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Jones v. Washington

United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division

July 27, 2017

LARRY DARNELL JONES, Plaintiff,
v.
HEIDI E. WASHINGTON et al., Defendants.

          OPINION

          ROBERT J. JONKER, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This is a civil rights action brought by a state prisoner pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff sought leave to proceed in forma pauperis. By order entered May 15, 2017 (ECF No. 6), the Court denied Plaintiff's motion under the “three strikes” rule. Plaintiff then timely paid the $400.00 filing fee.

         Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, Pub. L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321 (1996) (PLRA), the Court is required to dismiss any prisoner action brought under federal law if the complaint is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A; 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c). The Court reviewed Plaintiff's complaint under the applicable standard and dismissed Plaintiff's complaint against Defendants Washington, McKee, Trierweiler, Mackie, Ball, Thomas, Cusack, Wakefield, and Welton for failure to state a claim. (Op. and Ord., ECF No. 9-10) The Court ordered the complaint served against Defendant Johnson, but only with respect to Plaintiff's claim for the use of excessive force on May 13, 2016.

         Plaintiff responded to the Court's opinion and order with a flurry of objections and motions, including a motion seeking leave to file an amended complaint. By order entered July 19, 2017 (ECF No. 24), the Court denied that motion as unnecessary because Rule 15(a) permits Plaintiff to amend as a matter of course under the circumstances. Plaintiff's first amended complaint is now before the Court for review as required by the PLRA.

         The Court must read Plaintiff's pro se complaint indulgently, see Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972), and accept Plaintiff's allegations as true, unless they are clearly irrational or wholly incredible. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 33 (1992). Applying these standards, the Court will dismiss Plaintiff's complaint against Defendants Washington, McKee, Trierweiler, Mackie, Ball, Thomas, Cusack, Wakefield, Welton, Horsley, Freeman, McDanieal, Messer, Bursh, Porter, Dumas, Smith, Griffin, and Spencley. The Court will serve the complaint against Defendant Johnson, but only with respect to Plaintiff's claim for the use of excessive force on May 13, 2016.

         Factual Allegations

         Plaintiff Larry Darnell Jones is presently incarcerated with the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) at the Oaks Correctional Facility (ECF). He is serving a 30 to 50 year sentence which began on November 5, 1985. (Time Review and Disposition, ECF No. 1-1, PageID.29.)[1] The matters of which he complains, however, occurred over the last couple of years at Bellamy Creek Correctional Facility (IBC) and Marquette Branch Prison (MBP) as well as ECF. Plaintiff sues MDOC Director Heidi Washington; MDOC Deputy Director Kenneth McKee; IBC Warden Tony Trierweiler; ECF Warden Thomas P. Mackie; ECF Deputy Warden Timothy J. Ball; ECF Resident Unit Manager Unknown Thomas; MDOC Inspectors N. Cusack, Unknown Wakefield, and Unknown Welton; and IBC Corrections Officer Unknown Johnson. Plaintiff's first amended complaint adds several new Defendants: ECF Corrections Officers Horsley, Freeman, McDanieal, Messer, and Bursch; ECF Sergeant Porter; ECF Nurse Lori L. Dumas; ECF Warden's Administrative Assistant Eric Smith; ECF Inspector Spencley; and MDOC Adminstrator Miffer Griffin.

         With respect to Plaintiff's initial complaint, the Court noted that his allegations were rambling, disjointed, repetitive, and conclusory. Plaintiff has not corrected those problems in his first amended complaint. Indeed, Plaintiff's first amended complaint is virtually word-for-word identical to his initial complaint except for the following additions:

(1) Plaintiff identifies the new Defendants (First Am. Compl., ECF No. 25, PageID.3-5);
(2) Plaintiff provides additional detail with regard to the treatment of the injuries to his wrists following the “excessive use of force” on May 13, 2016 (Id., PageID.8-11);[2] and
(3) Plaintiff adds an entirely new claim regarding Defendant Horsley's excessive use of force (pounding on Plaintiff's chest) during a shakedown on November 13, 2016, at ECF (Id., PageID.12-24).[3]

         As was the case with Plaintiff's initial complaint allegations, Plaintiff's first amended complaint allegations are a far cry from the short and plain statement of the claim mandated by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8.

