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Banks v. Dougherty

February 26, 2010

LARRY BANKS, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
GREG DOUGHERTY, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Robert M. Dow, Jr.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

The case remains in its early procedural days, although it spans more than 140 docket entries and has had a shifting cast of characters. As a result of the disposition of this motion, the players will shrink in number and their roles will become better defined. Defendants Tajudeen Ibrahim ("Ibrahim"), Greg Dougherty ("Dougherty"), Farazana Husain ("Husain"), Raul Almazar ("Almazar"), Michael Waltrous ("Waltrous") the Illinois Department of Human Services ("IDHS"), and Elgin Mental Health Center ("Elgin Mental Health") (collectively "Defendants") have filed a motion to dismiss portions of Plaintiffs' fifth amended complaint [136]. Specifically, Defendants move to dismiss Counts III, IV, and VII as to Almazar and Ibrahim in their official capacities; and Defendants move to dismiss Counts I, II, V, and VI in their entirety. Defendants indicate that they have brought their motion pursuant to both Rule 12(b)(1) and Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, although the Court construes both motions as having been filed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) (see infra Part III).

For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motion [136] is granted.

I. Background

On June 29, 2009, Plaintiffs, Larry Banks ("Banks") and Walter Carlos ("Carlos"), filed their Fifth Amended Complaint ("FAC"). The complaint alleges violations of two statutes and two constitutional provisions-the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act ("RLUIPA") (42 U.S.C. §§2000cc et seq.), the Illinois Religious Freedom Restoration Act ("IRFRA") (775 ILCS 35/1 et seq.), the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Plaintiffs seek injunctive relief and money damages. The complaint names Defendants IDHS, Elgin Mental Health, Ibrahim, Husain, Almazar, Dougherty, and Watrous.

Elgin Mental Health is a mental health facility, operated by IDHS, which Plaintiff alleges-and Defendants readily concede-is a subdivision of the State of Illinois. FAC ¶ 2. Elgin Mental Health services the bulk of involuntarily committed persons in the Chicago metropolitan area, known colloquially as "Chicagoland." Since at least 2006, the Center has failed to hold Jumu'ah services. These services are analogous to the Christian and Jewish prayer services. Moreover, although Elgin Mental Health pays Christians and Jews to minister to its patients, the center has refused to pay for a Muslim imam for its patients.

According to the complaint, Plaintiffs "are two practicing Muslims who were former patients at [Elgin Mental Health]. Both were denied the right to attend Jumu'ah services" and Banks was denied a "nutritionally adequate diet throughout his stay at the [c]enter, particularly during Ramadan." FAC ¶ 2. The malnourishment resulted in thirty pounds' weight loss in three weeks and Banks experienced severe hunger. Banks was a patient at Elgin Mental Health from August 2007 to June 2008. Carlos was a patient at Elgin Mental Health from July 2006 to November 2007.

All of the individual defendants are or were employed by Elgin Mental Health. Ibrahim is the Acting Hospital Administrator; Plaintiffs have sued him in his official and individual capacities. FAC ¶ 8. Almazar was the immediate predecessor to Ibrahim; he, too, is being sued in his official and individual capacities. FAC ¶ 9. Dougherty, Banks's social worker at Elgin Mental Health, is being sued only in his individual capacity. FAC ¶ 10. Also sued only in their individual capacities are Husain, who was Banks's physician at Elgin Mental Health (FAC ¶ 11), and Waltrous, who was Banks's psychologist at Elgin Mental Health.

Counts I and II of Plaintiffs' amended complaint name IDHS, Elgin Mental Health, Almazar, and Ibrahim. These counts allege that the named defendants violated RLUIPA and IRFRA. Counts III and IV name Almazar and Ibrahim in their individual and official capacities; these counts allege that the conduct violated their First Amendment rights, as well as the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause-both of these counts are brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Counts V and VI name all Defendants, alleging that they violated RLUIPA and IRFRA by failing to provide Banks with a halal diet and sufficient food to fast during Ramadan. Finally, Count VII names Almazar, Dougherty, Husain, and Watrous in their individual capacities, and names Almazar and Ibrahim in their official capacities. Count VII alleges that these Defendants violated the First Amendment to the United States Constitution by "turning a blind eye" toward Banks's repeated complaints that he was not being provided with a nutritionally adequate halal diet that allowed him to fast during Ramadan.

Plaintiffs seek a judgment declaring that Defendants have violated RLUIPA, IRFRA, the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Plaintiffs also seek money damages and injunctive relief that would direct Elgin Mental Health to adopt Jumu'ah- and halal-friendly policies.

II. Defendants' Motion

Defendants' motion to dismiss does not take issue with the merits of Plaintiffs' allegations; rather the motion contests the Court's power to adjudicate certain of Plaintiffs' claims. Defendants argue that sovereign immunity bars any suit for money damages against Almazar and Ibrahim in their official capacities, and that any need for injunctive relief with respect to these two defendants is moot. Accordingly, Defendants seek dismissal of Counts III, IV, and VII as to Defendants Almazar and Ibrahim in their official capacities. Defendants also move to dismiss Counts I, II, V, and VI, because "sovereign immunity bars Plaintiffs' RLUIPA claims for damages and declaratory relief against [all Defendants] in their official and individual capacities" and because "the need for injunctive relief * * * is moot." Def. Mot. at 2.

III. Legal Standard for Rule 12(b)(1) Motions

Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction; "they have only the power that is authorized by Article III of the Constitution and the statutes enacted by Congress pursuant thereto." Transit Express, Inc. v. Ettinger, 246 F.3d 1018, 1023 (7th Cir. 2001). The burden of establishing jurisdiction lies with Plaintiffs. Id. Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), a party may move to dismiss a claim (or, indeed, an entire lawsuit) on the ground that the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction.*fn1 Federal courts lack jurisdiction over moot actions. See supra note 1. The Seventh Circuit has indicated that district courts lack jurisdiction over Section 1983 actions filed against non-suable entities. Sherman v. Community Consol. Sch. Dist. 21 of Wheeling Twp., 980 F.2d 437, 440-41 (7th Cir. 1992); Toledo, Peoria & W. R.R. Co. v. Illinois Department of Transportation, 744 F.2d 1296, 1298-99 (7th Cir. 1984).*fn2

In evaluating a motion brought pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), the Court accepts as true all well-pleaded factual allegations and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Long v. Shorebank Dev. Corp., 182 F.3d 548, 554 (7th Cir. 1999). In addition to the pleadings and legal arguments, the Court considers evidence extrinsic to the pleadings. Hay v. Indiana State Bd. of Tax Comm'rs, 312 F.3d 876, 879 (7th Cir. 2002) ("[T]he district court had not only the right, but the duty to look beyond the allegations of the complaint to determine that it had jurisdiction to hear the * * * claim.").

IV. Analysis

A. Count I-RLUIPA

Count I of Plaintiffs' complaint names IDHS, Elgin Mental Health, Almazar, and Ibrahim. Count I, which like the other counts incants the statutory and constitutional argot, alleges that the named defendants violated RLUIPA when they "substantially burdened" Plaintiffs' right to practice their Islamic faith by failing to provide Jumu'ah services to Muslim patients. FAC ΒΆ 47. ...


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