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Tim Mcgeachy, et al v. Oscar Aviles

May 18, 2011

TIM MCGEACHY, ET AL.,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
OSCAR AVILES, ETC., ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Linares, District Judge:

NOT FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION

Plaintiff, Tim McGeachy and 28 other pretrial detainees at Hudson County Correctional Center ("HCCC"), have submitted a Complaint styled as a putative class action against Warden Oscar Aviles, the County of Hudson County, and HCCC. Plaintiffs did not prepay the $350 filing fee. No plaintiff submitted a (certified) six-month prison account statement, which is required before this Court can grant in forma pauperis status, and only one plaintiff - Tim McGeachy - submitted an affidavit of poverty, which is also required for a prisoner who seeks permission to proceed in forma pauperis. As explained fully below, this Court will: (1) deny Tim McGeachy's application to proceed in forma pauperis without prejudice as incomplete because plaintiff McGeachy did not submit a six-month prison account statement; (2) administratively terminate this action without prejudice to reopening in accordance with the terms of this Opinion; (3) direct the Clerk to open 28 new cases in the name of each plaintiff other than plaintiff McGeachy; and (4) administratively terminate each of those cases, without prejudice to reopening each case in accordance with the terms of this Opinion.

I. BACKGROUND

The Complaint is signed by 29 pretrial detainees confined at HCCC but written by plaintiff Tim McGeachy. The Complaint asserts generally that, since January 1, 2010, pretrial detainees housed in Unit C-5-East have been confined for approximately 17 hours a day, two men in each 12" X 8" cell, without access to outdoor recreation, even though none have been charged with or found guilty of a disciplinary infraction. The Complaint further alleges that access to the law library is limited to 10 pretrial detainees per week and that this is inadequate for pretrial detainees seeking to do necessary legal research. Finally, the Complaint asserts that there is no access to Muslim services or classes, protestant worship service is conducted in Spanish only, and there is no access to Jewish or Catholic services for pretrial detainees on the C-5-East cell block. Although the Complaint is styled as a class action brought on behalf of similarly situated plaintiffs, the Complaint does not define the members of the putative class or set forth specific regarding what happened to each plaintiff that violated his constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. For violation of plaintiffs' constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the Complaint seeks declaratory relief, injunctive relief, compensatory damages of $100,000,000.00, and punitive damages of fifty million dollars. (Docket Entry #1.)

II. RULE 20 AND IFP PRISONER PLAINTIFFS

The filing fee for a civil complaint is $350.00. The Clerk can not file a civil complaint unless the person seeking relief pays the entire $350.00 filing fee in advance or applies for and is granted in forma pauperis status pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. See Local Civil R. 5.1(f) ("Any papers received by the Clerk without payment of such fees as may be fixed by statute or by the Judicial Conference of the United States for the filing thereof shall be marked 'received' and the date and time of receipt shall be noted thereon"). When a prisoner seeks permission to file a civil complaint in forma pauperis, the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA"), Pub. L. No. 104-134, §§ 801-810, 110 Stat. 1321-66 to 1321-77 (April 26, 1996), requires the prisoner to submit an affidavit that includes a statement of all assets and that the person is unable to pay such fees or give security therefor, together with a certified copy of the trust fund account statement for the six month period immediately preceding the filing of the complaint, obtained from the appropriate official of each prison at which the prisoner is or was confined. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(2).*fn1 If a prisoner is granted permission to file a complaint in forma pauperis, then the PLRA requires the Court to assess the $350.00 filing fee against the prisoner, and to collect the fee by directing the agency having custody of the prisoner to deduct monthly installment payments from the prisoner's prison account equal to 20% of the preceding month's income credited to the account for each month that the balance of the account exceeds $10.00. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b). In addition, if the Court grants the prisoner permission to proceed in forma pauperis, then the PLRA requires the Court to screen the complaint for dismissal and to sua sponte dismiss (without service or ordering an answer) any claim that is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from an defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

In this case, the Clerk can not file the Complaint because plaintiffs did not prepay the $350 filing fee and this Court is not granting in forma pauperis status to any plaintiff prisoner. Although plaintiff McGeachy requested permission to proceed in forma pauperis, his application will be denied as incomplete because he submitted an affidavit of income and assets, but he did not submit a certified copy of his trust fund account statement for the six month period immediately preceding the filing of the complaint, as required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(2). This Court will deny McGeachy's application to file the Complaint without prepayment of the filing fee without prejudice, and direct the Clerk to administratively terminate this case. Since no other plaintiff either prepaid the $350 filing fee or submitted an affidavit of income and assets, together with a certified six-month prison account statement, the Complaint cannot be filed in behalf of any named plaintiff at this time. However, this Court will explain the relevant law in order to enable plaintiffs to decide whether to proceed individually or jointly, or at all.

As previously stated, the Complaint was signed by 29 plaintiffs. Rule 20 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governs permissive joinder of plaintiffs. The rule provides in relevant part:

(1) Plaintiffs. Persons may join in one action as plaintiffs if:

(A) they assert any right to relief 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 plaintiffs will arise in the action.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 20(a)(1).

Joinder under Rule 20 is discretionary and, "[i]n exercising its discretion, the District Court must provide a reasoned analysis that comports with the requirements of the Rule, and that is based on the specific fact pattern presented by the plaintiffs and claims before the court. It is insufficient for a court to rely on general assumptions ...


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