         The Court construed the allegations in Plaintiff's initial complaint, and will construe the identical allegations in his first amended complaint, as seeking to raise several claims: (1) an “excessive use of force” Eighth Amendment claim against Defendant Johnson for tightening Plaintiff's handcuffs too much on May 13, 2016 at IBC; (2) a “failure to protect” Eighth Amendment claim for not keeping Plaintiff safe from Defendant Johnson at IBC; (3) a “failure to protect” Eighth Amendment claim for failing to protect Plaintiff from Security Threat Group (STG) members at ECF; (4) a First Amendment retaliation claim against several defendants who Plaintiff claims have taken adverse action against him (such as excessive use of force, failure to protect, prison transfers, and denying restoration of good-time credits) because Plaintiff filed grievances, including the December 27 2015, grievance that started it all, seeking to compel Defendants Trierweiler and McKee to restore previously forfeited special disciplinary credits or good time[4]; and (5) a First Amendment claim for the Defendants' various failures to properly investigate and process Plaintiff's many grievances.

         The new claims in Plaintiff's first amended complaint include the following: (6) a core allegation that Defendant Horsley, on November 13, 2016, used excessive force against Plaintiff, pounding Plaintiff's chest during a shakedown; (7) that Defendants Freeman and McDanieal are liable because they ordered the shakedown; (8) that Defendants Porter, Dumas, Messer, McDaniel, Freeman, and Bursh, failed to protect Plaintiff from Horsley; (9) that Defendants Mackie and Ball mishandled Plaintiff's grievance regarding the incident; (10) that Defendants Porter, Dumas, and Horsley retaliated against Plaintiff for filing the grievance by lying on reports and filing false misconducts against Plaintiff; and (11) that Defendants McKee, Mackie, Smith, Griffin, and Spencley failed to protect Plaintiff and retaliated against him for filing the grievance by permitting a false misconduct charge.

         Discussion

         I. Misjoinder

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 20(a) limits the joinder of parties in single lawsuit, whereas Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 18(a) limits the joinder of claims. Rule 20(a)(2) governs when multiple defendants may be joined in one action: “[p]ersons . . . 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) states: “A party asserting a claim . . . may join, as independent or alternative claims, as many claims as it has against an opposing party.”

         Courts have recognized that, where multiple parties are named, as in this case, the analysis under Rule 20 precedes that under Rule 18:

Rule 20 deals solely with joinder of parties and becomes relevant only when there is more than one party on one or both sides of the action. It is not concerned with joinder of claims, which is governed by Rule 18. Therefore, in actions involving multiple defendants Rule 20 operates independently of Rule 18. . . .
Despite the broad language of Rule 18(a), plaintiff may join multiple defendants in a single action only if plaintiff asserts at least one claim to relief against each of them that arises out of the same transaction or occurrence and presents questions of law or fact common to all.

7 Charles Allen Wright, Arthur R. Miller, Mary Kay Kane, Federal Practice & Procedure Civil § 1655 (3d ed. 2001), quoted in Proctor v. Applegate, 661 F.Supp.2d 743, 778 (E.D. Mich. 2009), and Garcia v. Munoz, No. 08-1648, 2007 WL 2064476, at *3 (D.N.J. May 14, 2008); see also Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 328 (1989) (joinder of defendants is not permitted by Rule 20 unless both commonality and same transaction requirements are satisfied).

         Therefore, “a civil plaintiff may not name more than one defendant in his original or amended complaint unless one claim against each additional defendant is transactionally related to the claim against the first defendant and involves a common question of law or fact.” Proctor, 661 F.Supp.2d at 778. When determining if civil rights claims arise from the same transaction or occurrence, a court may consider a variety of factors, including, “the time period during which the alleged acts occurred; whether the acts of . . . are related; whether more than one act . . . is alleged; whether the same supervisors were involved, and ...


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