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Yisrayl v. Walker

January 27, 2010

KWANM ARI MICHAEL YISRAYL, A/K/A GERALD WILKINS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ROGER E. WALKER, JR., ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff Yisrayl, formerly an inmate in the Tamms Correctional Center, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In this action, Yisrayl presents 13 different counts alleging assorted infringements upon his religious practices, in violation of his rights under the First, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments, as well as under 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-1, et seq.

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). An action fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted if it does not plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1974 (2007). Upon careful review of the complaint and any supporting exhibits, the Court finds it appropriate to exercise its authority under § 1915A; portions of this action are subject to summary dismissal.

COUNT 1

Yisrayl is a practitioner of the African Hebrew Israelite faith. His first claim is that for several days in April 2006, and again in April 2008, Defendant Sullivan refused to serve him unleavened bread as mandated by his faith. He also states that she failed to serve him a special religious meal for a Holy Day event in June 2008. Yisrayl asserts that her actions were done in violation of his First Amendment right freely practice his religion.

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). Accordingly, at this time the Court is unable to dismiss Yisrayl's First Amendment claim regarding Sullivan's interference with his religious diet.

COUNT 2

The second claim is brief. Yisrayl asserts that he made written and verbal complaints about Sullivan, as alleged in Count 1, to Defendants Walker, Watts, Bantey, Lambert and Miller, but that they failed to remedy the problem.

Yisrayl's theory appears to be that any prison employee who is told about his problems has a duty to fix those problems. That theory is in direct conflict with the well-established rule that "public employees are responsible for their own misdeeds but not for anyone else's." Burks v. Raemisch, 555 F.3d 592, 596 (7th Cir. 2009). See also Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978); Sanville v. McCaughtry, 266 F.3d 724, 740 (7th Cir. 2001) (doctrine of respondeat superior does not apply to § 1983 actions).

Yisrayl makes no allegations that any of these defendants were personally involved in Sullivan's decisions regarding his religious diet, and thus he has failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Accordingly, Count 2 will be dismissed from this action with prejudice.

COUNT 3

Referring back to his allegations in Count 1 and Count 2, Yisrayl alleges that by their actions and inactions, Defendants Walker, Watts, Bantey, Lambert, Miller and Sullivan discriminated against him because of his religion, in violation of his rights under the Fourteenth Amendment.

[T]he "Equal Protection Clause has long been limited to instances of purposeful or invidious discrimination rather than erroneous or even arbitrary administration of state powers...." Briscoe v. Kusper, 435 F.2d 1046, 1052 (7th Cir. 1970). A plaintiff "must demonstrate intentional or purposeful discrimination" to show an equal protection violation. Bloomenthal v. Lavelle, 614 F.2d 1139, 1141 (7th Cir. 1980) (per curiam). "'Discriminatory purpose' however, implies more than intent as volition or intent as awareness of consequences." Personnel Administrator of Massachusetts v. Feeny, 442 U.S. 256, 279, 99 S.Ct. 2282, 2296, 60 L.Ed.2d 870 (1979). It implies that the decision-maker singled out a particular group for disparate treatment and selected his course of action at least in part for the purpose of causing its adverse effects on an identifiable group. Shango v. Jurich, 681 F.2d 1091, 1104 (7th Cir. 1982).

David K. v. Lane, 839 F.2d 1265, 1271-72 (7th Cir. 1988). See also Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78, 89 (1987)("when a prison regulation impinges on inmates' constitutional rights, the regulation is valid if it is reasonably related to legitimate penological interests.").

For the reasons set forth above in Count 2, Yisrayl has failed to state a claim against Walker, Watts, Bantey, Lambert and Miller. Consequently, they will be dismissed with prejudice from Count 3.

COUNT 4

Yisrayl alleges that from 2005 through the present, Defendants Walker, Watts, Bantey, Lambert and Miller have systematically denied his requests for access to books and literature, video programming, and a turban, all of which he deems necessary to practice his religion. In denying him access to these materials, he asserts that they have violated his rights under the First Amendment.

Applying the standards set forth above in Count 1, the Court is unable to dismiss any portion ...


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