Staples v. United States of America et al
SECOND ORDER OF PARTIAL DISMISSAL, DIRECTING PLAINTIFF TO PROVIDE THE COURT WITH THE INFORMATION AND DOCUMENTATION NEEDED TO EFFECTUATE SERVICE UPON THE REMAINING DEFENDANTS, AND DENYING PLAINTIFF'S REQUEST FOR CORRESPONDENCE TO BE SENT BY CERTIFIED MAIL 7 . Signed by District Judge Gershwin A. Drain. (TBan)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
Case No. 16-cv-12367
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE
GERSHWIN A. DRAIN
STONE, et al.,
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
STEPHANIE DAWKINS DAVIS
SECOND ORDER OF PARTIAL DISMISSAL, DIRECTING PLAINTIFF TO PROVIDE
THE COURT WITH THE INFORMATION AND DOCUMENTATION NEEDED TO
EFFECTUATE SERVICE UPON THE REMAINING DEFENDANTS, AND
DENYING PLAINTIFF’S REQUEST FOR CORRESPONDENCE TO BE SENT BY
CERTIFIED MAIL 
In June 2016, Plaintiff William Staples filed a pro se civil rights complaint.
Dkt. No. 1. Plaintiff is a federal prisoner currently confined at the United States
Prison-Hazelton, located in Bruceton Mills, West Virginia. Plaintiff filed a lawsuit
against seven defendants. The Court reviewed plaintiff’s complaint, dismissed one
claim, and ordered Plaintiff to provide copies and documentation needed to
effectuate service in July 2016. Dkt. No. 5.
After Plaintiff failed to comply with the July order, the Court ordered
Plaintiff to show cause why his case should not be dismissed on December 13,
2016. Dkt. No. 6. Plaintiff submitted a response to the order to show cause,
improperly labeled as a motion, on December 28, 2016. Dkt. No. 7. In his
response, Plaintiff claims that the July 2016 order “was never delivered to [him].”
Id. at 3 (Pg. ID No. 35). He also requests that the Court send correspondence
related to this case by certified mail to him. Id. at 1 (Pg. ID No. 33).
The Court will reiterate its findings from the July 2016 order within this
order. For the reasons stated below, the Court denies Plaintiff’s request to have the
Court send all his correspondence by certified mail and dismisses part Plaintiff’s
complaint for failure to state a claim and misjoinder. The Court will further order
plaintiff to provide three (3) additional copies of the complaint to the Court and to
specifically identify the remaining “John Doe” defendant within sixty (60) days of
this order, so that the Court can properly effectuate service upon the remaining
II. STANDARD OF REVIEW
A plaintiff may file suit in federal court for damages arising from a violation
of plaintiff’s constitutional rights by persons acting under the color of federal law.
See Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403
U.S. 388, 395 (1971). Because plaintiff is alleging that his constitutional rights
were violated by persons acting under color of federal law, plaintiff’s complaint is
properly construed as a Bivens action. See, e.g., Shehee v. Luttrell, 199 F.3d 295,
298 (6th Cir. 1999).
Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (PLRA), district courts are
required to screen all civil cases brought by prisoners. See McGore v.
Wrigglesworth, 114 F. 3d 601, 608 (6th Cir. 1997). If a complaint fails to pass
muster under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) or § 1915A, the “district court should sua
sponte dismiss the complaint.” Id. at 612. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)
and § 1915(e)(2)(A), a district court must sua sponte dismiss an in forma pauperis
complaint before service on the defendant if satisfied that the action is frivolous or
malicious, that it fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that it
seeks monetary relief from a defendant or defendants who are immune from such
relief. McLittle v. O’Brien, 974 F. Supp. 635, 636 (E.D. Mich. 1997). The
screening provisions of the PLRA are applicable to Bivens actions brought by
federal inmates. See, e.g., Diaz v. Van Norman, 351 F. Supp. 2d 679, 680–81 (E.D.
