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Houston v. Mink

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

January 22, 2015

ERIC HOUSTON, ET AL., Plaintiff
v.
D. MINK, ET AL., Defendants; ERIC HOUSTON, ET AL., Plaintiff
v.
N. ARNOLD, ET AL., Defendants

Eric Houston, Plaintiff (4:13-cv-01930-MWB-JVW), Pro se, Lewisburg, PA.

Eric Houston, Plaintiff (4:13cv2024), Pro se, Lewisburg, PA USA.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Matthew W. Brann, United States District Judge.

Background

Eric Houston and Edward McDonald initiated the two above captioned pro se this civil rights complaints regarding their confinement at the United States Penitentiary, Lewisburg, Pennsylvania (USP-Lewisburg). Both actions were previously dismissed without prejudice as to Plaintiff McDonald for his failure to pay the required filing fees or in the alternative to file proper in forma pauperis applications and forms. Accordingly, Inmate Houston will be deemed the sole Plaintiff.

The initially filed action, Civil Action No. 4:CV-13-1930, names as Defendants the following USP-Lewisburg officials: SIC D. Mink; Warden Jeff Thomas; HSA Bonaparte; and Lieutenants Shuman and Knapp.. The rambling at times illegible and obscenity laced Complaint generally asserts that Plaintiffs are being subjected to racially motivated retaliatory mistreatment including verbal threats, physical torture, mail interference, inadequate medical care and living conditions while housed in the prison's Special Management Unit (SMU). Houston references incidents which allegedly transpired on January 11, 2012, December 18, 2011 and March 7, 2012. See Doc. 1, p. 4. However, there are no dates or specific incidents referenced in the complaint. Moreover, no specific conduct is attributed to any of the named Defendants. In light of those deficiencies, the exact nature of Plaintiff's claims against the respective Defendants is unknown. Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief and monetary damages.

Named as Defendants in Plaintiff's second action, Civil Action No. 4:CV-13-2024, are the following USP-Lewisburg officials: Correctional Officers N. Arnold and Sholly; Unit Manager Stover; Captain Taggart; Beaver; and Stroud. This Complaint is also a rambling at times illegible narrative. Houston again raises similar vague contentions of being subjected to racially motivated mistreatment, including mail interference, verbal threats, food tampering, and excessive force, at USP-Lewisburg. He indicates that he is unable to provide any dates or times. It is unclear as to what role, if any, the named Defendants played in the alleged mistreatment.

Discussion

Consolidation

Rule 42 (a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure states:

(a) Consolidation.

If actions before the court involve a common question of law or fact, the court may:

(1) join for hearing or trial any or all matters at issue;

(2) consolidate the actions; or

(3) issue any other orders to avoid unnecessary costs or delay.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 42(a).

Both complaints are set forth in a disjointed manner which lack adequate factual detail. Despite those deficiencies, it is apparent the facts set forth in each of the above described complaints are similar in almost all respects. As noted earlier, the arguments set forth in the respective actions similarly claim that Houston and the former Plaintiff McDonald were subjected to racially motivated retaliatory mistreatment by USP-Lewisburg staff.

Consequently, since the above described actions contain common factors of law and fact, this Court will order the consolidation of the latest complaint into the initially filed action pursuant to Rule 42(a) and will proceed with the consolidated matter under the initially filed action, Civil Action No. 4:CV-13-1930.

Amend Complaint

Pro se parties are accorded substantial deference and liberality in federal court. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 92 S.Ct. 594, 30 L.Ed.2d 652 (1972); Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 101 S.Ct. 173, 66 L.Ed.2d 163 (1980). They are not, however, free to ignore the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 requires that a complaint contain a short and plain statement setting forth (1) the grounds upon which the court's jurisdiction rests, (2) the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, and (3) a demand for judgment for the relief sought by the pleader.

Although there is not a heightened pleading standard in civil rights cases, a civil rights complaint, in order to comply with Rule 8, must contain at least a modicum of factual specificity, identifying the particular conduct of the defendant that is alleged to have harmed the plaintiff, so that the court can determine that the complaint is not frivolous and a defendant has adequate notice to frame an answer.[1] A civil rights complaint complies with this standard if it alleges the conduct violating the plaintiff's rights, the time and the place of that conduct, and the identity of the responsible officials.

Houston's consolidated complaints do not comply with Rule 8. Due to their length and recitation of unnecessary factual information and case citations, Defendants are not given fair notice of Plaintiff's claims and the concise grounds upon which they rest. It is noted with particularity that Plaintiff does not adequately provide descriptions of the mistreatment he allegedly received at USP-Lewisburg. His amended complaint should provide a brief factually specific description of each alleged unconstitutional act including the date the mistreatment occurred and identifying which Defendants were involved.

Consequently, Houston will be directed to file a single amended complaint of no more then twenty-five (25) pages in length, which clearly states each claim he wishes to pursue in a separate legible paragraph; identifies which defendant[s] was involved in which conduct; and specifies the relief he is seeking. See Salahuddin v. Cuomo, 861 F.2d 40 (2d Cir. 1988).

Plaintiff is advised that in order to state a viable civil rights claim he must make a showing that the conduct complained of was committed by a person acting under color of law and that said conduct deprived him of a right, privilege, or immunity secured by the Constitution or by a statute of the United States. Cohen v. City of Philadelphia, 736 F.2d 81, 83, cert. denied, 469 U.S. 1019, 105 S.Ct. 434, 83 L.Ed.2d 360 (1984). A prerequisite for a viable civil rights claim is that a defendant directed, or knew of and acquiesced in, the deprivation of his constitutional rights. Monell v. Department of Social Serv. of the City of N.Y., 436 U.S. 658, 694-95, 98 S.Ct. 2018, 56 L.Ed.2d 611 (1978); Gay v. Petsock, 917 F.2d 768, 771 (3d Cir. 1990); Capone v. Marinelli, 868 F.2d 102, 106 n.7 (3d Cir. 1989). This is the personal involvement requirement. Civil rights liability may not be imposed on the principle of respondeat superior. Capone v. Marinelli, 868 F.2d at 106 (citing Hampton v. Holmesburg Prison Officials, 546 F.2d 1077, 1082 (3d Cir. 1976)).

Houston's amended complaint must be complete in all respects. It must be a new pleading which stands by itself without reference to the consolidated complaints previously filed. The amended complaint should set forth Plaintiff's claims in short, concise and legible paragraphs. It should specify which actions are alleged as to which Defendants. Failure of the Plaintiff to timely submit an amended complaint or otherwise respond to this Order will result in dismissal of his action for failure to prosecute. An appropriate Order will enter.

IT IS HEREBY ORDERED THAT:

1. The Clerk of Court is directed to CONSOLIDATE Houston, et al. v. Arnold, et al., Civil No. 4:CV-13-2024 into Houston, et al., v. Mink, et al., Civil No. 4:CV-13-1930, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 42(a).
2. The Clerk of Court is directed to CLOSE the case of Houston, et al., v. Arnold, et al., Civil No. 4:CV-13-2024.
3. Houston will be deemed the sole Plaintiff in this matter.
4. Within twenty-one (21) days of the date of this order, Houston may file and serve an amended complaint which is in compliance with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(e) and does not exceed twenty-five (25) pages in length.[2]
4. Failure of the Plaintiff to timely submit a proper amended complaint or otherwise respond to this Order will result in dismissal of his action for failure to prosecute.


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