United States District Court, E.D. California
DEAN C. RODRIGUEZ, Plaintiff,
JEFFREY BEARD, et al., Defendants.
ORDER AND FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
KENDALL J. NEWMAN, Magistrate Judge.
Plaintiff is a state prisoner, proceeding without counsel, with a civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Pending before the court is defendants' motion to sever misjoined claims and defendants. (ECF No. 41.) For the following reasons, the undersigned recommends that defendants' motion be granted.
On April 28, 2014, plaintiff filed the original complaint. (ECF No. 1.) On June 11, 2014, the undersigned issued a thirteen page order dismissing the original complaint with leave to amend. (ECF No. 9.)
On July 14, 2014, plaintiff filed a first amended complaint. (ECF No. 13.) On July 21, 2014, plaintiff filed a second amended complaint. (ECF No. 16.)
On September 5, 2014, the undersigned issued a seventeen page order screening the second amended complaint. (ECF No. 18.) In this order, the undersigned ordered service of the claim that defendants Foulk and St. Andre subjected plaintiff to a race-based lockdown on March 17, 2013. (Id. at 14.) The undersigned also ordered service of plaintiff's claim that defendant Law Librarian Matis retaliated against plaintiff for helping an inmate fill out a 602 form and for filing a CDCR 22 form by firing him from his job on April 24, 2013. (Id. at 14-15.) The undersigned dismissed the remaining claims and defendants. (Id.)
On November 17, 2014, plaintiff filed a motion to amend and proposed third amended complaint. (ECF Nos. 26, 27.) On January 5, 2015, the undersigned denied plaintiff's motion to amend. (ECF No. 30.) In this order, the undersigned observed that he had spent considerable time evaluating plaintiff's claims raised in the original and second amended complaints. (Id.)
In the pending motion, defendants move to sever the claims against Matis from the claims against defendant Foulk and St. Andre on grounds that they are improperly joined.
While multiple claims against a single party may be alleged in a single complaint, unrelated claims against different defendants must be alleged in separate complaints. See George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 607 (7th Cir. 2007) (finding, under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 18(a), prisoner improperly brought complaint raising fifty distinct claims against twenty-four defendants).
Further, parties may be joined 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)(2). As a practical matter, this means that claims involving different parties cannot be joined together in one complaint if the facts giving rise to the claims were not factually related in some way-that is, if there was not "similarity in the factual background of a claim." Coughlin v. Rogers, 130 F.3d 1348, 1350 (9th Cir. 1997). General allegations are not sufficient to constitute similarity when the specifics are different. Id. The court, on its own initiative, may dismiss misjoined parties from an action, and any claim against a misjoined party may be severed and proceeded with separately. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 21.
Defendants argue that plaintiff's claims against defendants Foulk, St. Andre and Matis did not arise from a single transaction or occurrence. Defendants further argue that there are no common questions of law or fact between the claims against these defendants.
In his opposition, plaintiff argues that defendants Foulk and St. Andre supervised defendant Matis. Plaintiff argues that his allegations linking defendants Foulk and St. Andre to his claim against defendant Matis are contained in the third amended complaint he was not permitted to file. As discussed above, the undersigned denied plaintiff's motion for leave to file a third amended complaint. This action is proceeding on the second amended complaint which does not link defendants Foulk and St. Andre to the retaliation claim against defendants Matis.
Moreover, as observed by defendants in the reply, plaintiff's third amended complaint does not adequately link defendants Foulk and St. Andre to the retaliation claim against defendant Matis. In the third amended complaint, plaintiff relied on the processing of his administrative grievance regarding the firing of plaintiff by defendant Matis to link defendants Foulk and St. Andre to his retaliation claim. On July 16, 2013, defendant St. Andre denied plaintiff's grievance alleging that defendant Matis improperly removed him from his job on April 24, 2014. (ECF No. 27 at 98.) In other words, plaintiff had already been fired when defendant St. Andre denied this grievance. Defendants ...