United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING AND ORDER
N. CHATIGNY, District Judge.
Martin Melvin, currently incarcerated at Cheshire
Correctional Institution in Cheshire, Connecticut, has filed
a complaint pro se pursuant to 42 U.S.C. Â§ 1983. The
complaint names 32 defendants and includes allegations that
span almost two years and multiple facilities. Because the
complaint fails to comply with the requirements of Rules 8
and 20 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, it is
dismissed with leave to amend.
28 U.S.C. Â§ 1915A, the Court is required to review a
prisoner's complaint against government officials and
dismiss any portion of the complaint that is frivolous,
malicious, or fails to state a claim on which relief may be
granted. In reviewing a pro se complaint, the Court assumes
the truth of factual allegations and interprets them
liberally to "raise the strongest arguments [they]
suggest." Abbas v. Dixon, 480 F.3d 636, 639
(2d Cir. 2007). To avoid dismissal, a complaint must allege
"enough facts to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). A claim is plausible
on its face "when the plaintiff pleads factual content
that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that
the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged."
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).
case, the screening required by the statute is inordinately
burdensome because the complaint fails to comply with Rule
8's pleading requirements. Rule 8(a)(2) provides that a
complaint "must contain... a short and plain statement
of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to
relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Rule 8(d)(1) requires
that "[e]ach allegation must be simple, concise, and
direct." Id . 8(d)(1). The purpose of Rule 8 is
"to permit the defendant to have a fair understanding of
what the plaintiff is complaining about and to know whether
there is a legal basis for recovery." Ricciuti v.
New York City Trans. Auth., 941 F.2d 119, 123 (2d Cir.
1991). In addition, "the rule serves to sharpen the
issues to be litigated and to confine discovery and the
presentation of evidence at trial within reasonable
bounds." Powell v. Marine Midland Bank, 162
F.R.D. 15, 16 (N.D.N.Y. 1995) (citation and quotation
omitted). Finally, the Rule relieves the Court and the
defendants of the "unjustified burden" of having
"to select the relevant material from a mass of
verbiage." Salahuddin v. Cuomo, 861 F.2d 40, 42
(2d Cir. 1988) (quoting 5 C. Wright & A. Miller, Federal
Practice and Procedure Â§ 1281, at 365 (1969)); see also
Infanti v. Scharpf, 06 CV 6552(ILG), 2008 WL
2397607, at *1 (E.D.N.Y. June 10, 2008) ("Complaints
which ramble, which needlessly speculate, accuse, and
condemn, and which contain circuitous diatribes far removed
from the heart of the claim do not comport with these goals
and this system; such complaints must be dismissed."
(citation and quotation omitted)).
a complaint does not comply with the requirement that it be
short and plain, the court has the power, on its own
initiative or in response to a motion by the defendant, to
strike any portions that are redundant or immaterial, see
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f), or to dismiss the complaint."
Salahuddin, 861 F.2d at 42. In Salahuddin, a case
brought by a prisoner under Â§ 1983, the Court of Appeals had
"no doubt" that the pro se complaint failed to
comply with Rule 8. Id. at 43. The complaint
"span[ned] 15 single-spaced pages and contain[ed]
explicit descriptions of 20-odd defendants, their official
positions, and their roles in the alleged denials of
Salahuddin's rights, " along with a "surfeit of
detail." Id . The Court of Appeals concluded
that the district court had discretion to dismiss the
complaint for noncompliance with Rule 8 and that the
plaintiff should be ordered to file an amended complaint
omitting unnecessary detail. Id .; see also
Blakely v. Wells, 209 F.Appx. 18, 20 (2d Cir. 2006)
(stating that "[t]he District Court acted within the
bounds of permissible discretion in dismissing the second
amended complaint for noncompliance with Rule 8(a)"
because "[t]he pleading, which spanned 57 pages and
contained 597 numbered paragraphs, was far from short or
plain"); Rosa v. Goord, 29 F.Appx. 735, 735 (2d
Cir. 2002) (affirming dismissal of complaint and amended
filings that "remained prolix and not susceptible of a
case, the complaint is neither "short and plain, "
Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a), nor "simple, concise, and direct,
" id. 8(d)(1). The complaint spans 48 handwritten pages,
containing 94 paragraphs, and is supplemented by 57 pages of
attached materials. It is not divided into separate counts;
instead, plaintiff merely provides a lengthy description of
events and a list of possible claims. The allegations include
a wide range of alleged wrongs, including: (1)
unconstitutional conditions of confinement; (2) deliberate
indifference to serious medical needs; (3) retaliation; (4)
improper revocation of parole; (5) interference with ongoing
legal proceedings; (6) denial of access to the mail; (7)
obstruction of administrative remedy procedures; (8)
conspiracy to violate plaintiff's rights; and (9)
complaint also fails to comply with the limits on permissive
joinder of claims against multiple defendants under Rule
20(a)(2). Joinder of claims against multiple defendants is
permitted by this Rule if two criteria are met: (1) the
claims "aris[e] out of the same transaction, occurrence,
or series of transactions and occurrences"; and (2)
"any question of law or fact common to all defendants
will arise in the action." Fed.R.Civ.P. 20(a)(2).
