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Wilder v. Sutton

August 15, 2006


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


Plaintiff, an inmate in the Pinckneyville Correctional Center, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff previously was granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis, and he has tendered his initial partial filing fee as ordered.

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

(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 complaint and any supporting exhibits, the Court finds that none of the claims in the complaint may be dismissed at this point in the litigation.


Plaintiff states that he was transferred to Pinckneyville Correctional Center on January 10, 2003. At the time of transfer, he identified himself as a practitioner of the Wiccan religion. Plaintiff submitted "request slip after request slip" seeking a meeting with Defendant Sutton so that he might obtain the materials necessary for the practice of his religion. Plaintiff informed Defendant Flagg, Assistant Warden of Programs, that Defendant Sutton had not responded to his requests. Defendant Flagg told him to keep submitting requests. After a few more weeks of his requests being ignored, Plaintiff wrote an unspecified number of letters to Defendant Pierson, Chief Administrative Officer at Pinckneyville Correctional Center, informing him of his desire to practice his religion and Defendant Sutton's failure to respond to his requests. Defendant Pierson did not respond in writing to Plaintiff's requests, but when Plaintiff saw him in person and asked him about his letters, Defendant Pierson told Plaintiff, "you must go through the Chaplaincy Department."

Because Plaintiff believed he had no other recourse, on November 19, 2003, he began filing grievances. In response, he was informed that he needed to submit a documented list of necessary items to Defendant Sutton. Plaintiff did so, but that request was also ignored. Plaintiff later saw Defendant Sutton, asked about the requests, and was informed that "your religion is not allowed to be practiced at PCC." Defendant Sutton also told Plaintiff that his request were being reviewed by Defendant Watts, Chief Chaplain of the Religions Practice Advisory Board in Springfield. After "a long period of time elapsed" without response from either Defendant Sutton or Defendant Watts, Plaintiff wrote a letter to Defendant Watts personally, asking that he be allowed to practice his religion. During this same time, Plaintiff was also seeking relief through the prison's grievance system. All grievances were denied for various reasons at the prison level and later by Defendant Evans and Defendant Ford at the Administrative Review Board.

Plaintiff argues that all defendants discriminated against him on the basis of his religion. He argues further that Defendant Sutton improperly denied him the opportunity to practice his religion, in violation of the First Amendment and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, in that he specifically denied Plaintiff access to the chapel, refused to allow him to purchase religious materials, and refused to acknowledge Wicca as a legitimate religion. Plaintiff further argues that the actions of Defendant Sutton constituted a violation of Illinois state law.

Plaintiff argues that Defendants Flagg, Pierson, Evans, Ford, and Watts were aware that Defendant Sutton was denying Plaintiff the right to practice his religion, but turned a blind eye to the constitutional violation and further, did nothing to prevent the denial of those ...

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