The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joe Billy Mcdade United States District Judge
E-FILED Thursday, 06 October, 2011 02:33:56 PM
Clerk, U.S. District Court, ILCD
This cause is before the court for consideration of various pending motions including: Defendant Mahone's second motion for summary judgment [d/e 100]; the Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment [d/e 124]; the Plaintiff's renewed motion for appointment of counsel [d/e 128]; and Defendants Hardy, Kennell, Mathy, Randle, Runyon, and Walker's motion for summary judgment. [d/e 130]
The pro se Plaintiff has filed this lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983 against nine Defendants at the Pontiac Correctional Center including: Warden Joseph Mathy, Assistant Warden Marcus Hardy, Chaplain Eldon Kennell, Food Service Manager Richard Runyon, Food Supervisor Chris Baughman, Food Service Administrator Suzanne Griswold, Medical Director Sylvia Mahone and Illinois Department of Corrections (herein IDOC) Directors Roger Walker and Michael Randle.. See August 2, 2010 Case Management Order. On August 2, 2010, the court denied Defendant Mahone's first motion for summary judgment and granted Defendant Baughman and Griswold's motion for summary judgment based on the issue of exhaustion of administrative remedies. August 2, 2010 Summary Judgment Order.
The Plaintiff now has the following surviving claims:
1) Defendants Mathy, Hardy, Kennell, Runyon, Walker and Randle violated the Plaintiff's First Amendment right to the free exercise of his religion when he was denied his religious diet for 39 days;
2) Defendants Mathy, Hardy, Kennell, Runyon, Walker and Randle violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (herein RLUIPA) when the Plaintiff was denied his religious diet for 39 days;
3) Defendants Mathy, Hardy, Kennell and Runyon violated the plaintiff's Eighth Amendment rights when the Plaintiff was not provided a nutritionally adequate diet for 39 days which resulted in health problems and weight loss; and,
4) Defendant Mahone violated the Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment rights when she was deliberately indifferent to the Plaintiff's serious medical condition. See August 2, 2010 Case Management Order; see also April 15, 2009 Merit Review Order.
All parties have now filed motions for summary judgment. The court notes that the Plaintiff has also filed a renewed motion for appointment of counsel. [d/e 128] The Plaintiff states that on August 2, 2010, the court allowed his motion to amend his complaint to add two Defendants: Illinois Department of Corrections Directors Michael Randle and Roger Walker. See August 2, 2010 Case Management Order. The court found that the Plaintiff had stated an official capacity claim against these individuals. The Plaintiff says that based on this amendment, his case is now too complex and he needs the assistance of counsel.
As the court has previously explained, the Plaintiff has no constitutional or statutory right to appointment of counsel in this case. See April 15, 2009 Merit Review Order. In considering the Plaintiff's motion, the court asks: "(1) has the indigent plaintiff made a reasonable attempt to obtain counsel or been effectively precluded from doing so; and if so, (2) given the difficulty of the case, does the plaintiff appear competent to litigate it himself?" Pruitt v. Mote, 503 F.3d 647, 654-55 (7th Cir. 2007), citing Farmer v. Haas, 990 F.2d 319, 322 (7th Cir.1993).
The court finds that the Plaintiff is competent to represent himself based on his filings in this case.The Plaintiff has filed an appropriate motion for default judgment (October 7, 2009 Text Order); survived a motion for summary judgment (August 2, 2010 summary judgment motion); successfully amended his complaint (August 2, 2010 case management order); successfully filed a motion to compel discovery (August 2, 2010 case management order); and, filed his own motion for summary judgment order complete with a statement of undisputed facts and exhibits. [d/e 124]. The Plaintiff's filings show an understanding of the applicable law and how it applies to the facts of his case. In addition, the Plaintiff is an experienced litigator. See Fletcher, et.al. v. Mathy, Case No. 09-1024, multi-plaintiff action in the Central District of Illinois; and Kyles v Fairman, Case No. 95-6110; Kyles v. Howell, Case No. 95-4963; Kyles v Carry, Case No. 95-6430 and Kyles v. U.S. States Attorney, Case No. 97-5516 in the Northern District of Illinois. The renewed motion for appointment of counsel is denied. [d/e 128].
The Plaintiff transferred from Stateville Correctional Center to Pontiac Correctional Center on August 18, 2008. The Plaintiff says he affiliated with the religious group "African Hebrew Israelites" during his time at Stateville. (Def. Mot, Ex. 4, Plain. Depo, p. 8). As a member of this group, the Plaintiff says he is prohibited from eating meat or meat products. (Def. Mot, Ex. 4, Plain. Depo, p. 28).
