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LeBaron v. Massachusetts Partnership Correctional Health

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

March 20, 2017

NATHAN MARQUIS LEBARON, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
MASSACHUSETTS PARTNERSHIP FOR CORRECTIONAL HEALTH, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          PATTI B. SARIS, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         For the reasons set forth below, the Court (1) grants Jones' Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis and defers the assessment of the filing fee until the Court receives a copy of Jones' certified prison account statement; (2) denies CFB's Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis and provides CFB additional time for counsel to enter an appearance; (3) finds that Jones will be the sole plaintiff unless LeBaron either pays the filing fee or moves to proceed in forma pauperis with a claim asserting an imminent danger of serious physical injury; (4) denies without prejudice the Emergency Motion for TRO to Enforce All Doctors' Orders and RLUIPA Religious Exercise; (5) directs the Clerk to issue summons as to the identified defendants only; and (6) requests a Status Report from legal counsel for the Massachusetts Department of Correction and Superintendent Medeiros.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs Nathan Marquis LeBaron (“LeBaron”) and Stephen Jones (“Jones”), prisoners at MCI Norfolk, bring this civil rights action against various prison medical and administrative staff, and others, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (civil action for deprivation of rights), 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-1(a) (Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act), and 42 U.S.C. § 12131 (Americans With Disabilities Act). Also named as plaintiff is the non-profit corporation Church of the Firstborn Kahal Hab'Cor (“CFB”). Plaintiffs seek monetary damages as well as declaratory and injunctive relief.

         According to the complaint, the inmates at MCI Norfolk are denied adequate drinking water. The complaint alleges, among other things, that inspections by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (“DEP”) found repeat health and safety violations at MCI Norfolk in 2015. The complaint alleges that the water is often black or brown, indicating high levels of lead, cooper and other contaminants. At such times, inmates are sometimes instructed not to drink the water or shower, and bottled water is provided only to prison employees and to the dogs who are being trained for the National Education for Assistance Dog Services (“NEADS”).

         Additionally, the complaint alleges that Jones arrived at MCI Norfolk on October 14, 2016, shortly after receiving a transplanted liver. Although Jones takes medication to prevent rejection of the recently transplanted organ, plaintiffs ask the Court to order the defendants to provide Jones with (1) the medications Eucarin and Gabepentin, (2) distilled drinking water and (3) a bottom bunk pass. Plaintiffs contend that the water treatment methods cause adverse effects on the prison population and presents a greater risk to Jones, who cannot afford to purchase bottled water and whose request for distilled water was denied.

         Finally, the complaint alleges that Jones and LeBaron are members of the Church of the Firstborn Kahal Hab'Cor (the "CFB") and that the contaminated water conflicts with their access to a “Holy Diet” as prescribed by the CFB.

         With the complaint, plaintiffs' filed a one-page “Emergency Motion for TRO to Enforce ALL Doctors' Orders and RLUIPA Religious Exercise” and supporting Memorandum of Law. Also filed was CFB's one-page motion to proceed in forma pauperis.

         On March 7, 2017, Stephen Jones filed a motion to proceed in forma pauperis.

         DISCUSSION

         I. The Claims by Plaintiff CFB are Subject to Dismissal because a Corporation Cannot Proceed Pro Se

         As an initial matter, the Court notes that corporations are unable to appear pro se, and the Court will not recognize the appearance of a firm or corporation unless it is accompanied by the appearance of at least one attorney. District of Massachusetts Local Rule 83.5.5(c) (providing that “[a] corporation, partnership, limited liability company, trust, estate, or other entity that is not an individual may not appear pro se.”); Rowland v. California Men's Colony, Unit II Men's Advisory Council, 506 U.S. 194, 199-206 (1993) (recognizing the majority rule that prohibits corporations, partnerships and associations from appearing in federal court “otherwise than through a licensed attorney, ” and linking the right to proceed in forma pauperis to this limitation, concluding that an association of prison inmates did not qualify as a “person” under 28 U.S.C. § 1915, 42 U.S.C. § 1983); Instituto de Educacion Universal Corp. v. United States Dep't of Educ., 209 F.3d 18 (1st Cir. 2000) (distinguishing rule that corporation must be represented by counsel by holding that corporate officer may sign notice of appeal, so long as counsel is retained promptly to prosecute the appeal); Volumetric Imaging, Inc. v. Teledyne, Inc., 194 F.R.D. 373, 375 (D. Mass. 2000) (“Corporations, despite their pervasive role in our modem society, are not human beings. Although we are prone to regard them as living entities, they are only creatures of the state subject to government regulation and control. One of the time-hallowed restrictions on corporations has been that, in court proceedings, they must be represented by a licensed attorney. There is nothing unfair, illegal or unconstitutional in this requirement.”).

         The prohibition against corporations appearing pro se equally applies to non-profit corporations.[1] United We Stand Am., Inc. v. United We Stand, Am. N. Y., 128 F.3d 86, 88 (2d Cir. 1997) (reasoning that default was entered against a nonprofit organization when its counsel withdrew and the organization failed to substitute new counsel as per the court's order). Even if the non-profit corporation is composed of members who are currently imprisoned and it benefits prisoners, an attorney must still represent the corporation. Taylor v. Knapp, 871 F.2d 803, 806 (9th Cir. 1989) (acknowledging that a limited exception exists for a closely held corporation with one sole shareholder).

         Here, Nathan Marguis LeBaron seeks to bring suit on behalf of CFB. However, LeBaron may act pro se only on his own behalf, and he may not represent the interests of CFB because he is not alleged to be a duly-licensed attorney. See 28 U.S.C. § 1654 (appearance personally or by counsel); District of Massachusetts Local Rule 83.5.5(a) (providing that “[a]n individual who is not represented by counsel and ...


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