United States District Court, D. South Carolina
John E. Sutcliffe, et al., Plaintiffs,
Judge Timothy Cain, et al., Defendants.
Margaret B. Seymour Senior United States District Judge
a civil rights action filed by eight state prisoners,
proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis. Plaintiffs allege
that Defendants engaged in fraud, conspiracy, and other
offenses with respect to the dismissal of other cases filed
by Plaintiffs in this court. See, e.g.,
Crawford v. S.C. Supreme Court, C/A
0:16-1428-TMC-PJG; Sutcliffe v. S.C. Supreme Court,
C/A No. 0:16-992-TMC-PJG; Muqit v. McFadden, C/A No.
8:14-3555-RBH. Plaintiffs seek class action certification.
initial matter, the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
has held that prisoners, as laypersons, cannot bring class
action lawsuits. See Oxendine v. Williams, 509 F.2d
1405, 1407 (4thCir. 1975) (“[T]he competence
of a layman representing himself [is] clearly too limited to
allow him to risk the rights of others.”); see also
Hummer v. Dalton, 657 F.2d 621, 625-26 (4th Cir. 1981)
(holding that a prisoner's suit is “confined to
redress for violation of his own personal rights and not one
by him as a knight-errant for all prisoners”). Thus,
the complaint is not cognizable as a class action.
court next turns to the question of whether Plaintiffs may
join in one action pursuant to Rule 20 of the Federal Rules
of Civil Procedure. The Court of Appeals for the Eleventh
Circuit addressed this issue in Hubbard v. Haley,
262 F.3d 1194 (11th Cir. 2001). The Eleventh Circuit upheld a
determination by the district court that the Prison
Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) precludes indigent prisoners
from participating in multi-plaintiff actions. This is
because prisoners must file separate complaints to comply
with the PLRA's requirement that each prisoner pay the
full filing fee. Although the court recognizes there are
courts that disagree with Hubbard, the court joins
with a number of her sister courts in this Circuit and finds
Hubbard to be persuasive. See,
e.g., Jackson v. North Carolina, No.
5:14-CT-3220-F, 2015 WL 11117236 (E.D. N.C. March 26, 2015);
Carroll v. United States, C/A No. 5:14-cv-02167-JMC,
2015 WL854927 (D.S.C. Feb. 27, 2015); Fleming v.
Francis, No. 5:13-CV-21991, 2014 WL 2589755, at *1 (S.D.
W.Va. June 10, 2014); Watterson v. Terrell, No.
1:10CV184-RJC, 2010 WL 3522331, at *1 (W.D. N.C. Sept. 7,
as noted by the district court in Harris v. Barnes,
No. 1:09CV726, 2009 WL 3585259, at *1 (M.D. N.C. Oct. 26,
2009), “[multiple prisoner plaintiffs] would also
create a number of potential practical problems related to
joint litigation such as the need for all plaintiffs to sign
pleadings, the need for the joint plaintiffs to meet, the
transitory nature of jail populations, etc.” (citing
Wilson v. Algarin, Civ. Action No. 08-345, 2008 WL
373630, *1 (E.D. Pa. Feb. 7, 2008) (unpublished)).
finally, the PLRA requires each prisoner to exhaust his or
her administrative remedies prior to filing a civil lawsuit.
See 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a); see also Woodford v.
Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 85 (2006); Porter v. Nussle,
534 U.S. 516, 524 (2002). “Just as payment of one fee
does not cover multiple plaintiffs under the PLRA, exhaustion
of administrative remedies by one prisoner does not meet the
exhaustion requirement for all of the Plaintiffs.”
Williams v. Jones, No. 9:14-cv-00787-RMG-BM, 2014 WL
2155251, at *11 (May 22, 2014).
these reasons, the court concludes that the claims of the
eight Plaintiffs in the instant action should be separated
for initial review.
THE CLERK OF COURT: The captioned case shall pertain
only to the first named Plaintiff, John E. Sutcliffe.
Therefore, the Clerk of Court is directed to terminate
Anthony Cook, David Duren, Yahya Muquit, Travis Bellamy,
Robert Mitchell, Clarence Chisolm, and Lawrence L. Crawford
as Plaintiffs in the above-referenced case. The Clerk of
Court is further directed to assign separate civil action
numbers for the seven Plaintiffs terminated in this case. The
Clerk of Court shall file this order as the initial docket
entry in the newly created cases, and shall re-file the
Complaint (ECF No. 1) in the newly created actions. The
defendants in the newly created case will be the same
defendants listed in the captioned case. The Clerk of Court
is authorized to determine the most efficient manner and time
for assigning and entering the new case number, party
information, and pleading information on the court's
electronic case management system.
the new cases are docketed, the assigned Magistrate Judge is
authorized to issue orders pursuant to the General Order
issued in In Re: Procedures in Civil Actions Filed by
Prisoner Pro Se Litigants, 3:07-mc-5014-JFA (D.S.C. Sept. 18,
2007), and conduct initial reviews in compliance with 28
U.S.C. § 1915 and 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.