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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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