Plaintiff alleges that he was previously incarcerated at the Federal
Correctional Institution at Milan, Michigan (“FCI-Milan”). Plaintiff claims he was
being treated for several chronic medical conditions. Plaintiff claims that each time
he received treatment for these illnesses, he was charged a co-pay of $2.00. In
total, plaintiff was required to pay $12.00 in co-payments. Plaintiff appealed these
co-payments to defendant Dr. Charles Samuel, Jr., the Director of the Federal
Bureau of Prisons, and Defendant Harrella Watts, the Administrator of National
Inmate Appeals, but his appeals were denied.
Next, Plaintiff claims that Defendant Stone, the Unit Manager at FCI-Milan,
failed to provide postage to plaintiff to enable him to mail out various
administrative appeals. Plaintiff alleges that Stone’s failure to provide him postage
caused one of his civil cases to be dismissed for failure to comply with a court
Plaintiff claims that Defendants Murphy, Bowman, and “John Doe” forced
him to work in the prison kitchen, even though plaintiff’s medical conditions
prevented him from being able to work. Plaintiff claims that the defendants
threatened to place him in the Special Housing Unit (SHU) if he did not work.
Plaintiff claims that he suffered a heart attack as a result of being forced to work
and was rushed to the hospital.
Plaintiff seeks monetary and injunctive relief.
A. Plaintiff’s First Claim Must Be Dismissed Due to Sovereign Immunity
and Failure to State A Claim
Plaintiff’s action against the United States of America must be dismissed.
Absent a waiver, sovereign immunity shields the Federal Government and its
agencies from being sued. See F.D.I.C. v. Meyer, 510 U.S. 471, 475 (1996). A
Bivens cause of action therefore cannot be brought against the federal government
or a federal agency. Id. at 483-86. A plaintiff who wishes to bring a lawsuit against
the United States must identify a waiver of sovereign immunity in order to
proceed, and if he cannot identify such a waiver, the claim must be dismissed on
jurisdictional grounds. See Reetz v. U.S., 224 F.3d 794, 795 (6th Cir. 2000) (citing
Dalehite v. United States, 346 U.S. 15, 30 (1953)). Plaintiff has not identified any
waiver of sovereign immunity by the federal government with regards to his cause
of action, thus, any claim against the federal government must be dismissed.
Plaintiff’s lawsuit against the United States of America is thus barred by the
doctrine of sovereign immunity. See Ashbrook v. Block, 917 F.2d 918, 924 (6th Cir.
Plaintiff’s action against Defendants Samuel and Watts for refusing to
relieve him of his co-payments fails to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted. “It is constitutional to charge inmates a small fee for health care where
indigent inmates are guaranteed service regardless of ability to pay.” White v. Corr.
Med. Servs. Inc., 94 F. App’x 262, 264 (6th Cir. 2004) (citing Reynolds v. Wagner,
128 F.3d 166, 173–74 (3d Cir. 1997)). Plaintiff does not allege that he was denied
medical treatment because of his inability to pay, thus, the imposition of a copayment each time plaintiff received medical treatment did not violate plaintiff’s
right to due process. Id.
B. Plaintiff’s Second Claim Must Be Dismissed Because of Misjoinder
Plaintiff has two remaining claims: a due process claim against Defendant
Stone for failing to provide him with postage stamps and a claim that Defendants
Murphy, Bowman, and “John Doe” were deliberately indifferent to his medical
needs. Each separate claim will require particularized analysis. As discussed
below, Plaintiff’s complaint fails to satisfy Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 18 and
20 and the Court must remedy this misjoinder.
Rule 20(a) limits the joinder of parties, and Rule 18(a) limits the joinder of
claims. FED. R. CIV. P. 18(a), 20(a). Rule 20(a)(2) governs when multiple
defendants may be joined in one action: “[p]ersons . . . 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).
Rule 20(a)(1) governs when multiple plaintiffs may bring a joint action: “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.” 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).
Where multiple parties 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 . . . .
Proctor v. Applegate, 661 F. Supp. 2d 743, 778 (E.D. Mich. 2009) (quoting Garcia
v. Munoz, 2008 WL 2064476, *3 (D.N.J. 2008); Charles Allen Wright, Arthur R.