The Plaintiff says he signed a Religious Diet Agreement at Stateville that was approved by the Chaplaincy staff. The Plaintiff has provided a copy of his religious designation, "African Hebrew Israelite," and a copy of his religious diet agreement for a vegan diet. (Plain. Mot, Ex. 1, 4). The Plaintiff claims the religious diet agreement is kept in his IDOC master file. (Plain. Mot, Ex. 4).
The Plaintiff says while he was provided vegan meals at Stateville Correctional Center, the vegan trays stopped when he entered Pontiac. The Plaintiff says he told Privacy Officer Jack Overfeld and Counselor Guth about his dietary request shortly after his arrival. (Def. Mot, Ex. 4, Plain. Depo, p. 13). In his deposition, the Plaintiff says he knew on August 26, 2008, that he would have to follow the same procedure to obtain a vegan diet at Pontiac that he had previously followed at Stateville. (Def. Mot, Ex. 4, Plain. Depo. p. 14-15).
The Plaintiff says he first sent a letter to Defendant Runyon and Chaplain Kennell on August 26, 2008, asking for a vegan diet. The Plaintiff has provided a copy of this letter which says that it is addressed to "Dietary (Richard Runyon)(Chaplain Eldon Kennell)." (Plain. Mot, Ex. B). In the letter, the Plaintiff states that he had received a vegan diet based on his religious beliefs at Stateville Correctional Center, but he has not been allowed the same diet at Pontiac. (Plain. Mot, Ex. B). The Plaintiff says he is not able to eat most of the items on a regular food tray and is losing weight. There is no stamp on the letter indicating it was received, and Defendants Runyon and Kennell claim they did not receive this letter.
The Plaintiff has also included a copy of two other letters he wrote on August 26, 2008 that include the same information. The Plaintiff claims he sent these letters to Defendants Hardy and Mathy. (Plain. Memo, Ex. C, D). There is no stamp on either letter indicating it was received and the Defendants say were never given the letters.
The next letter submitted by the Plaintiff is dated September 19, 2008 and is addressed to Defendant Kennel. (Plain. Mot, Ex. E). In the letter, the Plaintiff introduces himself and states that he has not received his "vegan Hebrew diet tray" since he arrived from Stateville Correctional Center. The Plaintiff further says he does not understand why he is not receiving the vegan diet since his Religious Diet Agreement was in his IDOC master file. The Plaintiff says he is requesting the vegan diet again. The Plaintiff says he has not been able to eat a full meal since he arrived at Pontiac Correctional Center and claims he has gone from 220 pounds to 190 pounds. (Plain. Memo, Ex. E). The Plaintiff also claims he previously wrote letters to Wardens Mathy and Hardy but did not receive responses. (Plain. Memo, Ex. E). The Plaintiff makes no mention of any prior letters to the Chaplain or the Dietary Department.
The Plaintiff has submitted two final letters, each dated September 22, 2008. One is addressed to Defendant Mathy and the other to Defendant Hardy. (Plain. Mot, Ex. F, G). Both are marked as received on January 13, 2009. The Plaintiff again states his need for a vegan diet and says he has written to these two individuals on one prior occasion. (Plain. Mot, Ex. F,G.)
On September 22, 2008, the Plaintiff also filed a grievance. (Plain. Mot, Ex. F). The Plaintiff says he has written to Defendants Mathy and Hardy on two occasions and still has not received his religious diet. The Plaintiff says he has suffered massive weight loss and is starving. He makes no mention of any letters to the Chaplain. (Plain. Mot, Ex. F). The response from the counselor on October 3, 2008, states that Chaplain Kennell has received the Plaintiff's letter and dietary has been notified to provide the Plaintiff with a vegan tray.
Eldon Kennell is the Chaplain at Pontiac Correctional Center and says he is familiar with the religious activities and rules at the correctional center. (Def. Memo, Kennell Aff., p. 1, d/e 127). Defendant Kennell says part of his duties include processing requests for religious-based special diets. He says all inmates who arrive at Pontiac are immediately placed on a standard diet, and the "[i]nmates are responsible for requesting alternative diets if they so chose." (Def. Memo, Kennell Aff., p. 1, d/e 127).
Defendant Kennell says when he receives a request for a religious-based diet, he keeps a copy and marks the date the request was received. The Defendant says if he approves the request, he sends a memorandum to the Dietary Manager and also forwards a copy of the request to the inmate's master file, the Assistant Warden of ...