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Williams v. Karpf

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Savannah Division

June 22, 2018

JABBAR MUHAMMAD ALI WILLIAMS; PAULETTE SMITH, Plaintiffs,
v.
MICHAEL KARPF, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

         Proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, Jabbar Williams brings this action against various state judicial and quasi-judicial officials, attorneys, the Garden City police department and its officers, and the Chatham County Counter Narcotic Team contending that his state criminal prosecution is unlawful. Doc. 1 at 1-110 & doc. 3 at 1-60 & doc. 4 at 1-5. He also seeks leave to proceed in forma pauperis (IFP), but it is not clear that the application is submitted on his own or both plaintiffs' behalves. See doc. 2. The Court therefore cannot evaluate plaintiffs' abilities to pay the filing fee. The Clerk of Court is DIRECTED to provide plaintiffs with a blank IFP application forms. Plaintiffs must individually complete and return their respective forms, sworn under penalty of perjury to be true and correct, within 14 days of service of this Order.

         Another threshold problem arises before the Court can preliminarily screen[1] their Complaint:

Every pleading, written motion, and other paper must be signed by at least one attorney of record in the attorney's name -- or by a party personally if the party is unrepresented. . . . The court must strike an unsigned paper unless the omission is promptly corrected after being called to the attorney's or party's attention.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 11(a).

         Only Jabbar Williams has signed the Complaint, the Amended Complaints, and the IFP application.[2] Doc. 1 at 4-5 & 20; doc. 2 at 4; doc. 3 at 56-59; doc. 4 at 5. Because each plaintiff here is proceeding pro se, neither has any authority to represent the legal interest of any other party. See FuQua v. Massey, 615 Fed.Appx. 611 (11th Cir. 2015) (right of parties to appear pro se is limited to parties conducting their own cases and does not extend to non-attorney parties representing the interests of other). This means Williams cannot represent Smith. Each plaintiff must sign above their own name, thus signifying that they represent only themselves.

         Within 14 days of the date this Order is served, then, the plaintiffs shall amend their Complaint and individual IFP applications with a proper signature page. Failure to do so will likely be fatal to their claim. Fed.R.Civ.P. 11(a) (courts “must strike an unsigned paper unless the omission is promptly corrected after being called to the attorney's or party's attention”). Every filing thereafter must similarly abide by Rule 11(a)'s signature requirement. See Bouttry v. United States, 2012 WL 2153961 at *1 (S.D. Ga. June 13, 2012).

         And finally, a complaint must contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). While detailed factual allegations are not required, “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). In other words, a complaint may not simply allege a wrong has been committed and demand relief. The pleading standard “demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation[;]” the complaint must contain “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 570). Further, while factual allegations are accepted as true, legal conclusions are not. Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

         Williams' single-page Third Amended Complaint is bereft of even a hint of the harm he alleges he suffered or the relief he seeks, though his statement that he is “totally innocent of all charges” suggests that he seeks to bring a malicious prosecution claim against defendants. Doc. 4 at 1. The flip side of the coin is that a meandering morass of words --here 170 total pages' worth between docs. 2 and 3, some of which is entirely illegible and much of which is unorganized by claim or chronology -- violates Rule 8(a)(2)'s admonition as well. The court affords a liberal construction to a pro se litigant's pleadings, holding them to a more lenient standard than those drafted by an attorney. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972); Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). This liberal construction does not mean that the court has a duty to re-write the complaint. Snow v. DirecTV, Inc., 450 F.3d 1314, 1320 (11th Cir. 2006). Plaintiffs must amend (and sign) their Third Amended Complaint within 14 days of service of this Order, alleging in as clear and concise a manner as possible precisely what happened, how they contend their civil rights have been violated, and what other claims (if any) they seek to bring.[3]

         Plaintiffs are advised that their third amended complaint will supersede the original complaint and therefore must be complete in itself. Once plaintiffs file a third amended complaint, the prior pleadings will no longer serve any function in the case. See Malowney v. Fed. Collection Deposit Grp, 193 F.3d 1342, 1345 n.1 (11th Cir. 1999) (“An amended complaint supersedes an original complaint”); Varnes v. Local 91, Glass Bottle Blowers Ass'n of U.S. & Canada, 674 F.2d 1365, 1370 n.6 (11th Cir. 1982) (“As a general rule, an amended complaint supersedes and replaces the original complaint unless the amendment specifically refers to or adopts the earlier pleading”).

         In sum, plaintiffs are ORDERED to return their individual, completed IFP forms and their signed Third Amended Complaint within 14 days of service of this Order. Once plaintiffs have complied with the conditions of this Order, the Court will review their Third Amended Complaint to determine which, if any, claims are viable and which, if any, defendants should be served with a copy of the Third Amended Complaint. If no response is timely received from plaintiffs, the Court will presume that they desire to have this case voluntarily dismissed. Failure to comply with this Order shall result in the recommendation of dismissal of plaintiffs' case, without prejudice.

         SO ORDERED.

---------

Notes:

[1] In cases where the plaintiff seeks to proceed IFP, the Court is required to screen each case and must dismiss it at any time if the Court determines either that the allegation of poverty is untrue or that the action or appeal is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief ...


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