Miller, Mary Kay Kane, 7 Federal Practice & Procedure Civil 3d, § 1655); see also
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
Accordingly, “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.” Proctor, 661 F. Supp. 2d at 778 (quoting Garcia,
2008 WL 2064476, at *3). The factors that courts consider in determining whether
civil rights claims arise from the same transaction or occurrence include: the time
period during which the alleged acts occurred; whether the acts of were related;
whether more than one act was alleged; whether the same supervisors were
involved; and whether the defendants were at different geographical locations. See
Here, it is clear that Plaintiff’s claims against Defendant Stone arise out of a
different occurrence than those against Defendants Murphy, Bowman, and “John
Doe.” Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Stone failed to give him postage stamps,
whereas he alleges that Defendants Murphy, Bowman, and “John Doe” caused him
to have a heart attack by forcing him to work when he was ill. These acts are in no
way related and cannot coexist within the same case.
As the Seventh Circuit explained:
[M]ultiple 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).1
Thus, the Court must find a remedy for Plaintiff’s misjoinder. Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 21 provides that, when misjoinder occurs, “parties may be
dropped or added by order of the court on motion of any party or its own initiative
at any stage of the action and on such terms as are just.” Proctor, 661 F. Supp. 2d
at 781 (quoting Nali v. Michigan Dep’t of Corrections, 2007 WL 4465247, *3
(E.D. Mich. 2007)). While misjoinder of parties is not sufficient to dismiss an
action as a whole under Rule 21, but it can be sufficient to dismiss misjoined
parties. Id. (citing Harris v. Gerth, 2008 WL 5424134, *4 (E.D. Mich. 2008)).
It appears that Plaintiff is familiar with pro se civil rights litigation and the
Prison Litigation Reform Act’s requirements from his other suits against prison
officials. See Staples v. United States, 2016 WL 5173404 (W.D. Okla. Sept. 21,
2016) (dismissing all of parties and claims except for a Bivens claim against an
individual defendant); Staples v. United States, No. 3:14-CV-1777, 2015 WL
5786106, at *4 (M.D. Pa. Sept. 30, 2015) (finding that Plaintiff’s complaint was in
violation of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 20); Staples v. Chester, 515 F. App’x
752, 753 (10th Cir. 2013) (affirming district court’s grant of summary judgment to
defendants on “negligent mail-handling claim because the prison mail procedures
were governed by and compliant with the policies established by the Bureau of
Prisons”); Staples v. Sherrod, No. 11-CV-00108, 2012 WL 1712102 (W.D. La.
May 15, 2012) (dismissing Plaintiff’s complaint for lack of exhaustion); Staples v.
Dewalt, 2009 WL 1505560 (E.D. Ky. May 27, 2009) (dismissing Plaintiff’s
complaint because each of Plaintiff’s claims either lacked merit, was not exhausted
administratively, or was not within the court’s jurisdiction); Staples v. Casperson,
6 F. App’x 481 (7th Cir. 2001) (remanding a district court’s dismissal of plaintiff’s
due process claim to be dismissed without prejudice).
In the interests of judicial efficiency and economy, the Court will dismiss
Plaintiff’s claim against Defendant Stone without prejudice, so that he may
properly bring it in a separate proceeding.
C. The Court Needs Additional Information and Supplies to Proceed With
Plaintiff’s Third Claim
The Court believes that Plaintiff may have stated a colorable claim against
the three remaining defendants. Plaintiff, however, has not provided the Court with
sufficient copies of the complaint for service to be made upon the remaining
defendants. Plaintiff has also failed to specifically identify the “John Doe”
defendant whom he wishes to file suit against.
“An inmate who brings a civil rights complaint must specifically identify
each defendant against whom relief is sought and must give each defendant notice
of the action by serving upon him a summons and copy of the complaint.” ReedBey v. Pramstaller, No. 06–10934, 2007 WL 2421422 at *2 (E.D. Mich. Aug. 23,
2007) (citing Feliciano v. DuBois, 846 F. Supp. 1033, 1048 (D. Mass. 1994)).
