United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division
HENRY J. STEELE, KEVIN MORGAN, CURTIS HAGGINS, Plaintiffs,
GERALDINE BENNETT, et al., Defendants.
D. Whitney Chief United States District Judge
MATTER is before the Court on initial review of
Plaintiffs' Complaint, filed under 42 U.S.C. § 1983,
(Doc. No. 1). See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2);
Plaintiffs Henry J. Steele, Kevin Morgan, and Curtis Haggins
filed this action on January 30, 2017, pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983. Plaintiffs are all either current or former
North Carolina prisoners at Lanesboro Correctional
Institution in Polkton, North Carolina. Plaintiffs originally
filed this action in the Eastern District of North Carolina,
and that court transferred the action to this Court on August
16, 2017. Plaintiffs purport to bring this as a
class action on behalf of all inmates at Lanesboro.
Plaintiffs contend that Lanesboro inmates are subject to
deliberate indifference to serious medical needs as a result
of wholly insufficient medical care by medical staff at
Lanesboro. Plaintiffs seek compensatory damages as well as
injunctive and declaratory relief.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Court will review the Complaint to determine whether it is
subject to dismissal on the grounds that it is
“frivolous or malicious [or] fails to state a claim on
which relief may be granted.” 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2). Furthermore, § 1915A requires an initial
review of a “complaint in a civil action in which a
prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer
or employee of a governmental entity, ” and the court
must identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or
any portion of the complaint, if the complaint is frivolous,
malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be
granted; or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is
immune from such relief. In its frivolity review, this Court
must determine whether the Complaint raises an indisputably
meritless legal theory or is founded upon clearly baseless
factual contentions, such as fantastic or delusional
scenarios. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327-28
following reasons, the Court will not allow this lawsuit to
proceed as a class action, and the Court furthermore will
sever this lawsuit into three separate actions. First, to the
extent that Plaintiffs purport to bring this case as a class
action, Plaintiffs have not established that the four
prerequisites to a class action under Rule 23(a), Fed. R.
Civ. P., i.e., numerosity, typicality, commonality, and
adequacy of representation, are met in this case.
Furthermore, although each plaintiff may appear on his own
behalf, he may not appear as an attorney for other persons in
a class action. McShane v. United States, 366 F.2d
286, 288 (9th Cir. 1966) (non-lawyer had no authority to
appear as an attorney for other persons in a purported class
action); Oxendine v. Williams, 509 F.2d 1405, 1407
(4th Cir. 1975) (plain error to permit an inmate proceeding
pro se to represent fellow inmates in a class action).
Accordingly, certification of this lawsuit as a class action
as for the fact that this case involves multiple prisoner
plaintiffs, Rule 20 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
provides that plaintiffs may join in one action if they
assert any right to relief arising out of the same occurrence
or series of occurrences and if any question of law or fact
in common to all plaintiffs will arise in the action.
See Fed.R.Civ.P. 20. Rule 21 of the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure, however, authorizes the Court to drop
parties and to sever claims on just terms. See
Fed.R.Civ.P. 21. This Court finds that, even if Plaintiffs
are properly joined, allowing this action to go forward as it
currently stands will simply create too many logistical
problems for the Court and the parties. First, Plaintiffs are
inmates proceeding pro se, and, although each plaintiff may
appear on his own behalf, none may appear as an attorney for
the others. Johns v. Cnty. of San Diego, 114 F.3d
874, 877 (9th Cir. 1997). Therefore, during the prosecution
of this action, each plaintiff would be required to sign and
submit his own motions and notices related to his claims in
the action, and all plaintiffs would be required to
individually sign any motion or notice filed on behalf of all
plaintiffs. Furthermore, because of prison regulations of
inmate-to-inmate correspondence, Plaintiffs would have, at
most, a very limited opportunity to discuss case strategy,
share discovery, or even provide each other copies of the
motions and notices they file with the Court.
these reasons, the Court will sever this action into three
cases, with each Plaintiff proceeding individually on his
claims. Plaintiff Haggins, who has paid the full $400 filing
fee, shall proceed as the sole Plaintiff in this action, and
new actions shall be opened for Plaintiffs Steele and Morgan.
The Court further finds that each Plaintiff shall have thirty
(30) days in which to amend his Complaint to allege the
particular facts giving rise to his own individual claim
before the Court. The Amended Complaint submitted by each
Plaintiff must contain all claims he intends to bring in this
action against all Defendants he intends to sue. That is, a
plaintiff may not amend his complaint in piecemeal fashion.
Furthermore, once each Plaintiff amends his Complaint, the
original Complaint will be superseded, meaning that if an
amended complaint omits claims raised in the original
Complaint, the plaintiff has waived the omitted claims.
Young v. City of Mt. Ranier, 238 F.3d 567 (4th Cir.
are hereby placed on notice that if each Plaintiff does not
file an Amended Complaint in his own individual action within
thirty days of service of this Order, the Court will dismiss
the action against each Plaintiff without further notice and
without prejudice. Finally, all further pleadings, motions or
other papers submitted for filing by an individual Plaintiff
in his separate case must be signed by the individual
Plaintiff, or they will be stricken.
reasons stated herein, this action will be severed into three
separate actions, in accordance with the terms of this Order.