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Lorenzo Hall v. Chaplain Love

April 4, 2011


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



Plaintiff Lorenzo Hall, an inmate in Pinckneyville Correctional Center, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc et seq., based on an incident that occurred while Plaintiff was housed at Lawrence Correctional Center. Plaintiff is serving a 22 year sentence for attempted murder. 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, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). Conversely, a complaint is plausible on its face "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). Although the Court is obligated to accept factual allegations as true, some factual allegations may be so sketchy or implausible that they fail to provide sufficient notice of a plaintiff's claim. Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 581 (7th Cir. 2009). Additionally, Courts "should not accept as adequate abstract recitations of the elements of a cause of action or conclusory legal statements." Id. At the same time, however, the factual allegations of a pro se complaint are to be liberally construed. See Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009).

Upon careful review of the complaint, the Court finds it appropriate to exercise its authority under Section 1915A; portions of this action are subject to summary dismissal. The Complaint Initially, the Court notes that on October 22, 2010, Plaintiff filed a letter (Doc. 4) seeking to correct or supplement his complaint because there was an error in the list of named Defendants. The court finds it convenient to treat this letter as a Motion for Leave to Amend Plaintiff's Complaint, and grants Plaintiff's request. Plaintiff inadvertently omitted the name of Defendant C/O Fitch from his caption, although he did make specific allegations against this Defendant in the body of his complaint and included him among the itemized list of Defendants. The Clerk shall be directed to add C/O Fitch as a named Defendant.

Plaintiff, a Muslim, alleges that during the month of Ramadan in 2008, he was not allowed to participate in several of the nightly group prayer services due to a belief on the part of Defendant Fitch that he had broken his fast. Plaintiff missed out on this important religious observance for approximately 12 days. He personally requested Defendant Chaplain Love to allow him back in to the nightly services; this request was denied. He promptly filed grievances each day he was barred from participation in Ramadan services; these were ultimately denied by the Administrative Review Board (ARB) on May 28, 2009.

While Plaintiff's Ramadan grievances were still pending, he was removed on December 12, 2008, from the list of inmates permitted to participate in weekly Friday Jummah (or Jumu'ah)*fn1 congregational services. Plaintiff filed another grievance. He claims that Defendant Love (the prison chaplain) instigated his removal in retaliation for Plaintiff having complained about Defendant Love in the Ramadan grievances. As a result, Plaintiff was not able to participate in the weekly congregational Jumu'ah services for over two months until he was placed back on the participant list in February, 2009. Plaintiff's grievance was denied; he appealed the denial, but his appeal was rejected by the ARB for not being filed within 30 days. However, Plaintiff points out that he signed the appeal form and submitted it through inmate mail two days before the deadline.

Plaintiff seeks a jury trial; combined compensatory and punitive damages of $20,000 for the exclusion from Ramadan services and $15,000 for the exclusion from weekly Jumu'ah services; a declaratory judgment that Defendants violated his constitutional rights; and a preliminary and permanent ...

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