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Tolbert v. Sutton

July 27, 2007

MICHAEL TOLBERT, PLAINTIFF,
v.
RICK SUTTON, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff, an inmate in the Pinckneyville Correctional Center, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. 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 complaint and any supporting exhibits, the Court finds it appropriate to exercise its authority under § 1915A; this action is legally frivolous and thus subject to summary dismissal.

FACTS ALLEGED

Plaintiff states that he is a practicing Muslim. According to Plaintiff's beliefs, he is required to perform a wudu, or ritual ablution, prior to the service. Furthermore, if the wudu becomes invalidated during the service, due to falling asleep or soiling oneself, the wudu must be renewed. During the time that Plaintiff was in Pinckneyville, inmates were informed that the toilet facility in the chapel would no longer be available to them; therefore, they would need to perform wudu in their cells before attending services. At this same time, Plaintiff was taking prescription medication to treat his high blood pressure, and this medication caused frequent urination. Although he explained this situation to Defendants Sutton and Wuebbels, they remained firm on their policy regarding closure of the chapel bathroom. Plaintiff occasionally urinated on himself during a service, thus he was unable to participate in the complete service. Plaintiff filed grievances over this policy; those grievances were ultimately denied by Defendant Evans. Plaintiff also alleges that Defendant Feinerman represented, falsely, that Plaintiff was not taking any medication that would necessitate frequent access to the toilet.

Out of these allegations, Plaintiff presents two claims.

INTERFERENCE WITH RELIGIOUS PRACTICES

Plaintiff's primary claim is that Defendants Sutton, Wuebbels, and Evans interfered with his religious practices by implementing and enforcing the policy regarding use of the chapel toilet during service.

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). Therefore, at this point in the litigation, the ...


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