Where a plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis, as is the case here, the
district court must bear the responsibility for issuing the plaintiff’s process to a
United States Marshal’s Office, who must effect service upon the defendants once
the plaintiff has properly identified the defendants in the complaint. See Byrd v.
Stone, 94 F. 3d 217, 219 (6th Cir. 1996); FED. R. CIV. P. 4(c)(2); 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(d). The Court will therefore order Plaintiff to submit three additional copies
of the complaint for service upon each of the defendants whom he wishes to sue.
Plaintiff will be given sixty (60) days to provide the additional copies. See FED. R.
CIV. P. 4(m).
In addition, although courts generally do not favor use of “John Doe” to
identify defendants, where the identify of a party is unknown prior to the filing of a
complaint, courts generally allow a plaintiff to identify the unknown defendant
through discovery, unless it is clear that discovery would not uncover the identities
of the defendants. Haney v. 5th E. Dist. Police Dep’t, No. 12-CV-14684, 2012 WL
5389914, at *4 (E.D. Mich. Nov. 5, 2012) (citing Yates v. Young, 772 F.2d 909
(Table), 1985 WL 13614, *2 (6th Cir. Aug. 28, 1985)). Accordingly, the Court will
grant plaintiff sixty (60) days from the date of this order to obtain and provide to
this Court the name of the “John Doe” defendant who he claims participated in the
deprivation of his constitutional rights.
D. The Court Denies Plaintiff’s Request for Certified Mail
In his response to the Court’s order to show cause, Plaintiff requested that
the Court send all of his legal correspondence by certified mail in the future. Dkt.
No. 7, p. 1 (Pg. ID No. 33). In this filing, Plaintiff states that he never received the
Court’s July 6, 2016 Order, Dkt. No. 5, at USP Hazelton, where Plaintiff was
incarcerated at that time. He also requests “to have all further correspondence sent
by certified mail,” to “increase the probability of ensuring that the mail will be
delivered to me and we will know the staff member’s name that signed for it.” Id.
The Court advises Plaintiff that the administrative procedures in this district
provide that incarcerated pro se filers will receive orders of the court by first class
mail, as incarcerated persons are not permitted to use electronic filing. Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 77(d) provides that the clerk shall serve notice of court
orders immediately upon entry in the manner provided in Rule 5(b). Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 5(b)(2)(B) allows for service by mail, and states that: “Service
by mail is complete on mailing.” Here, the court clerk mailed service of the
document, of which Plaintiff complains he never received.
The Court does not send its orders to litigants via certified mail. The Court
and the court clerk are aware that Plaintiff is entitled to prompt notice of filings by
first class mail, and will continue to ensure that notice is provided in the future. See
Johnson v. Michigan Dep’t of Corr., 977 F.2d 581 (6th Cir. 1992) (affirming a
district court’s order denying a prisoner free photocopying of legal materials and
refusing to mail out specific legal pleadings by certified mail); Elrod v. Swanson,
478 F. Supp. 2d 1252, 1260 (D. Kan. 2007) (denying a prisoner’s request to
receive court orders via certified mail).
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Plaintiff’s complaint is DISMISSED IN
PART WITH PREJUDICE pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) and 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(A) as to Defendants United States of America, Dr. Charles Samuel Jr., and
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Plaintiff’s complaint is DISMISSED
IN PART WITHOUT PREJUDICE pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
21 as to Defendant Stone;
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Plaintiff shall submit three (3)
additional copies of the complaint to the Court within sixty (60) days of the date of
this order so that service may be effectuated upon each of the defendants. The
Court shall provide Plaintiff with one copy of the complaint to assist him in this
endeavor. This copy should be returned to the Court with the additional copies.
Plaintiff’s failure to comply with the Court’s Order may result in dismissal of the
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Plaintiff shall provide the name and
identity of the “John Doe” defendant named in this complaint to this Court within
sixty (60) days of this order or the complaint will be dismissed without prejudice
against this defendant;
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Plaintiff’s request to receive
correspondence from the Court via certified mail  is DENIED.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Dated: January 9, 2017
/s/Gershwin A Drain
HON. GERSHWIN A. DRAIN
United States District Court Judge
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