Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Tenth Circuit Holds Courts May Look to the Body of a Complaint to Determine Who the Proper Defendants Are in a Pro Se Case

Per Trackwell v. U.S. Government, 472 F.3d 1242 (10th Cir. Jan. 05, 2007):

Before reviewing the merits of the district court's dismissal, we first must resolve who the proper defendants are in this action. In the captions of his complaint and his amended complaint, Mr. Trackwell named only the "United States Government" as a defendant. As the district court noted, however, "he actually seeks relief against the Clerk of the Supreme Court ... and [the] Court itself." R. Doc. 23 at 6 n. 2. This was a proper reading of Mr. Trackwell's pleadings. The general rule is that in the caption of the complaint, "the title of the action shall include the names of all the parties." Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(a). But in a pro se case when the plaintiff names the wrong defendant in the caption or when the identity of the defendants is unclear from the caption, courts may look to the body of the complaint to determine who the intended and proper defendants are. See Johnson v. Johnson, 466 F.3d 1213, 1215-16 (10th Cir.2006); Rice v. Hamilton Air Force Base Commissary, 720 F.2d 1082, 1085 (9th Cir.1983).


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