United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
STEPHEN EDWARD TAGHON, JR. et al., Plaintiffs,
DEPUTY BLAIR, et al., Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
DEGUILIO Judge United States District Court.
Edward Taghon, Jr., a pro se prisoner, was
originally granted leave to proceed against Deputy Blair and
an unnamed Classification Supervisor at the St. Joseph County
Jail for retaliating against him by issuing false conduct
reports for his complaining about the conditions of the jail.
ECF 7. Taghon then requested leave to amend his complaint in
order to “correctly identify a misidentified defendant
. . ., and add and revise additional supporting facts and
claims to his original complaint.” ECF 19. Taghon was
granted leave to amend his complaint. ECF 21. Taghon has now
filed an amended complaint. ECF 22. As intended, Taghon added
to his claim that he was issued a false conduct report in
retaliation for his complaining about safety and security
issues at the jail. Id. at 7-12. However, he did not
stop there. His amended complaint includes many other parties
and claims, which the court must address.
start, Taghon named as a co-plaintiff "St. Joseph County
Jail Prisoners" and asks to have this case certified as
a class action. ECF 22 at 1-4. This the court cannot do.
Under Rule 23(a)(4), a class representative must fairly and
adequately protect the interests of the class. A litigant may
bring his own claims to federal court without counsel, but
not the claims of others. This is so because the competence
of a layman is clearly too limited to allow him to risk the
rights of others.
Fymbo v. State Farm, 213 F.3d 1320, 1321 (10th Cir.
2000) (citations and quotation marks omitted). It would be
"plain error to permit this imprisoned litigant who is
unassisted by counsel to represent his fellow inmates in a
class action." Oxendine v. Williams, 509 F.2d
1405, 1407 (4th Cir. 1975); see also Hagan v.
Rogers, 570 F.3d 146, 159 (3d Cir. 2009). Therefore this
case will not be certified as a class action and “St.
Joseph County Jail Prisoners” will be dismissed.
in addition to amending the retaliation claim he is
proceeding on, Taghon included a number of unrelated claims
in his amended complaint. He sues unnamed
“defendants” for housing him in the J6-Unit in
the summer of 2016. Id. at 13-15. He sues Warden
Julie Lawson, Sheriff Michael Grzegorek and the St. Joseph
County Jail for not reporting various crimes within the jail
to the local prosecutor. Id. at 15-16. He complains
that the housing units at the jail are racially imbalanced.
Id. at 17. He complains that Sgt. Fisher, Belinda
Schroeder and Julie Lawson instructed Deputy Rose to subject
him to a strip search and place him in segregation for
complaining about the racially imbalanced housing at the
jail. Id. at 19. And, he complains that he was
subjected to filthy conditions of confinement in his cell and
was then retaliated against for filing a grievance about
those conditions. Id. at 20. These claims are not
dependant upon, or related to, the other as they involve
different defendants, different incidents that took place on
separate dates, and involve different sets of operative
facts. Thus, all of these claims do not belong in the same
lawsuit. “Unrelated claims against different defendants
belong in different suits . . ..” George v.
Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 607 (7th Cir. 2007).
pro se prisoner files a suit with unrelated claims,
the court has several options. Wheeler v. Wexford Health
Sources, Inc., 689 F.3d 680, 683 (7th Cir. 2012). When
the case is in its infancy, it is the practice of this court
to notify the plaintiff and allow him to decide which claim
(or related claims) to pursue in the instant case - as well
as to decide when or if to bring the other claims in separate
suits. Id. (“The judge might have been
justified in directing Wheeler to file separate complaints,
each confined to one group of injuries and
defendants.”). The court could also split the unrelated
claims because “[a] district judge [can] solve the
problem by severance (creating multiple suits that can be
separately screened) . . ..” Id. Usually this
option is fraught with complications. Prisoners, even
indigent ones, must pay the filing fee eventually because
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1), “if a prisoner
brings a civil action . . . the prisoner shall be required to
pay the full amount of a filing fee . . ..” Lucien
v. DeTella, 141 F.3d 773, 776 (7th Cir. 1998). Multiple
cases mean multiple filing fees and the possibility of
multiple strikes. George, 507 F.3d at 607. Normally,
it is the prisoner plaintiff who should make the decision
whether to incur those additional filing fees and bear the
risk of additional strikes. Thus, the court will not split
the unrelated claims into separate cases.
court could also properly limit this case by picking a claim
(or related claims) for him because “[a] district judge
[can] solve the problem by . . . dismissing the excess
defendants under Fed.R.Civ.P. 21.” Wheeler,
689 F.3d at 683. This option seems to be the best available
option here, since Taghon is already proceeding on a claim in
this case. Accordingly, the court will select the claim that
Taghon is proceeding on -retaliation based on his reporting
safety conditions at the jail in June and July of 2017 -and
will dismiss the remaining unrelated claims. Notably, this
retaliation claim is unrelated to the other various claims of
official misconduct that allegedly took place at the jail.
Taghon may raise those unrelated claims in different
lawsuits, but not in this one.
that the claim has been selected, the court must screen it
under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. The Court must review a
prisoner complaint and dismiss it if 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. § 1915A(a), (b). In
determining whether the complaint states a claim, the Court
applies the same standard as when deciding a motion under
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Lagerstrom v.
Kingston, 463 F.3d 621, 624 (7th Cir. 2006). To survive
dismissal, a complaint must state a claim for relief that is
plausible on its face. Bissessur v. Indiana Univ. Bd. of
Trs., 581 F.3d 599, 602-03 (7th Cir. 2009). “A
claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads
factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
alleged.” Id. at 603. The Court must bear in
mind, however, that “[a] document filed pro se
is to be liberally construed, and a pro se
complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less
stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by
lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94
alleges that in late June and early July 2017, dangerous gang
activity was taking place at the St. Joseph County Jail.
Essentially, two rival gangs were continually fighting and
Taghon feared for his safety. In an attempt to put an end to
the violence, Taghon submitted a complaint to jail officials
warning of more potential gang activity. Deputy Blair
received the complaint and placed that section of the jail on
lock down. An investigation ensued. After the investigation,
Taghon was charged with lying to staff, attempting to
manipulate housing, and disorderly conduct. Taghon alleges
that he is innocent of these charges. He claims that Deputies
Blair, Kiljoe, VanVynkt, and Rayl chose to charge him with
these offenses in retaliation for complaining about safety
concerns at the jail. This resulted in Taghon being placed in
disciplinary segregation, where he was deprived of various
privileges and visitation rights.
prevail on his First Amendment retaliation claim, [Taghon]
must show that (1) he engaged in activity protected by the
First Amendment; (2) he suffered a deprivation that would
likely deter First Amendment activity in the future; and (3)
the First Amendment activity was at least a motivating factor
in the Defendants' decision to take the retaliatory
action.” Gomez v. Randle, 680 F.3d 859, 866
(7th Cir. 2012) (quotation marks and citations omitted).
Here, Taghon's complaint to prison officials about
conditions at the jail, if true, constitutes protected
speech. Based on the allegations contained in the complaint,
the defendants collectively made the decision to falsely
charge him with disciplinary infractions based on his
protected speech. Though further fact finding may reveal that
these four deputies decided to charge him with these
disciplinary offenses for some permissible reason, Taghon has
adequately plead his retaliation claim.
these reasons, the court:
GRANTS Stephen Edward Taghon, Jr., leave to proceed against
Kylie Blair, Deputy Kiljoe, Deputy VanVynkt, and Deputy Rayl
in their individual capacities for compensatory and punitive
damages for retaliating against him by issuing false conduct
reports for his complaining about the ...