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District judge incorrectly dismissed prisoner’s suit for length and unintelligibility

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ordered U.S. Judge William T. Lawrence to take another look at a federal prisoner’s Bivens lawsuit against prison staff and other unnamed defendants, finding that the lawsuit is actually written clearly and not as long as the judge believed when dismissing it.

Lawrence dismissed the complaint before an answer or other responsive pleading was filed, saying the 99-page complaint is unintelligible and defies understanding. He gave prisoner Jurijus Kadamovas the opportunity to file an amended complaint, but he did not do so, leading to the dismissal of the suit with prejudice.

The suit, which claims the defendants used excessive force to feed him in retaliation for hunger strikes, among other claims, is actually only 28 pages long, Judge Richard Posner pointed out in Jurijus Kadamovas v. Michael Stevens, et al., 12-2669. The last 71 pages are an appendix that could be stricken.

The appellate court also found the suit is written clearly. Kadamovas, who is Lithuanian and says he is illiterate in English, had assistance from another prisoner in writing it.

“In short the complaint does not violate any principle of federal pleading. The judgment dismissing it for ‘unintelligibility’ must be reversed. But we deny as premature the plaintiff’s further claims that he should have the assistance of counsel in this litigation and that the case should be reassigned to another district judge on the ground that Judge Lawrence is prejudiced against the plaintiff. There has been no showing of prejudice. And until the defendants respond to the complaint, the plaintiff’s need for assistance of counsel (a need asserted for the first time in this appeal) cannot be gauged,” Posner wrote.

The 7th Circuit remanded for further consideration.

 

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  1. I expressed my thought in the title, long as it was. I am shocked that there is ever immunity from accountability for ANY Government agency. That appears to violate every principle in the US Constitution, which exists to limit Government power and to ensure Government accountability. I don't know how many cases of legitimate child abuse exist, but in the few cases in which I knew the people involved, in every example an anonymous caller used DCS as their personal weapon to strike at innocent people over trivial disagreements that had no connection with any facts. Given that the system is vulnerable to abuse, and given the extreme harm any action by DCS causes to families, I would assume any degree of failure to comply with the smallest infraction of personal rights would result in mandatory review. Even one day of parent-child separation in the absence of reasonable cause for a felony arrest should result in severe penalties to those involved in the action. It appears to me, that like all bureaucracies, DCS is prone to interpret every case as legitimate. This is not an accusation against DCS. It is a statement about the nature of bureaucracies, and the need for ADDED scrutiny of all bureaucratic actions. Frankly, I question the constitutionality of bureaucracies in general, because their power is delegated, and therefore unaccountable. No Government action can be unaccountable if we want to avoid its eventual degeneration into irrelevance and lawlessness, and the law of the jungle. Our Constitution is the source of all Government power, and it is the contract that legitimizes all Government power. To the extent that its various protections against intrusion are set aside, so is the power afforded by that contract. Eventually overstepping the limits of power eliminates that power, as a law of nature. Even total tyranny eventually crumbles to nothing.

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