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Hill v. Snyder

July 25, 2006

DOUGLAS HILL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DONALD SNYDER, LINDA DILLON, KIM BIGLEY, ANGELA WINSOR AND DIETARY MANAGER CHEEKS, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Reagan, District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff, currently an inmate in the Big Muddy River Correctional Center, brings this action for deprivations of his rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and RFRA, 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb. With his amended complaint, Plaintiff filed a second motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis, but such a request has already been granted; therefore, the instant motion (Doc. 21) is MOOT.

Plaintiff also filed a motion for appointment of counsel (Doc. 20). When deciding whether to appoint counsel, the Court must first determine if a pro se litigant has made reasonable efforts to secure counsel before resorting to the courts. Jackson v. County of McLean, 953 F.2d 1070, 1072 (7th Cir. 1992). Plaintiff makes no showing that he has attempted to retain counsel. Therefore, the Court finds that appointment of counsel is not warranted at this time, and the motion for appointment of counsel is DENIED.

This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, which provides:

(a) Screening.-- The court shall review, before docketing, if feasible or, in any event, as soon as practicable after docketing, a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity.

(b) Grounds for Dismissal.-- On review, the court shall identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint--

(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or

(2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.

28 U.S.C. § 1915A. An action or claim is frivolous if "it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). Upon careful review of the amended complaint (Doc. 19) and any supporting exhibits, the Court finds it appropriate to exercise its authority under § 1915A; portions of this action are legally frivolous and thus subject to summary dismissal.

In this action, Plaintiff states that he is an adherent of the African Hebrew Israelite faith. One of the tenets of this faith is to refrain from eating meat or any animal byproducts, thus qualifying him to receive a vegan meal. He alleges that Defendants have suspended his access to these meals for perceived violation of his tenets. While he was denied those meals, Defendants attempted to feed him in violation of his tenet. He also states that the canned fruits and vegetables contain artificial preservatives, which violate the tenets of his religion. He alleges that he is prohibited from giving away or trading items from his food tray with other inmates, a rule he claims is highly prejudicial. Finally, he claims to have filed a grievance over these matters (to which he did not receive any response), and that he was transferred in retaliation for that grievance. He also alleges, generically, that the grievance process is a scam, in that everyone who was mentioned in his grievances remains unpunished.

Specific allegations against individuals are as follows: he complains that Snyder and Dillon allow prison administrators to require written verification of an inmate's religious affiliation and the tenets of that faith, and such verification must come from an outside religious leader or faith representative, and that Winsor has consistently refused his requests for vegan meals. He complains that Cheek and Winsor do not provide a sufficient variety in the meals; he also claims that Bigley, Winsor and Dillon will not allow him additional time to consume his meals. Finally, he claims that Cheek threatened him with segregation if he continued to complain about his diet.

RELIGIOUS DIET

The law is clear that a prisoner retains his or her First Amendment right to practice his religion, subject to prison regulations that do not discriminate between religions and are reasonably related to legitimate penological objectives. O'Lone v. Estate of Shabazz, 482 U.S. 342, 349 (1987); Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78, 89 (1987); Sasnett v. Litscher, 197 F.3d 290, 292 (7th Cir. 1999). It is also well-settled that observance of religiously mandated dietary restrictions is a form of religious practice protected by the First Amendment. Hunafa v. Murphy, 907 F.2d 46, 47 (7th Cir. 1990)(citing cases). However, an inmate's free exercise right does not "depend upon his ability to pursue each and every aspect of the practice of his religion." Canedy v. Boardman, 91 F.3d 30, 33 (7th Cir. 1996). Further, a regulation that infringes an inmate's free exercise of religion will nonetheless survive constitutional challenge if prison administrators can establish that the regulation is a rational means of furthering a legitimate penological interest. O'Lone v. Estate of Shabazz, 482 U.S. 342, 351-52 (1987); Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78, 89 (1987); Tarpley v. Allen County, Ind., 312 F.3d 895, 898 (7th Cir. 2002).

Applying these standards to the allegations in the complaint, the Court is unable to dismiss the First Amendment claims against Snyder, Dillon and Winsor regarding the provision of vegan meals, the contents of the food he is given, the discontinuance of his vegan meals, and the requirement that he provide ...


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