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Strickland v. Godinez

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

April 20, 2015

ERIK C. STRICKLAND, Plaintiff,
v.
S. A. GODINEZ, et al., Defendants.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

DONALD G. WILKERSON, Magistrate Judge.

This matter has been referred to United States Magistrate Judge Donald G. Wilkerson by United States District Judge Nancy J. Rosenstengel pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B), Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(b), and SDIL-LR 72.1(a) for a Report and Recommendation on the Motion for Preliminary Injunction and/or Protective Order filed by Plaintiff, Erik C. Strickland, on September 3, 2014 (Doc. 2). For the reasons set forth below, it is RECOMMENDED that the Motion be DENIED and that the Court adopt the following findings of fact and conclusions of law.

FINDINGS OF FACT

Plaintiff filed suit on September 3, 2014 alleging that the policies and practices of the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) have interfered with his ability to practice his religion, Asatru (also known as Odinism) (Doc. 1). Plaintiff, who was and is housed at the Lawrence Correctional Center, seeks declaratory and injunctive relief as well as minimal damages. Plaintiff is proceeding on the following claims:

Count 1: IDOC administrators Director S.A. Godinez, Deputy Director Ty Bates, Deputy Director Donald Gaetz, and Chief Chaplain Steve Keim violated Plaintiff's rights under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act ("RLUIPA"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-1(a), the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.
Count 2: Lawrence officials Warden Marc Hodge, Warden Steve Duncan, Assistant Warden Beth Tredway, Chaplain David Vaughn, and Intelligence Officer Loy violated Plaintiff's rights under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act ("RLUIPA"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-1(a), the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.
Count 3: Intelligence Officers Loy and Harper violated the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment when they threatened disciplinary action against Plaintiff if he proceeded to practice his religion in a group setting.[1]
(Doc. 8).

Along with his Complaint, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Preliminary Injunction (Doc. 2). The Motion was taken under advisement on October 8, 2014 (Doc. 19) and Plaintiff was informed that a hearing would be held once Defendants entered an appearance. Plaintiff objected to that Order on October 27, 2014 on unrelated grounds (Doc. 26). That objection was construed as a Motion to Reconsider and denied (Doc. 33). Defendants answered the Complaint on January 20, 2015 (Doc. 43) and filed a response to the Motion for Preliminary Injunction on February 5, 2015 (Doc. 46). On February 11, 2015, a hearing was held in which Plaintiff appeared by video-conference and Defendants appeared by counsel.

In his Motion, Plaintiff seeks an injunction preventing Defendants from "threatening or retaliating against plaintiff and/or Asatruar and refusing to permit plaintiff and/or Asatru inmates full participation in proper group and individual worship including the ownership of personal ritual items and medallions central to their beliefs" (Doc. 2, pp. 1-2). Plaintiff further seeks a declaration of his rights as outlined in his Complaint. The Motion does not specify who, in particular, is threatening and retaliating against Plaintiff nor does Plaintiff offer any details regarding the threats or retaliation. Plaintiff mentions that he must choose between exercising his religion and getting a "security threat group ticket" from Defendants (in general) and not practicing his religion, but does not offer more information. There is no indication in the Motion that Plaintiff will be subjected to any additional threats or retaliation in the near future.

Plaintiff does, however, explain in detail the types of religious items and accommodations that he requires in order to practice his religion, including an altar, candles, wooden implements, a sun wheel, and a rune staff, among other things. Plaintiff also seeks to participate in outdoor worship and ritual feasts and further seeks the "setting aside of sacred land on which blots [i.e rituals] could be conducted." Finally, Plaintiff seeks the ability to use objects to practice his religion in his cell and that he be allowed to participate in group worship activities.

At the hearing, Plaintiff indicates that he has been a practicing Asatruar for four-and-a-half to five years, since his introduction to the religion in 2010. He further stated that he has never possessed religious items. Rather, he was permitted to order some items through the chaplain; but, when the items arrived, he was not permitted to possess the items (which arrived at the jail around March 2013 and included an altar cloth and rune set).

CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

A preliminary injunction is an "extraordinary and drastic remedy" for which there must be a "clear showing" that Plaintiff is entitled to relief. Mazurek v. Armstrong, 520 U.S. 968, 972 (1997) (quoting 11A CHARLES ALAN WRIGHT, ARTHUR R MILLER, & MARY KAY KANE, FEDERAL PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE §2948 (5th ed. 1995)). The purpose of such an injunction is "to minimize the hardship to the parties pending the ultimate resolution of the ...


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