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Evans v. Godinez

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Fourth District

December 1, 2014

WILLIAM EVANS, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
S.A. GODINEZ, KEITH ANGLIN, and LAMAR COLEMAN, Defendants-Appellees

Appeal from Circuit Court of Vermilion County. No. 12MR41. Honorable Derek J. Girton, Judge Presiding.

Affirmed.

SYLLABUS

Summary judgment was properly entered for defendant Department of Corrections officials and employees in plaintiff inmate's action alleging that the denial of his request for prison space and time to conduct Nation of Islam study groups and prayer sessions violated his rights under the first and fourteenth amendments, since defendants' decision to adhere to the requirements of the Administrative Code with respect to the maintenance of safety and security at the correctional facility was reasonably related to a legitimate penological interest and would be deemed valid, despite the fact that an inmate's constitutional rights might be affected.

William Evans, of Chicago Heights, appellant pro se.

Lisa Madigan, Attorney General, of Chicago (Carolyn E. Shapiro, Solicitor General, and Mary C. LaBrec, Assistant Attorney General, of counsel), for appellees.

JUSTICE STEIGMANN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Turner and Holder White concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

Page 1281

STEIGMANN, JUSTICE

[¶1] In December 2012, plaintiff, William Evans, then an inmate at the Danville Correctional Center, pro se filed a second amended complaint under section 1983 of

Page 1282

the Civil Rights Act of 1871 (Civil Rights Act) (42 U.S.C. § 1983 (West 1996)) and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (Religious Land Use Act) (42 U.S.C. § § 2000cc to 2000cc-5 (2000)) against defendants, S.A. Godinez (Director of the Department of Corrections), (DOC) Keith Anglin (former Danville Correctional Center warden), and Lamar Coleman (Danville Correctional Center chaplain). The underlying issue concerned Evans' request for prison space and time to conduct separate Nation of Islam study groups and prayer sessions on a weekly basis. Evans' suit alleged that by denying his request, defendants, acting under the color of state law, violated his (1) first-amendment rights to the free exercise of religion and to peaceably assemble and (2) fourteenth-amendment rights to equal protection and due process. Evans sought injunctive relief as well as monetary and punitive damages.

[¶2] In March 2013, defendants filed a second motion for summary judgment under section 2-1005 of the Code of Civil Procedure (Civil Procedure Code) (735 ILCS 5/2-1005 (West 2012)), arguing that (1) an inmate's constitutional rights may be limited due to legitimate prison interests and (2) the doctrines of sovereign and qualified immunity shielded them from liability. Following an April 2013 hearing, the trial court later entered an order granting summary judgment in defendants' favor.

[¶3] Evans appeals, arguing that the trial court erred by granting summary judgment in defendants' favor. We disagree and affirm.

[¶4] I. BACKGROUND

[¶5] A. The Genesis of Evans' Appeal

[¶6] In August 2011, Evans submitted a grievance addressed to Anglin, proclaiming his Muslim faith and requesting, in part, that (1) his diet be changed to " lacto-ovo vegetarianism" and (2) Nation of Islam members be allowed to hold study groups twice a week as other religious groups were permitted to conduct such meetings. (A lacto-ovo vegetarian does not eat meat, but can consume dairy and egg products.) Evans objected to the practice of allowing Nation of Islam members to attend Al-Islam Muslim study groups because each faith had different fundamental beliefs. When Evans attempted to state his beliefs during the Al-Islam study group, " open disputes" erupted in which he was ridiculed and verbally assaulted. That same month, Anglin forwarded Evans' complaint to a prison counselor.

[¶7] In September 2011, D. Laker, the counselor and grievance officer assigned to address Evans' grievance, spoke with Coleman, who told him that in the past, Nation of Islam members were allowed to congregate once a week without a suitable faith or religious leader as required by section 425.60 of Title 20 of the Administrative Code (20 Ill. Adm. Code 425.60 (1995)). In his written report, Laker noted as follows:

" In section [425.60(a) of Title 20 of the Administrative Code (20 Ill. Adm. Code 425.60(a) (1995)], the basic tenants are that 'Religious Activities approved by the [Chief Administrative Officer] shall be conducted or supervised by a chaplain or religious program volunteer.' [A]s this directive wasn't being completely adhered to at that time and in light of trying not to favor any particular religion over another, this directive will be followed more strictly in the future for all religious denominations."

[¶8] Because Evans (1) did not have " an Ima[m] or suitable religious volunteer" to conduct services for the Nation of Islam members and (2) failed to comply with

Page 1283

section 425.60(f) of Title 20 of the Administrative Code (20 Ill. Adm. Code 425.60(f) (1995))--which outlines a six-step process to permit faith-based groups to congregate absent a suitable religious representative--Laker recommended that Anglin deny Evans' grievance as to that issue. As to Evans' dietary demand, Laker acknowledged that Evans had been placed on a vegan diet, which was a suitable alternative under section 425.70 of Title 20 of the Administrative Code (20 Ill. Adm. Code 425.70 (1995)). (A vegan does not eat meat, eggs, dairy products, or any animal-derived substances.) That same month, Anglin concurred with Laker's recommendation.

[¶9] Shortly thereafter, Evans appealed to Godinez, claiming that Coleman was refusing to do his job and supervise Nation of Islam study groups and prayer services. In December 2011, the Administrative Review Board (ARB) found that (1) Evans' dietary requests had been adequately changed and (2) any religious-group services must comply with section 425.60 of Title 20 of the Administrative Code. Godinez later concurred with the ARB's determination.

[¶10] In January 2012, Evans filed a second grievance, alleging " religious discrimination" through the " denial of religious services." Evans claimed that he had written to the national headquarters of the Nation of Islam requesting a religious representative for their study group, but six months had passed without a response. Citing section 425.60 of Title 20 of the Administrative Code, Evans requested that he and another inmate, Tyrone Harvey, be allowed to conduct Nation of Islam study groups and prayer services. Shortly thereafter, the assigned counselor noted that earlier that same month, Godinez had addressed the issues Evans raised in his second grievance.

[¶11] In February 2012, Evans and Harvey pro se filed a complaint under section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act, alleging defendants, acting under the color of state law, violated their (1) first-amendment rights to the free exercise of religion and freedom to assemble and (2) four-teenth-amendment right to due process when defendants refused to allow Nation of Islam members to hold separate group-study and prayer sessions to practice their religion. (Because Harvey is not a party to this ...


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