United States District Court, N.D. Indiana
OPINION AND ORDER
THERESA L. SPRINGMANN UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE
Plaintiffs, proceeding pro se, filed an Amended
Complaint [ECF No. 6], along with Motions for Leave to
Proceed in forma pauperis [ECF Nos. 4-5], on July
15, 2016. For the reasons set forth below, the
Plaintiff's Petition is DENIED. The Plaintiffs'
Amended Complaint is DISMISSED pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
a plaintiff must pay a statutory filing fee to bring an
action in federal court. 28 U.S.C. § 1914(a). The
federal in forma pauperis (IFP) statute, 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915, however, provides indigent litigants an
opportunity for meaningful access to the federal courts
despite their inability to pay the costs and fees associated
with that access. See Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S.
319 (1989). To authorize a litigant to proceed IFP, a court
must make two determinations: first, whether the litigant is
unable to pay the costs of commencing the action, 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(a)(1); and second, whether the action is
frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which
relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief against a
defendant who is immune from such relief, 28 U.S.C. §
the first inquiry, an indigent party may start an action in
federal court, without prepayment of costs and fees, upon
submission of an affidavit asserting an inability “to
pay such costs or give security therefor.” 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(a). Here, the Plaintiffs' Motions establish
that they are each unable to prepay the filing fee.
inquiry does not end here, however. Under the second inquiry,
a court must look to the sufficiency of a complaint to
determine whether it can be construed as stating a claim for
which relief can be granted or seeks monetary relief against
a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C.
§1915(e)(2)(B). District courts have the power under 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) to screen complaints even before
service of the complaint on the defendants, and must dismiss
the complaint if it fails to state a claim. Rowe v.
Shake, 196 F.3d 778, 783 (7th Cir. 1999). Courts apply
the same standard under § 1915(e)(2)(B) as when
addressing a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6). Luevano v. Wal-Mart Stores,
Inc., 722 F.3d 1014, 1018, 1027 (7th Cir. 2013).
state a claim under the federal notice pleading standards,
all that a complaint must do is set forth a “short and
plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is
entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Factual
allegations are accepted as true and need only give
“‘fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the
grounds upon which it rests.'” EEOC v.
Concentra Health Serv., Inc., 496 F.3d 773, 776-77 (7th
Cir. 2007) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). However, a plaintiff's allegations
must show that his entitlement to relief is plausible, rather
than merely speculative. Tamayo v. Blagojevich, 526
F.3d 1074, 1083 (7th Cir. 2008).
“[e]ach allegation must be simple, concise, and
direct.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(d)(1). A complaint “must
be presented with intelligibility sufficient for a court or
opposing party to understand whether a valid claim is
alleged.” Vicom, Inc. v. Harbridge Marchant Service
Inc., 20 F.3d 771, 775 (7th Cir. 1994). Phrased another
way, the complaint must put the defendant on notice of the
plaintiff's claims. Standard v. Nygren, 658 F.3d
792, 797 (7th Cir. 2011). Thus, under Rule 8, parties are
“required to make their pleadings
straightforward.” U.S ex. rel Garst v.
Lockheed-Martin Corp., 328 F.3d 374, 378 (7th Cir.
2003). More specifically, the complaint must be
“presented with clarity sufficient to avoid requiring a
district court or opposing party to forever sift through its
pages in search” of what it is the plaintiff
asserted.” Vicom, 20 F.3d at 775 (citing
Jennings v. Emry, 910 F.2d 1434, 1436 (7th Cir.
1990)). Where a “lack of organization and basic
coherence renders a complaint too confusing to determine the
facts that constitute the alleged wrongful conduct, dismissal
is an appropriate remedy.” Standard, 658 F.3d
Order [ECF No. 3] dated June 21, 2016, the Court dismissed
the Plaintiffs' initial Complaint [ECF No. 1]. That
initial Complaint did not identify a single cause of action,
nor did the Plaintiffs state any facts in support. (Compl. 2,
ECF No. 1.) Instead, the Plaintiffs merely directed the
reader to “see all paperwork and evidence, photo disc
and charges for all defendants” (id.), which
totaled over 500 pages and included: (1) Plaintiff Donna
Pulous' lengthy Affidavit; (2) a document entitled
“Jurdicial [sic] Remedy” (Ex. 1); and (3) a
collection of documents concerning their Department of Child
Services case (Exs. 2-22). The Court granted the Plaintiffs
leave to amend their Complaint to comply with Rule 8, which
they filed July 15, 2016.
their Amended Complaint, the Plaintiffs provide a shorter
list of the claims against the Defendants, to the extent that
those claims are cognizable causes of action. However, the
Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint is devoid of factual
allegations: the Plaintiffs provide vague recollections of
events, rather than key facts to support their claims, and
fail to specify which Defendants did what in relation to the
claims, including the dates that incidents occurred. In
addition, the Plaintiffs attach roughly 60 pages of exhibits
that are either exact copies of or paraphrase those exhibits
from the initial Complaint, and thereby suffer from the same
the claims included in those 60 pages are identical to claims
that the Plaintiffs brought in a prior proceeding within this
District. Fender v. Peters, No. 4:14-CV-024, 2016 WL
1222247, at *8 (N.D. Ind. Mar. 29, 2016). Those claims
brought against Defendants State of Indiana, Kurtis G. Fouts,
Abigail Diener, Analei Whitlock, Samantha Dagenais, Christin
Bramlage, Patrick Manahan, and the Department of Child
Services were dismissed with prejudice. Id.
Consequently, the doctrine of res judicata bars the
Plaintiffs' claims as to those Defendants. “[A]
final judgment on the merits of an action precludes the
parties or their privies from relitigating issues that were
or could have been raised in that action.” Highway
J Citizens Grp. v. U.S. Dep't of Transp., 456 F.3d
734, 741 (7th Cir. 2006) (quoting Allen v. McCurry,
449 U.S. 90, 94 (1980)).
the Amended Complaint does not state any causes of action and
does not set forth any facts against the remaining
Defendants, the Plaintiffs have not plead a proper complaint.
Thus, even with the relaxed standards that apply to pro se
litigants, see Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94
(2007), the Amended Complaint does not set forth any factual
allegations that raise the Plaintiffs' right to relief
above the speculative level. Even if the Plaintiffs did
include relevant facts in their Amended Complaint, those
facts are buried in “documents and evidence” that
span over 60 pages. The length and incoherent nature of the
exhibits and “evidence” render the Amended
Complaint “too confusing to determine the facts that
constitute the wrongful conduct.” Standard,
658 F.3d at 798. It is not the job of this Court to filter
through the Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint to determine
their allegations. Vicom, 20 F.3d at 775; U.S.
ex. rel. Garst, 328 F.3d at 378.
district court should not “dismiss a complaint merely
because it contains repetitions and irrelevant material,
” length may make a “complaint unintelligible, by
scattering and concealing in a morass of irrelevancies the
few allegations that matter.” U.S. ex. rel.
Garst, 328 F.3d at 378. The Plaintiffs' Amended
Complaint is unintelligible because the
“evidence” is an unorganized collection of over
60 pages that does not clearly indicate what is being alleged
against each Defendant. Rather than present an enormous
amount of “evidence, ” ...