Owen et al v. Lisenbe et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER... IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the Clerk shall STRIKE Steven Mullins from this action. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Clerk shall open a new case for Mullins, utilizing the complaint in this case.. Signed by District Judge Audrey G. Fleissig on 10/17/2016. (A copy of this Order and the Complaint were sent to Case Initiation.) (NEB)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
RONNIE LEE OWEN, et al.,
RICHARD LISENBEE, et al.,
No. 4:16-CV-1567 AGF
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
This matter is before the Court upon its own motion. This action was filed jointly by two
prisoners, Ronnie Owen and Steven Mullins.1 Multiple prisoners may not join together in a
single lawsuit under Rule 20 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. E.g., Georgeoff v. Barnes,
2:09CV14 ERW, 2009 WL 1405497 (E.D. Mo. 2009). As a result, the Court will strike Owens
from this case and order the Clerk to open a new case for him.
There are several reasons for this. First, the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”)
requires that “if a prisoner brings a civil action or files an appeal in forma pauperis, the prisoner
shall be required to pay the full amount of a filing fee.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). However,
“[m]ultiple filing fees cannot be collected for one case filed by multiple plaintiffs, thus the
PLRA’s requirement that a prisoner pay the full fee for filing a lawsuit would be circumvented in
a multiple plaintiff case subject to the PLRA.” Lilly v. Ozmint, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 49153 *4,
2007 WL 2021874 *1 (D.S.C. July 6, 2007) (slip copy); see 28 U.S.C. § 1914. Therefore, the
requirement of § 1915(b)(1) that each prisoner pay the full amount of a filing fee requires
There are thirteen named plaintiffs in the complaint. However, only Owen and Mullins signed
the complaint. So, it is unclear whether the other named plaintiffs consented to being named in
individual prisoners to bring separate suits, rather than file jointly under Rule 20. Hubbard v.
Haley, 262 F.3d 1194 (11th Cir. 2001), cert. denied, 534 U.S. 1136 (2002).
Additionally, courts have noted that “the impracticalities inherent in multiple-prisoner
litigation militate against the permissive joinder allowed by Rule 20.” Hagwood v. Warden,
2009 WL 427396 *2 (D.N.J. Feb. 19, 2009) (slip copy) (citing Wasko v. Allen County Jail, 2006
WL 978956 (N.D. Ind. 2006); Swenson v. MacDonald, 2007 WL 240233 *2-4 (D. Mont. Jan. 30,
2006) (slip copy)).
Among the difficulties noted by these courts are the need for each plaintiff to sign
the pleadings, and the consequent possibilities that documents may be changed as
they are circulated or that prisoners may seek to compel prison authorities to
permit them to gather to discuss the joint litigation. [Other] courts have also
noted that jail populations are notably transitory, making joint litigation difficult.
A final consideration for [one court] was the possibility that “coercion, subtle or
not, frequently plays a role in relations between inmates.”
Hagwood, 2009 WL 427396 at *2.
Finally, joinder of prisoners’ claims under Rule 20 would allow prisoners to avoid the
risk of incurring strikes under § 1915(g) so long as one of those prisoners’ claims is viable,
because § 1915(g) imposes a strike only if the entire action is dismissed. Prisoners may not
circumvent the penalties associated with filing frivolous actions by joining claims under Rule 20.
For these reasons, the Court will not allow plaintiffs to proceed jointly in this action.
Nothing in this Memorandum and Order should be construed as precluding any or all of
the plaintiffs from cooperating to the extent that they are able or as preventing consolidation of
these cases for trial if that becomes appropriate at a later date.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the Clerk shall STRIKE Steven Mullins from this
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Clerk shall open a new case for Mullins, utilizing
the complaint in this case.
Dated this 17th day of October, 2016.
AUDREY G. FLEISSIG
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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