stating that, in general, to satisfy the standing requirement, a plaintiff “must assert his own legal rights and interests, and cannot rest his claim to relief on the legal rights or interests of third parties”). Moreover, a non-attorney pro se litigant may not represent someone else in federal court. See 28 U.S.C. § 1654; Iannaccone v. Law, 142 F.3d 553, 558 (2nd Cir. 1998) (stating that “because pro se means to appear for one's self, a person may not appear on another's behalf in the other's cause…A person must be litigating an interest personal to him”); and Lewis v. Lenc-Smith Mfg. Co., 784 F.2d 829, 830 (7th Cir. 1986) (stating that a person who is not licensed to practice law may not represent another individual in federal court).

         Additionally, the complaint alleges a number 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.

         Furthermore, 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. Plaintiff should type or neatly print his complaint on the Court's civil rights form, which will be provided to him. See E.D. Mo. L.R. 45 - 2.06(A) (“All actions brought by pro se plaintiffs or petitioners should be filed on Court-provided forms”). In the “Caption” section of the Court-provided form, plaintiff should clearly name each ...


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