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Artis v. Ingham County Jail

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

November 14, 2017

GEORDAN ARTIS et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
INGHAM COUNTY JAIL et al., Defendants.

          OPINION

          JANET T. NEFF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This is a civil rights action brought by several county jail inmates under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Initially, there were eight Plaintiffs. Only three remain: Paul Jackson, Leonard Samuel Barlow, and James Dalton. The Court has granted Plaintiffs leave to file an amended complaint. This matter is before the Court for screening of Plaintiffs' amended complaint under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, Pub. L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321 (1996) (PLRA).

         The PLRA requires the Court 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. §§ 1915(e)(2), 1915A; 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c). The Court must read Plaintiffs' pro se complaint indulgently, see Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972), and accept Plaintiffs' allegations as true, unless they are clearly irrational or wholly incredible. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 33 (1992). Applying these standards, Plaintiffs' action will be dismissed in part, for failure to state a claim, and served in part.

         Factual Allegations

         Plaintiffs Jackson, Dalton and Barlow are incarcerated at the Ingham County Jail (ICJ). They sue the ICJ; Ingham County Sheriff Scott Wriggelsworth;[1] and Ingham County Sheriff's Deputies Soltis and Perry. Plaintiffs complain generally about the conditions of their confinement.[2]

         Plaintiffs allege:

1. Two persons are housed in cells intended for one person. (Am. Compl. ¶ 3.)
2. Inmates are locked in their cells for eighteen hours a day and are permitted out for only two 3-hour periods in a small television room. They are not permitted to go to the gym or outside for exercise. They are not permitted to exercise in the television room. It is not possible to exercise in the cells. (Id. ¶¶ 2-3.)
3. Plaintiffs are housed with convicted felons who are “stabbing us, threatening us, raping us, taking, stealing and forcefully taking our anal virginity, our food, and commissary food items, cosmetics, and anything else we have that they want.” (Id. ¶ 2.)
4. Black mold is in several jail posts that have been closed. The black mold has become airborne, travels through the ventilation system, and jeopardizes the health and safety of the Plaintiffs. (Id. ¶ 4.)
5. The water is unsafe to drink. (Id. ¶ 5.)
6. The toilets are timed to flush twice an hour. After the two flushes, inmates are forced to defecate or urinate in a dirty toilet which is unsanitary and odorous. (Id. ¶ 6.)
7. The shower only stays on for three minutes (Id. ¶ 7.)
Plaintiffs also raise claims that implicate First Amendment protections:
8. The computer that functions as the jail law library has been eliminated. (Id. ¶ 8.)
9. The only non-legal mail items Plaintiffs are permitted to receive are postcards. (Id. ¶ 9.)
10. Plaintiffs are not permitted to possess legal materials, including photographs obtained in discovery in pending civil and criminal actions. (Id. ¶ 9.)

         The remaining allegations in the complaint relate only to Plaintiff Jackson. Plaintiff Jackson makes several allegations against Defendants Soltis and Perry regarding an incident at the Ingham County Circuit Court on March 24, 2017. On that date, Plaintiff Jackson alleges that Defendant Soltis “proceeded to handling [Plaintiff] very roughly[, ]” used a racial slur, and intentionally dropped Plaintiff's food on the floor. (Id. ¶ 10.) Later, Defendant Perry yelled at Plaintiff, called him derogatory names, threatened him, and demanded that he pick up the food from the floor. (Id.) Plaintiff also believes that Defendant Perry has used sex with Plaintiff's appointed counsel to cause counsel to render ineffective assistance to Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 11.)

         Plaintiffs seek punitive damages in the amount of $250, 000.00 from Defendant Wriggelsworth because he “is directly responsible concerning these hazardous, unconstitutional living conditions . . . .” (Id. ¶ 12.) Plaintiffs also request compensatory damages in the amount of $250, 000.00. (Id. ¶ 15.) Finally, Plaintiffs also request damages against Defendant Soltis in the amount of $250, 000.00 and damages against Defendant Perry in the amount of $150, 000.00. (Id. ¶ 16.)

         Additionally, Plaintiffs request injunctive relief. They ask that the air and water in the jail be tested. (Id. ¶ 13.) They ask the Court to order video evidence of the March 24, 2017, incident to be preserved. (Id. ¶ 10.) They ask the Court to order the return of confiscated mail items and to compel the jail to permit personal mail other than postcards. (Id. ¶ 9.) They also ask the Court to order the jail to remedy the lack of a law library. (Id. ¶ 8.)

         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 ...

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