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Jack v. Chapman

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division

August 30, 2017

JAMES L. JACK, Plaintiff,
v.
MICHAEL L. CHAPMAN, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Robert E. Payne, Senior United States District Judge.

         James L. Jack, a Virginia inmate, has submitted this civil action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.[1] The matter is before the Court for evaluation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c), Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 8(a), 20(a), [2] and Jack's compliance with the Court's May 9, 2017 Memorandum Order. Specifically, by Memorandum Order entered May 9, 2017, the Court directed Jack to submit a particularized complaint. (ECF No. 22.) The Court noted that Jack's submissions failed to provide each named defendant "with fair notice of the facts and legal basis upon which his or her liability rests." (Id. at 2 (citation omitted).) The Court advised Jack that his particularized complaint needed to include a list of named defendants in the first paragraph. (Id.) The particularized complaint also needed to explain why Jack believed each defendant was liable to him. (Id.) Furthermore, the Court warned Jack that if he failed to submit an appropriate particularized complaint that comported with the joinder requirements as set forth in the Memorandum Order, the Court would drop all defendants not properly joined with the first named defendant. (Id. at 3.)

         On June 9, 2017, the Court received Jack's Particularized Complaint. (ECF No. 26.) As explained below, the Particularized Complaint fails to comply with the directives of the Court, including the rules regarding joinder.

         I. PRELIMINARY REVIEW

         Pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA") this Court must dismiss any action filed by a prisoner if the Court determines the action (1) "is frivolous" or (2) "fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2); see 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. The first standard includes claims based upon "'an indisputably meritless legal theory, '" or claims where the "'factual contentions are clearly baseless.'" Clay v. Yates, 809 F.Supp. 417, 427 (E.D. Va. 1992) (quoting Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989)). The second standard is the familiar standard for a motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).

         "A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of a complaint; importantly, it does not resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses." Republican Party of N.C. v. Martin, 980 F.2d 943, 952 (4th Cir. 1992) (citing 5A Charles A. Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1356 (1990)). In considering a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, a plaintiff's well-pleaded allegations are taken as true and the complaint is viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Mylan Labs., Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993); see also Martin, 980 F.2d at 952. This principle applies only to factual allegations, however, and "a court considering a motion to dismiss can choose to begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009).

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure "require[ ] only 'a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ' in order 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) (second alteration in original) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 3 55 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). Plaintiffs cannot satisfy this standard with complaints containing only "labels and conclusions" or a "formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action." Id. (citations omitted). Instead, a plaintiff must allege facts sufficient "to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, " id. (citation omitted), stating a claim that is "plausible on its face, " id. at 570, rather than merely "conceivable." Id. "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Bell Atl. Corp., 550 U.S. at 556) . In order for a claim or complaint to survive dismissal for failure to state a claim, therefore, the plaintiff must "allege facts sufficient to state all the elements of [his or] her claim." Bass v. E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., 324 F.3d 761, 765 (4th Cir. 2003) (citing Dickson v. Microsoft Corp., 309 F.3d 193, 213 (4th Cir. 2002); Iodice v. United States, 289 F.3d 270, 281 (4th Cir. 2002)). Lastly, while the Court liberally construes pro se complaints, Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978), it will not act as the inmate's advocate and develop, sua sponte, statutory and constitutional claims that the inmate failed to clearly raise on the face of his complaint. See Brock v. Carroll, 107 F.3d 241, 243 (4th Cir. 1997) (Luttig, J., concurring); Beaudett v. City Of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985).

         II. JOINDER

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure place limits on a plaintiff's ability to join multiple defendants in a single pleading. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 20(a). "The 'transaction or occurrence test' of [Rule 20] . . . 'permit[s] all reasonably related claims for relief by or against different parties to be tried in a single proceeding. Absolute identity of all events is unnecessary.'" Saval v. BL Ltd., 710 F.2d 1027, 1031 (4th Cir. 1983) (quoting Mosley v. Gen. Motors Corp., 497 F.2d 1330, 1333 (8th Cir. 1974)). "But, Rule 20 does not authorize a plaintiff to add claims 'against different parties [that] present[ ] entirely different factual and legal issues.'" Sykes v. Bayer Pharm. Corp., 548 F.Supp.2d 208, 218 (E.D. Va. 2008) (alterations in original) (quoting Lovelace v. Lee, No. 7:03cv00395, 2007 WL 3069660, at *1 (W.D. Va. Oct. 21, 2007)). "And, a court may *deny joinder if it determines that the addition of the party under Rule 2 0 will not foster the objectives of [promoting convenience and expediting the resolution of disputes], but will result in prejudice, expense, or delay.'" Id. (quoting Aleman v. Chugach Support Servs., Inc., 485 F.3d 206, 218 n.5 (4th Cir. 2007)).

         In addressing joinder, the Court is mindful that "the impulse is toward entertaining the broadest possible scope of action consistent with fairness to the parties; joinder of claims, parties and remedies is strongly encouraged." United Mine Workers of Am. v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 724 (1966). This impulse, however, does not provide a plaintiff free license to join multiple defendants into a single lawsuit where the claims against the defendants are unrelated. See, e.g., George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 607 (7th Cir. 2007); Coughlin v. Rogers, 130 F.3d 1348, 1350 (9th Cir. 1997). Thus, "[a] buckshot complaint that would be rejected if filed by a free person-say, a suit complaining that A defrauded the plaintiff, B defamed him, C punched him, D failed to pay a debt, and E infringed his copyright, all in different transactions-should be rejected if filed by a prisoner." George, 507 F.3d at 607.

         "The Court's obligations under the PLRA include review for compliance with Rule 20(a)." Coles v. McNeely, No. 3:11CV130, 2011 WL 3703117, at *3 (E.D. Va. Aug 23, 2011) (citing George, 507 F.3d at 607).

Thus, multiple claims against a single party are fine, but Claim A against Defendant 1 should not be joined with unrelated Claim B against Defendant 2. Unrelated claims against different defendants belong in different suits, not only to prevent the sort of morass that these complaints have produced but also to ensure that prisoners pay the required filing fees.

Id. (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g); Showalter v. Johnson, No. 7:08cv00276, 2009 WL 1321694, at *4 (W.D. Va. May 12, 2009) ("To allow [plaintiff] to pay one filing fee yet join disparate claims against dozens of parties flies in the face of the letter and spirit of the PLRA.")

         III. SUMMARY OF CLAIMS AND DEFENDANTS

         Jack's Particularized Complaint names thirty-one individuals as defendants. The Court construes Jack's Particularized Complaint to raise the following claims for relief:

Claim One: Defendant Dikeman "violated a police order by placing allegations to a subject on the Internet, via Facebook, alleging a crime that had taken place in Leesburg, Va." (Part. Compl. 2.)
Claim Two: Defendants Dikeman, Rima, and Lowden violated Jack's rights under the Fourth Amendment[3] by arresting him and searching him "without a warrant, ...

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