Washington v. Hellyer et al
OPINION AND ORDER: The Court DIRECTS the Clerk to put this case number on a blank Prisoner Complaint Pro Se 14 (INND Rev. 2/20) form and send it to Theodis Washington along with a blank Prisoner Complaint Pro Se 14 (INND Rev. 2/20) form, GRANTS Th eodis Washington until 12/8/2023, to file an amended complaint containing only related claims on the form with this case number sent to him by the Clerk, and CAUTIONS Theodis Washington that, if he does not respond by the deadline or if he files an amended complaint with unrelated claims, the court will select one group of related claims and dismiss the others without prejudice. Signed by Senior Judge James T Moody on 12/8/2023. (Copy mailed as directed in Order) (rmf)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
No. 2:23 CV 227
HUNTER HELLYER, et al.,
OPINION and ORDER
Theodis Washington, a prisoner without a lawyer, filed a complaint containing
unrelated claims. (DE # 1.) “A document filed pro se is to be liberally construed, and a pro se
complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal
pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quotation marks and
citations omitted). Nevertheless, under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the court must review the merits of
a prisoner complaint and dismiss it if the action is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim
upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is
immune from such relief.
Washington is suing Correctional Officers Hunter Hellyer and Luke Wilcox for an
incident that occurred on May 8, 2023. He is suing Captain Josh Morgan and Lt. Megan
Hensley for incidents that occurred on May 13, 2023, and May 19, 2023. 1
Washington may not sue different defendants based on unrelated events. “Unrelated
claims against different defendants belong in different suits . . ..” George v. Smith, 507 F.3d
605, 607 (7th Cir. 2007). See also Owens v. Evans, 878 F.3d 559, 566 (7th Cir. 2017). When a pro se
prisoner files a suit with unrelated claims, the court has several options. Wheeler v. Wexford
Health Sources, Inc., 689 F.3d 680, 683 (7th Cir. 2012). It is the practice of this court to notify the
plaintiff and allow him to decide which claim (or related claims) to pursue in the instant case
– as well as to decide when or if to bring the other claims in separate suits. Id. (“The judge
might have been justified in directing Wheeler to file separate complaints, each confined to
one group of injuries and defendants.”). This is the fairest solution because “the plaintiff as
master of the complaint may present (or abjure) any claim he likes.” Katz v. Gerardi, 552 F.3d
558, 563 (7th Cir. 2009).
The court could properly limit this case by picking a claim (or related claims) for
Washington because “[a] district judge [can] solve the problem by . . . dismissing the excess
defendants under Fed. R. Civ. P. 21.” Wheeler, 689 F.3d at 683. Alternatively, the court could
split the unrelated claims because “[a] district judge [can] solve the problem by severance
Washington sues Warden Brian English, Deputy Warden Christopher Ertel, and an
unknown major, for how they responded to complaints from Washington’s uncle about these
three incidents, but these allegations do not state a claim. There is no general respondeat
superior liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Burks v. Raemisch, 555 F.3d 592, 594 (7th Cir. 2009).
“Public officials do not have a free-floating obligation to put things to rights[.]” Id. at 595.
They “are responsible for their own misdeeds but not for anyone else’s.” Id. at 596.
Washington also sues Correctional Officer Kimberly Raypholtz, but does not mention her in
the body of the complaint.
(creating multiple suits that can be separately screened) . . ..” Id. Both solutions pose potential
problems. Thus, it is the prisoner plaintiff who should make the decision whether to incur
those additional filing fees and bear the risk of additional strikes. However, if Washington is
unable to select related claims on which to proceed in this case, one of these options may
become necessary. Washington needs to decide which related claims and associated
defendants he wants to pursue in this case. See Katz, 552 F.3d at 563 and Wheeler, 689 F.3d at
683. Then, he needs to file an amended complaint including only a discussion of the related
claims and defendants. Moreover, he should not write about other events and conditions
which are not directly related to the claim against the named defendant or defendants. If he
believes those other events or conditions state a claim, he needs to file separate lawsuits.
For these reasons, the court:
(1) DIRECTS the Clerk to put this case number on a blank Prisoner Complaint Pro Se
14 (INND Rev. 2/20) form and send it to Theodis Washington along with a blank Prisoner
Complaint Pro Se 14 (INND Rev. 2/20) form; 2
(2) GRANTS Theodis Washington until December 8, 2023, to file an amended
complaint containing only related claims on the form with this case number sent to him by
the Clerk; and
(3) CAUTIONS Theodis Washington that, if he does not respond by the deadline or if
he files an amended complaint with unrelated claims, the court will select one group of
related claims and dismiss the others without prejudice.
Should Washington require additional forms, he may request them from the Clerk.
Date: November 13, 2023
s/James T. Moody
JUDGE JAMES T. MOODY
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
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