Webb v. Maldonaldo et al
INITIAL REVIEW ORDER- Signed by Judge Robert N. Chatigny on 6/26/13.(Glynn, T.)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF CONNECTICUT
DANIEL J. A. WEBB,
WARDEN EDUARDO MALDONALDO,
CASE NO. 3:13-cv-144(RNC)
RULING AND ORDER
Plaintiff Daniel Webb, a death row inmate at Northern
Correctional Institution, brings this action pro se pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 1983 against personnel of the Connecticut Department
of Correction ("DOC").
Named as defendants are Warden Eduardo
Maldonaldo, District Administrator Angel Quiros, Lieutenants
Pensavaly, Bujnicki and Doe, Correctional Officers Mumin, Brace,
Krob, McGoldrick and Castinguay, Counselor Tourangeau, Counselor
Supervisor Cassandra Davis and Correctional Health Nurse Doe.
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.
Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, a district court is required to
screen a prisoner's complaint against governmental entities,
officers or employees and dismiss the complaint if it is
frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief
may be granted or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is
immune from such relief.
In reviewing a pro se complaint, a
court must assume the truth of the factual allegations and
interpret them liberally to "raise the strongest arguments [they]
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.
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."
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).
In this 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."
R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2).
Rule 8(d)(1) requires that "[e]ach
allegation must be simple, concise, and direct."
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[.]"
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).
The plaintiff's statement of
his claim "should be short because '[u]nnecessary prolixity in a
pleading places an unjustified burden on the court and the party
who must respond to it because they are forced to select the
relevant material from a mass of verbiage.'"
Cuomo, 861 F.2d 40, 42 (2d Cir. 1988) (quoting 5 C. Wright & A.
Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 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)).
"When 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
In Salahuddin, a case brought by a prisoner under § 1983,
the Court of Appeals had "no doubt" that the pro se complaint
failed to comply with Rule 8.
Id. at 43.
"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."
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 Fed. App'x 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
Fed. App'x 735, 735 (2d Cir. 2002) (affirming dismissal of
complaint and amended filings that "remained prolix and not
susceptible of a responsive pleading").
In this case, the complaint is neither "short and plain,"
Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a), nor "simple, concise, and direct," id.
The complaint "reads more like a novel than a legal
Sleigh v. Charlex, Inc., No. 03 Civ. 1369(MBM), 2004
WL 2126742, at *8 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 14, 2004).
It spans 44 single-
spaced handwritten pages, containing 156 paragraphs, and is
supplemented by 132 pages of attached materials.
are made against a total of 13 defendants.
encompass a wide range of alleged wrongs, including: (1) verbal
harassment and threats; (2) deliberate indifference to serious
medical needs; (3) inhumane conditions of confinement; (3) false
disciplinary reports; (4) confiscation of property; (5) loss of
privileges; and (6) excessive force.
The complaint also fails to comply with the limits on
permissive joinder of claims against multiple defendants under
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."
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
"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
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 § 1653
As the Court of Appeals has observed in the Rule 13
context, whether a counterclaim 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."
F.2d 119, 123 (2d Cir. 1978).
Harris v. Steinem, 571
In this case, the complaint joins in one action claims that
are wholly unrelated.
For instance, it asserts Eighth Amendment
claims of excessive force against some of the defendants, while
also asserting a First Amendment claim against other defendants
based on a DOC policy prohibiting certain sexually explicit
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
When a 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.
28 U.S.C. § 1915(g).").
Even if that is not the reason for the misjoinder, a court
performing the screening required by § 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.
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 Fed. App'x 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).
Accordingly, the complaint is hereby dismissed without
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 will
be due on or before July 26, 2013.
The Clerk will send the plaintiff an amended complaint form
with this order.
Plaintiff is cautioned that his amended
complaint must comply with the instructions on the form,
specifically the instructions on page 5 concerning the
requirements for a valid complaint.
If the amended complaint
fails to comply with those instructions, the action will be
subject to dismissal with prejudice.
So ordered this 26th day of June 2013.
Robert N. Chatigny
United States District Judge
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