"What will constitute the same transaction or occurrence
under the first prong of Rule 20(a) is approached on a case
by case basis." Kehr ex rel. Kehr v. Yamaha Motor
Corp., U.S.A., 596 F.Supp.2d 821, 826 (S.D.N.Y. 2008)
(citation omitted). "In construing the term transaction
or occurrence' under Rule 20, many courts have drawn
guidance from the use of the same term in Rule 13(a),
applying to compulsory counterclaims." Barnhart v.
Town of Parma, 252 F.R.D. 156, 160 (W.D.N.Y. 2008)
(citation omitted); see also 7 Charles Alan Wright & Arthur
R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure Â§ 1653 (3d ed.). As
the Court of Appeals has observed in the Rule 13 context,
whether a claim arises out of the same transaction as the
original claim depends upon the logical relationship between
the claims and whether the "essential facts of the
various claims are so logically connected that considerations
of judicial economy and fairness dictate that all the issues
be resolved in one lawsuit." Harris v. Steinem,
571 F.2d 119, 123 (2d Cir. 1978).
case, the complaint joins in one action claims that are
wholly unrelated. Throughout the complaint, plaintiff
describes a series of incidents occurring first while he was
a resident at the Daytop Drug Treatment Program, then after
he left that program and was hospitalized, and finally after
he returned to the custody of the Department of Correction.
Plaintiff also challenges his parole proceeding. There is
little overlap between the possible claims and various
defendants involved in these different categories of
allegations. Moreover, even within the allegations regarding
Daytop, the claims relating to conditions and medical care
are unrelated to the claims regarding interference with
pending litigation or access to the mail. Because these and
other claims in the complaint do not "aris[e] out of the
same transaction, occurrence, or series of transactions and
occurrences, " Fed.R.Civ.P. 20(a)(2), the complaint
exceeds the bounds of permissible joinder under Rule
prisoner's complaint improperly joins unrelated claims
against multiple defendants, the plaintiff may be attempting
to circumvent the three strikes and filing fee provisions of
the Prison Litigation Reform Act. See George v.
Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 607 (7th Cir. 2007)
("Unrelated claims against different defendants belong
in different suits, not only to prevent the sort of morass
that this 50-claim, 24-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 a prisoner may file without
prepayment of the required fees."). Even if that is not
the reason for the misjoinder, a court performing the
screening required by Â§ 1915A may find it convenient to
exercise its authority to sever parties sua sponte as
permitted by Rule 21 and direct the plaintiff to proceed
against those parties in separate actions. See Fed.R.Civ.P.
21. But when a prisoner's complaint is as lengthy and
detailed as the one here, making it subject to dismissal for
noncompliance with Rule 8, it makes little sense for a court
to attempt to cure the misjoinder of parties on its own. In
the absence of prejudice to the plaintiff's substantive
rights, the better course is to require the plaintiff to
choose the claims he wishes to bring in the action and drop
the remainder. See Wilson v. Bruce, 400 F.Appx. 106,
108 (7th Cir. 2010) (declining to disturb dismissal
predicated on prisoner's failure to comply with district
court's order conditioning his right to proceed on his
willingness to drop misjoined claims).
the complaint is hereby dismissed without prejudice.
Plaintiff will be given leave to file an amended complaint
that: (1) provides a short and concise statement of his
claims; and (2) does not attempt to impermissibly join
unrelated claims against multiple defendants. The amended
complaint must be filed on or before July 14, 2016. If the
amended complaint fails to comply with these instructions, or
if no amended complaint is filed by the deadline, this action
will be subject to dismissal with prejudice.
light of this order, the motion for a temporary restraining
order, preliminary injunction, and preliminary discovery (ECF
No. 3) is denied as moot and without prejudice to renewal ...