United States District Court, D. Minnesota
ORDER AFFIRMING AS MODIFIED MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S
ORDER AND ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
WILHELMINA M. WRIGHT, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on the November 3, 2017 Order and
Report and Recommendation (R&R) of United States
Magistrate Judge Katherine M. Menendez. (Dkts. 31, 32.)
Plaintiff Victor Donnell Fields appealed the Order and filed
timely objections to the R&R. For the reasons addressed
below, the Court affirms the Order as modified and adopts the
R&R's recommendation to deny without prejudice
Fields's motion for preliminary injunctive relief and
motion for an order to show cause.
was incarcerated at the Minnesota Correctional Facility-Oak
Park Heights (MCF-Oak Park Heights) before being transferred
to the Minnesota Correctional Facility-Rush City (MCF-Rush
City), where he is currently incarcerated. Fields commenced
this action against more than 20 former or current
correctional officials on July 10, 2017. Fields first alleges
that, beginning in March 2017, a group of correctional
officials impeded his right to access the mail at MCF-Oak
Park Heights and retaliated against him for trying to do so,
in violation of Fields's constitutional right to free
speech. U.S. Const. amend. I. Fields also alleges that,
throughout 2015 and 2016, a second group of correctional
officials acted with deliberate indifference to his medical
needs, in violation of his constitutional right to be free
from cruel and unusual punishment. U.S. Const. amend. VIII.
moved for preliminary injunctive relief and an order to show
cause why preliminary injunctive relief should not be
granted. He also moved for appointment of counsel. The
magistrate judge determined that Fields impermissibly alleges
two distinct sets of claims against unrelated groups of
defendants in a single complaint. Because Fields cannot
maintain unrelated First Amendment access-to-mail claims and
Eighth Amendment deliberate-indifference claims in the same
lawsuit, the magistrate judge concluded, Fields must
determine which set of claims to pursue. The magistrate judge
granted Fields until December 27, 2017, to file an amended
complaint and referred Fields to the Pro Se
Project for assistance.
R&R recommends denying without prejudice Fields's
motion for preliminary injunctive relief and motion for an
order to show cause because, as no complaint is properly
before the Court, Fields cannot establish a connection
between the requested relief and the claims alleged in the
complaint. Until Fields files an amended complaint, the
magistrate judge concludes, any nexus between the claims and
the requested relief cannot be determined. Fields appeals the
Order and objects to the R&R.
Fields's Appeal of the Order
reviewing an appeal of a magistrate judge's ruling on a
nondispositive issue, the district court's standard of
review is “extremely deferential, ” Scott v.
United States, 552 F.Supp.2d 917, 919 (D. Minn. 2008),
and a ruling will be modified or set aside only if it is
clearly erroneous or contrary to law, 28 U.S.C. §
636(b)(1)(A); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a); LR 72.2(a)(3); Ferguson
v. United States, 484 F.3d 1068, 1076 (8th Cir. 2007). A
ruling is clearly erroneous when the reviewing court
“is left with the definite and firm conviction that a
mistake has been committed.” Wells Fargo & Co.
v. United States, 750 F.Supp.2d 1049, 1050 (D. Minn.
2010) (internal quotation marks omitted). When a court
“fails to apply or misapplies relevant statutes, case
law or rules of procedure, ” its decision is contrary
to law. Id. (internal quotation marks omitted).
magistrate judge determined that Fields improperly joined
unrelated defendants in a single lawsuit. See Fed.
R. Civ. P. 20(a)(2). Consequently, the magistrate judge
ordered Fields to file an amended complaint. Fields appeals
this aspect of the Order.
plaintiff may join multiple defendants in a single action
when two requirements are met: (1) a right to relief against
each defendant arises out of the same transaction,
occurrence, or series of transactions or occurrences; and (2)
there is a question of law or fact common to all defendants.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 20(a)(2); accord Mosley v. Gen. Motors
Corp., 497 F.2d 1330, 1333 (8th Cir. 1974). Under Rule
20(a)(2), “[a]n allegation of joint action is
required.” Movie Sys., Inc. v. Abel, 99 F.R.D.
129, 130 (D. Minn. 1983); see also Scott v. Watson,
614 Fed. App'x 863, 864 (8th Cir. 2015) (per curiam)
(concluding that joinder was proper because plaintiff
“alleged a relationship between all the incidents about
which he complained”). Although a plaintiff may assert
multiple, unrelated claims against a properly joined
defendant, Fed.R.Civ.P. 18(a), the joinder of a defendant
must satisfy the requirements of Rule 20(a)(2). See
Headley v. Bacon, 828 F.2d 1272, 1275 (8th Cir. 1987);
see also 7 Charles Alan Wright et al., Federal
Practice and Procedure § 1655 (3d ed. 2017) (explaining
that the joinder of a defendant must satisfy Rule 20(a)(2)
before Rule 18 can be invoked to join additional, unrelated
claims against that defendant).
the Order determined, Fields has not met either Rule 20(a)(2)
requirement. Fields alleges that one group of defendants
violated his right to access the mail beginning in March
2017, and a second, unrelated group of defendants was
deliberately indifferent to his medical needs in 2015 and
2016. But Fields does not allege, either in his complaint or
in his appeal of the Order, a relationship between these
transactions or occurrences; nor does he identify any
question of law or fact that is common to all defendants. The
magistrate judge's conclusion that the claims involve
separate factual allegations against separate defendants is
neither clearly erroneous nor contrary to law. For this
reason, the Court affirms this aspect of the
did not appeal the portion of the Order that
“granted” his “motion for appointment of
counsel . . . insofar as [the] Court will refer Mr. Fields to
the Federal Bar Association for assistance from a volunteer
attorney in drafting an amended complaint.” But in his
subsequent filings, Fields demonstrates his confusion as to
this aspect of the Order. Because this Court may review any
matter decided by the magistrate judge even without an
objection by either party, LR 72.2(a)(3), the Court does so
here to clarify this aspect of the Order.
there is neither a constitutional nor statutory right to
appointed counsel in a civil case, a court may appoint
counsel to an indigent prisoner who pleads a nonfrivolous
cause of action. Phillips v. Jasper Cty. Jail, 437
F.3d 791, 794 (8th Cir. 2006) (citing 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)). The Order purported to grant Fields's motion to
appoint counsel. In doing so, the Order effectively denied
the motion and referred Fields to the Pro Se Project
to seek a volunteer attorney to assist in
“drafting an amended complaint.” The magistrate
judge's November 16, 2017 letter to Fields clarifies that
counsel has not been appointed. While endorsing the
magistrate judge's referral ...