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Daniel G. Hedger v. Eldon Kennell

March 30, 2012

DANIEL G. HEDGER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ELDON KENNELL, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: James E. Shadid United States District Judge

E-FILED Friday, 30 March, 2012 04:11:43 PM Clerk, U.S. District Court, ILCD

SUMMARY JUDGMENT ORDER

This matter is currently before the court on the Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment [#23]. The matter has been fully briefed by the parties. The Defendants' Motion [#23] is GRANTED for the reasons set forth below.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, Daniel Hedger, is currently an inmate within the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC). Plaintiff filed the instant complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Court conducted a merit review and found the Plaintiff stated an arguable claim under the First Amendment and this Order is limited to addressing this issue and will not address the Religious Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. Specifically, the Plaintiff alleges his religious rights were violated when he requested to change his religion to Heathenery in September 2009, to Odinism in October 2009, and to Odinism-Asatru in August and October 2010, and all of his requests were denied for a history of frequent changes. As a result, the Plaintiff was unable to change his religion at Pontiac Correctional Center.

FACTS

Plaintiff is currently an inmate in IDOC and was housed mainly at Pontiac Correctional center until April 27, 2011. Plaintiff first requested to change his religion on July 7, 2007, from Baptist to Al-Islam (Muslim). This was approved by Defendant Chaplain Kennell. Plaintiff's second request to change his religion was on March 4, 2009, when he requested to change his religion from Al-Islam (Muslim) to none and this request was approved. Plaintiff's third request to change his religion was on August 30, 2009, when he requested to change his religion from none to Al-Islam (Muslim) and this request was denied for attempting to change his religion during Ramadan. Plaintiff's fourth request to change his religion was on September 3, 2009, when he requested to change his religion from none to Heathenery, and this request was denied for a history of frequent changes. Plaintiff's fifth request to change his religion was on October 28, 2009, when he requested to change his religion from none to Odinism, and this request was denied for a history of frequent changes. Plaintiff's sixth request to change his religion was on August 15, 2010, when he requested to change his religion from none to Odinism-Asatru, and this request was denied for a history of frequent changes. Plaintiff's seventh request to change his religion was on October 28, 2010, when he requested to change his religion from none to Odinism-Asatru. This request was denied for a history of frequent changes and because it was suspected that the Plaintiff was being coerced to change his religion by other inmates.

Plaintiff also requested to be given the Halal diet, to participate in Ramadan feasts and services, and to receive various religious items while at Pontiac Correctional Center. Plaintiff's religion was changed to Odinism-Asatru on May 25, 2011. Plaintiff has changed his religion six times since 2002, and currently participates in an Odinism study group and feasts at Pinckneyville Correctional Center. Odinism feasts were not available at Pontiac Correctional Center.

Defendant Lemke was the Assistant Warden of Operations at Pontiac Correction Center when the events giving rise to the Plaintiff's Complaint allegedly took place. Defendant Pierce was the Warden of Pontiac Correctional Center when the events giving rise to the Plaintiff's Complaint allegedly took place. Defendant Reed was the Warden of Programs at Pontiac Correctional Center when the events giving rise to the Plaintiff's Complaint allegedly took place. The Plaintiff claims Defendants Lemke, Pierce, and Reed violated his First Amendment rights because they were copied on the December 2, 2010, letter written by the Plaintiff.

STANDARD FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

Summary judgment is proper if the pleadings, answers to interrogatories, depositions, and admissions, along with affidavits, show that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56©. An issue of material fact exists only if "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). In determining whether there are any genuine issues of material fact, the court must draw all inferences in the light most favorable to the non-movant. Bartman v. Allis-Chalmers Corp., 799 F.2d 311, 312 (7th Cir.1986). Yet not every conceivable inference must be drawn, only reasonable inferences. Id.

The United States Supreme Court held that summary judgment is mandatory if there is no genuine issue as to any material fact for trial if, "after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The plaintiff must come forward with evidence of a specific factual dispute, evidence that would reasonably permit the finder of fact to find in plaintiff's favor on a material question; otherwise, the court must enter summary judgment against the plaintiff. Waldridge v. American Hoechst Corp., 24 F.3d 918, 920 (7th Cir. 1994); International Union of Operating Engineers v. Associated General Contractors, 845 F.2d 704, 708 (7th Cir. 1988).

FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS

A prisoner has a First Amendment right to practice his/her 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). The United States Supreme Court has established that "prison regulations alleged to infringe constitutional rights are judged under a 'reasonableness' test less restrictive than ...


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