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Sperry v. Wildermuth

United States District Court, D. Kansas

January 30, 2018

LINDSEY WILDERMUTH, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff, a state prisoner appearing pro se and in forma pauperis, brings this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 civil rights complaint.

         I. Nature of the Matter before the Court

         Plaintiff is an inmate at the El Dorado Correctional Facility (“EDCF”) in El Dorado, Kansas. He previously resided at the Lansing Correctional Facility (“LCF”) in Lansing, Kansas, but was transferred to EDCF as a result of his placement in administrative segregation. Mr. Sperry describes the nature of his case as follows: “In September 2015, prison officials started targeting plaintiff for mistreatment and retaliation. The KDOC has a system established where every member in the administration conspires with every other member to violate the constitutional and civil rights of plaintiff and every other inmate.” Doc. #25 at 4. According to Plaintiff, he became a target in part because of his activities as a jailhouse lawyer on behalf of himself and other inmates. After his general description of his case, he proceeds to bring fourteen counts. To summarize, Plaintiff claims: (1) he was illegally placed in administrative segregation for 17 months; (2) he was held for just over two months of his segregation in a cell infested with roaches; (3) he has been systematically prevented from getting an 8-hour period of continuous sleep since January 25, 2016, when he was transferred to segregation at EDCF; (4) he has not received treatment for his Hepatitis-C infection; (5) Defendants have illegally seized two of Plaintiff's books, three periodicals, and one photograph; (6) he was denied access to the law library while he was held in administrative segregation; (7) and (8) some of Plaintiff's personal property, including some of his legal materials, was illegally seized when he was moved to segregation; (9) he has not received interest on his inmate account since January of 2012; (10) none of the 25 disciplinary hearings he has received while incarcerated have been fair, unbiased, or properly documented; (11) the prison grievance system is meaningless and manipulated by Defendants to automatically deny all relief and to create obstacles between prisoners and judicial review; (12) he was denied all of his rights while housed in administrative segregation; (13) the privatizing of the prison canteen service has resulted in higher prices and inferior products, and the prison canteen began unlawfully charging sales tax in 2015; and (14) the Brothers in Blue program is a religious program illegally promoted and funded by prison officials.

         Mr. Sperry names 24 defendants and requests injunctive and declaratory relief, as well as compensatory and punitive damages.

         U.S. Magistrate Judge Waxse previously ordered Plaintiff to file an amended complaint due to the improper joinder of claims. See Doc. #9. Mr. Sperry filed a motion for reconsideration (Doc. #10), which Judge Waxse denied (Doc. #13). Mr. Sperry then filed an interlocutory appeal of the order denying his motion for reconsideration with the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. His appeal was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction as a magistrate's order is not directly appealable to the Tenth Circuit. See Doc. #18.

         After dismissal of his appeal, Mr. Sperry filed a 24-page, typed, single-spaced amended complaint. His original complaint was 52 handwritten pages. In complete disregard of Judge Waxse's order, the amended complaint contains the same 14 counts and names the same 24 defendants as the original complaint. Plaintiff made some minor changes in wording but offers no justification for disregarding the previous order nor any new arguments as to why claims involving entirely different incidents and defendants are properly joined.

         II. Discussion

         In consideration of Mr. Sperry's pro se status, the Court will make one more attempt to explain the joinder rules and why the amended complaint does not comply.

         Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 18, 20, and 21 govern joinder and misjoinder of parties and claims. Rule 20(a)(2) allows a plaintiff to join multiple defendants in one action “if the claims against them arise out of the same transaction or occurrence and there is a common question of law or fact linking the claims together.” Nasious v. City and County of Denver - Denver Sheriff's Dept., 415 F. App'x 877, 880 (10th Cir. 2011). “Misjoinder [under Rule 21], on the other hand, occurs when there is no common question of law or fact or when . . . the events that give rise to the plaintiff's claims against defendants do not stem from the same transaction.” Id., quoting DirecTV, Inc. v. Leto, 467 F.3d 842, 844 (3d Cir. 2006).

         While Rule 18(a) provides that “[a] party asserting a claim . . . may join, as independent or alternative claims, as many claims as it has against an opposing party, ” the analysis under Rule 20 precedes the analysis under 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.” Redmon v. Zavaras, No. 09-cv-02133-BNB, 2009 WL 4059188, at *4 (D. Colo. Nov. 20, 2009) (quoting 7 Charles Allen Wright, Arthur R. Miller, Mary Kay Kane, Federal Practice & Procedure Civil 3d § 1655). Stated another way, Plaintiff must show that all 24 defendants “participated in the same transaction or series of transactions” upon which at least one his claims is based. George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 607 (7th Cir. 2007).

         Applying the rules to Mr. Sperry's complaint, the fundamental problem is that no one claim implicates all 24 defendants. Mr. Sperry has not asserted any claim against all 24 defendants that “arises out of the same transaction or occurrence and presents questions of law or fact common to all” as required by Rule 20.

         Mr. Sperry's allegations in the amended complaint can be grouped into the following transactions or occurrences: (1) his assignment to administrative segregation, conditions he endured while there, and other alleged violations of his rights that occurred as a result of his transfer to ad seg (Counts I, II, III, VI, VII, VIII, XII); (2) the lack of treatment for his Hepatitis-C infection (Count IV); (3) seizure or censorship of some of his reading materials (Count V); (4) the failure of prisoners to receive interest on their prison financial accounts since 2012 (Count IX); (5) the disciplinary hearing process in general, spanning his entire twenty years of incarceration (Count X); (6) the grievance system in general (Count XI); (7) privatization of the prison canteen service (Count XII); and (8) the implementation and promotion of the Brothers in Blue program (Count IV).

         Again, none of these “transactions or occurrences” implicates all 24 defendants. Consequently, Plaintiff's amended complaint fails to comply with the joinder rules and cannot go forward as filed. To allow this “mishmash of a complaint” to proceed as filed would result in a “morass” and would also effectively allow Plaintiff to bring five lawsuits for the price of one. George, 507 F.3d at 607. Giving the rules a very broad reading, there is at least some argument that Counts I, II, III, V, VI, VII, VIII, X, XI, and XII may be brought in one lawsuit, given Plaintiff's overarching allegation that a retaliatory motive underlies the actions of KDOC personnel. However, Counts IV, IX, XII, and IV arise out of completely different occurrences, involve entirely different facts, and are thus improperly joined to the first set of counts or to each other. The only way all of Mr. Sperry's claims could ...

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