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McNamara v. State

November 15, 2010

JOHN T. MCNAMARA, JR., PLAINTIFF,
v.
STATE OF NEW JERSEY, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robert B. Kugler United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff submitted a civil Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and prepaid his filing fee, and it appearing that:

1. Plaintiff is a former state prisoner raising allegation in connections with the events that, allegedly, took place during the period of his confinement. See Docket Entry No. 1. Plaintiff's Complaint consists of 38 pages, single-spaced, and encompasses 170 paragraphs, that is, not counting the pages stating Plaintiff's "counts" and his demands for relief. See id. Moreover, the Complaint names 43 Defendants (some of which present sub-groups of defendants). See id. While the sheer volume of Plaintiff's submission prevents the Court from determining, intelligently, the exact nature of Plaintiff's claims, it appears that the bulk of Plaintiff's claims are based on the doctrine of respondeat superior, or consist of allegation against Defendants with regard to whom Plaintiff cannot even articulate any facts of their involvement in this matter. See id. In addition, certain statements made in the Complaint suggest that Plaintiff might have wished to allege failure-to-protect challenges and, perhaps, challenges asserting denial of medical care, as well as claims based on transfer from one prison facility to another, or claims based on verbal mockery.

2. For the reasons detailed below, Plaintiff's Complaint will be dismissed, and Plaintiff will be granted leave to file an amended complaint complying with the requirements and legal standards detailed to him herein.

3. In determining the sufficiency of a complaint, the Court must be mindful to construe the facts stated in the complaint liberally in favor of the plaintiff. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972); United States v. Day, 969 F.2d 39, 42 (3d Cir. 1992). However, a civil complaint must conform to the requirements set forth in Rules 8(a) and (e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The Rules require that the complaint be simple, concise, direct and set forth "a short and plain statementof the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Leatherman v. Tarrant County Narcotics Intelligence and Coordination Unit, 507 U.S. 163, 168 (1993) (emphasis supplied); cf. McNeil v. United States, 508 U.S. 106, 113 (1993) (procedural rules in civil litigation should not be interpreted so as to excuse mistakes by those who proceed without counsel); Burks v. City of Philadelphia, 904 F. Supp. 421, 424 (E.D. Pa. 1995) (pleading which represented a "gross departure from the letter and the spirit of Rule 8(a)(2)" in failing to contain a short and plain statement of claims struck by District Court); Salahuddin v. Cuomo, 861 F.2d 40, 42 (2d Cir. 1988) (affirming dismissal of pro se civil rights complaint naming numerous defendants and encompassing eighty-eight paragraphs). Here, Plaintiff's 170-paragraph-plus-pages-of-counts-and-pages-of-demands-for-relief Complaint facially fails to comply with Rule 8 requirement for a "simple and concise" statement. Therefore, Plaintiff's Complaint will be dismissed, without prejudice, on the grounds of his failure to meet the requirements of Rule 8.

4. Moreover, Rule 20(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure limits the joinder of defendants, and Rule 18(a), governs the joinder of claims. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 18(a), 20(a)(2).

Rule 20(a)(2) 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." Fed. R. Civ. P. 20(a)(2)(A) and (B). Rule 18 (a) provides : "A party asserting a claim . . . may join, as independent or alternative claims, as many claims as it has against an opposing party." Fed. R. Civ. P. 18(a). Wright & Miller's treatise on federal civil procedure explains that, where multiple defendants are named, 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 . . .

Charles Allen Wright, Arthur R. Miller, Mary Kay Kane, Federal Practice & Procedure Civil 3d §1655; see also United States v. Mississippi, 380 U.S. 128, 143 (1965) (where county registrars were alleged to be carrying on activities which were part of a series of transactions or occurrences the validity of which depended upon questions of law or fact common to all of them, joinder of registrars in one suit as defendants was proper under Rule 20(a)); Ross v. Meagan, 638 F. 2d 646, 650 n.5 (3d Cir. 1981), overruled on other grounds by, 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). Consequently, 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. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 20(a)(2). As the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit recently explained, a prisoner may not join in one case all defendants against whom he may have a claim, unless the prisoner satisfies the dual requirements of Rule 20(a)(2):

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 [a multi]-claim, [multi]-defendant suit produced but also to ensure that prisoners pay the required filing fees - for the Prison Litigation Reform Act limits to 3 the number of frivolous suits or appeals that any prisoner may file without prepayment of the required fees. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g) . . .

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 v. Smith, 507 F. 3d 605, 607 (7th Cir. 2007).

Here, Plaintiff's Complaint drafted in the "everything-but-the-kitchen-sink" style, facially fails to comply with the requirements posed by Rules 18 and 20 and, therefore, will be ...


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