United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
Glen E. Conrad Senior United States District Judge.
Riddick, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, filed this
civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983,
alleging multitudinous violations of his constitutional
rights. Upon review of the record, the court concludes that
Riddick's initial complaint is so factually and legally
deficient that the action must be summarily dismissed without
prejudice for failure to state a claim.
now incarcerated at Red Onion State Prison ("Red
Onion"), submitted his 126-page § 1983 complaint in
June 2017. In that pleading, he names 56 defendants and
complains about various incidents and frustrations he has
experienced at Red Onion or other Virginia Department of
Corrections ("VDOC") prison facilities since 2007.
Riddick has greatly slowed the court's screening of his
claims by filing eight motions seeking to amend the action to
add claims and name more defendants. As relief, Riddick wants
to recover monetary damages; to have the money from his
inmate savings account transferred to his spend account; to
be transferred to Sussex I or II State Prison "so [he]
can get proper medical care and medicine for [his] HSVI
infection"; and to leave segregation without
participating in a program. (Id. at 3.)
initial concern, Riddick's pleading defies the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure governing joinder of claims and
defendants in a single civil action. See
Fed.R.Civ.P. 18 and 20. Rule 18(a) allows a plaintiff to
bring multiple claims, related or unrelated, in a lawsuit
against a single defendant. On the other hand, Rule 20 allows
the joinder of several defendants in one civil action only if
the claims "ar[ose] out of the same transaction or
occurrence, or series of transactions or occurrences"
and contain a "question of law or fact common to all
defendants." Fed.R.Civ.P. 20(a)(2)(A) and (B). Under
these rules, "a plaintiff may name more than one
defendant in a multiple claim lawsuit only if the
claims against all defendants arose out of the same incident
or incidents and involve a common factual or legal
question." Green v. Denning, No. 06-3298, 2009
WL 484457, at *2 (D. Kan. Feb. 26, 2009) (emphasis added).
These procedural rules apply with equal force to pro se
prisoner cases. Id. Riddick's pleading clearly
violates Rule 20 by attempting to join, in one omnibus civil
action, multiple, disjointed and unrelated claims from widely
differing time periods against dozens of defendants. The only
fact his claims have in common is his incarceration, and the
legal questions his claims raise are vastly different. Such
diverse fact patterns and claims cannot properly be presented
in one § 1983 complaint.
addition, permitting Riddick to consent to pay the filing fee
for one civil case, and at the same time, to pursue dozens of
disparate claims against 56 parties and concerning unrelated
events and transactions in that one case, flies in the face
of the letter and spirit of the Prison Litigation Reform Act
("PLRA"). PLRA restrictions on prisoner-filed civil
actions include: full exhaustion of available administrative
remedies before bringing a federal lawsuit; full payment of
the filing fee in any civil action or appeal; authorization
of court review and summary disposition of claims that are
frivolous or malicious or fail to state a valid claim upon
which relief can be granted; and a "three strike"
provision that prevents a prisoner from proceeding without
prepayment of the filing fee if the prisoner's past
litigation in federal court includes three or more cases
dismissed as frivolous, malicious, or as stating no claim for
relief. See gen. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915, 1915A;
42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). "Congress enacted PLRA with
the principal purpose of deterring frivolous prisoner
litigation by instituting economic costs for prisoners
wishing to file civil claims." Lyon v. Krol.
127 F.3d 763, 764 (8th Cir. 1997). Strict compliance with
federal joinder rules "prevents prisoners from
'dodging' the fee obligation and '3-strikes'
provision of the PLRA." Green. 2009 WL 484457,
at *2. As the court noted in Green:
To permit plaintiff to proceed in this single action on
unrelated claims against different defendants that should
be litigated in separate action(s') would allow him
to avoid paying the filing fees required for separate
actions, and could also allow him to circumvent the three
strikes provision for any new and unrelated claims that might
be found to be "strike" under 28 U.S.C. §
Id. at *3.
to allow Riddick to essentially package many lawsuits into
one complaint would undercut the PLRA's three-strikes
provision and its filing fee requirement. Moreover, Riddick
admits in his complaint that as to many of his allegations,
he did not exhaust administrative remedies as required before
filing his lawsuit. See Ross v. Blake, U.S., 136
S.Ct. 1850, 1856 (2016) (holding that under 42 U.S.C. §
1997e(a), exhaustion of available administrative remedies
before filing in federal court is "mandatory").
Because Riddick's complaint, even liberally construed,
fails to state claims surviving the required screening under
§ 1915A, however, the court will dismiss the action
under that provision.
court is required to dismiss any action or claim filed by a
prisoner against a governmental entity or officer if the
court determines the action or claim is frivolous, malicious,
or fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted. 28
U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1). To state a claim, "a
complaint must contain sufficient factual matter,
accepted as true, to 'state a claim of relief that is
plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal.
556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twomblv. 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). Mere "legal
conclusions" and "[t]hreadbare recitals of the
elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory
statements" are not factual allegations and need not be
accepted as true. Id. "While legal conclusions
can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be
supported by factual allegations." Id. at 679.
On the other hand, the court may dismiss as frivolous any
claim based on "an indisputably meritless legal theory,
" "claims of infringement of a legal interest which
clearly does not exist, " or claims where the
"factual contentions are clearly baseless."
Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989).
1983 permits an aggrieved party to file a civil action
against a person for actions taken under color of state law
that violated his constitutional rights. See Cooper v.
Sheehan, 735 F.3d 153, 158 (4th Cir. 2013). No federal
statute of limitations applies in § 1983 actions.
Accordingly, such actions are governed by the state statute
of limitations applicable for general personal injury cases
in the state where the alleged constitutional violations
occurred. Owens v. Okure, 488 U.S. 235, 239-40
(1989). Virginia's statute for general, personal injury
claims, Va. Code Ann. § 8.01-243(a), requires that such
claims be brought within two years from the time when the
action accrues. A claim under § 1983 accrues when the