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Johnson v. Pelle

United States District Court, District of Colorado

February 19, 2015

ANDREW LYNN JOHNSON, Plaintiff,
v.
JOE PELLE, Boulder County Sheriff, BRUCE HASS, Chief, REVADA FARNSWORTH, Head Nurse, DOUG CAVEN, Commander, SUE YANKOVICH, Sergeant, TIMOTHY OLIVERIA, Sergeant, JOHN GOODRICK, Sergeant, E. A. MARTINEZ, Sergeant, THOMAS GROFF, Sergeant, GREGORY CLEM, Deputy, CHRISTIAN BERRINGER, Deputy, MARTINE KIRK, Deputy, ADAM LUNN, Deputy, CHAD PALMER, Deputy, T. SOOLE, Deputy, CATS, Deputy, ANTHONY KNIGHT, Deputy, MICHAEL ANASTOS, Deputy, AARON, Librarian Defendants.

ORDER DIRECTING PLAINTIFF TO FILE AMENDED COMPLAINT

Gordon P. Gallagher, United States Magistrate Judge

Plaintiff Andrew Lynn Johnson currently is detained at the Boulder County Jail in Boulder, Colorado. Plaintiff has filed pro se a Prisoner Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and a Prisoner’s Motion and Affidavit for Leave to Proceed Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. The Court has granted Plaintiff’s § 1915 Motion.

The Court must construe Plaintiff’s Complaint liberally because he is not represented by an attorney. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972); Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir. 1991). However, the Court cannot act as an advocate for a pro se litigant. See Hall, 935 F.2d at 1110. For the reasons stated below, Plaintiff will be directed to file an Amended Complaint.

To state a claim in federal court Plaintiff must explain (1) what a defendant did to him; (2) when the defendant did it; (3) how the defendant’s action harmed him; and (4) what specific legal right the defendant violated. Nasious v. Two Unknown B.I.C.E. Agents, 492 F.3d 1158, 1163 (10th Cir. 2007).

Plaintiff also is required to assert personal participation by each named defendant in the alleged constitutional violation. See Bennett v. Passic, 545 F.2d 1260, 1262-63 (10th Cir. 1976). To establish personal participation, Plaintiff must show in the Cause of Action section of the complaint form how each named individual caused the deprivation of a federal right. See Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 166 (1985). There must be an affirmative link between the alleged constitutional violation and each defendant’s participation, control or direction, or failure to supervise. See Butler v. City of Norman, 992 F.2d 1053, 1055 (10th Cir. 1993).

A defendant may not be held liable for the unconstitutional conduct of his or her subordinates on a theory of respondeat superior. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 676 (2009). Furthermore,

when a plaintiff sues an official under Bivens or § 1983 for conduct “arising from his or her superintendent responsibilities, ” the plaintiff must plausibly plead and eventually prove not only that the official’s subordinates violated the Constitution, but that the official by virtue of his own conduct and state of mind did so as well.

Dodds v. Richardson, 614 F.3d 1185, 1198 (10th Cir. 2010) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 677). Therefore, in order to succeed in a § 1983 suit against a government official for conduct that arises out of his or her supervisory responsibilities, a plaintiff must allege and demonstrate that: “(1) the defendant promulgated, created, implemented or possessed responsibility for the continued operation of a policy that (2) caused the complained of constitutional harm, and (3) acted with the state of mind required to establish the alleged constitutional deprivation.” Id. at 1199.

Plaintiff also cannot maintain claims against prison officials or administrators on the basis that they denied his grievances. The “denial of a grievance, by itself without any connection to the violation of constitutional rights alleged by plaintiff, does not establish personal participation under § 1983.” Gallagher v. Shelton, 587 F.3d 1063, 1069 (10th Cir. 2009); see also Whitington v. Ortiz, No. 07-1425, 307 F. App’x. 179, 193 (10th Cir. Jan. 13, 2009) (unpublished) (stating that “the denial of the grievances alone is insufficient to establish personal participation in the alleged constitutional violations.”) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted); Davis v. Ark. Valley Corr. Facility, No. 02-1486, 99 F. App’x. 838, 843 (10th Cir. May 20, 2004) (unpublished) (sending “correspondence [to high-ranking prison official] outlining [a] complaint . . . without more, does not sufficiently implicate the [supervisory official] under § 1983”).

Plaintiff asserts six claims. In several of the claims, he fails to identify a named defendant who is responsible for the alleged violation. Plaintiff also asserts claims in the body of the Complaint against individuals who are not named as defendants.

Furthermore, pursuant to Rule 18(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, “[a] party asserting a claim . . . may join, as independent or alternative claims, as many claims as it has against an opposing party.” However, the issue of whether multiple defendants may be joined in a single action is governed by Rule 20(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which provides:

(2) Defendants. Persons . . . 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).

Plaintiff has identified multiple incidents throughout the Complaint. The incidents involve the alleged actions of various defendants and other individuals. Plaintiff may not join separate and unrelated incidents against multiple defendants based on a conclusory statement of retaliation. See Gillon v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, et al., 424 F. App’x 722, 725-26 (10th Cir. 2011) (finding that plaintiff could not join separate and unrelated claims arising out of different incidents based on an “overarching” allegation of retaliation).

Requiring adherence in prisoner suits to the federal rules regarding joinder of parties and claims prevents “the sort of morass [a multiple claim, multiple defendant] suit produce[s].” George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 607 (7th Cir. 2007). “Misjoinder of parties is not a ground for dismissing an action.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 21. Instead, “ ‘[t]o remedy misjoinder, . . . the court has two remedial options: (1) misjoined parties may be dropped on such terms as are just; or (2) any claims against misjoined parties may be severed and proceeded with separately.’ ” Nasious v. City and County of Denver, 415 F. App’x 877, 881 (10th Cir. 2011) (quoting DirecTV, Inc., v. Leto, 467 F.3d 842, 845 (3d Cir. 2006)). Nonetheless, the Court will refrain from dropping or severing parties at this time because Plaintiff must submit an Amended Complaint that complies with the joinder requirements of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Accordingly, it is

ORDERED that within thirty days from the date of this Order, Plaintiff shall file an Amended Complaint that complies with this Order. It is

FURTHER ORDERED that Plaintiff shall obtain the Court-approved Prisoner Complaint form (with the assistance of his case manager or the facility’s legal assistant), along with the applicable instructions, at www.cod.uscourts.gov, to be used in filing the Amended Complaint. It is

FURTHER ORDERED that if Plaintiff fails to file an Amended Complaint that complies with this Order, within the time allowed, the Court may dismiss the Complaint and action in part and proceed with addressing with addressing the merits of the claims as presented in the original Complaint.


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