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Sanford v. Madison County, Illinois

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

August 17, 2016

ESMOND L. SANFORD, Plaintiff,
v.
MADISON COUNTY, ILLINOIS, GARY BOST, DONALD BUNT, ROBERT HERTZ, and MADISON COUNTY JAIL Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          J. Phil Gilbert U.S. District Judge.

         Plaintiff Esmond L. Sanford, an inmate in Robinson Correctional Center, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 that occurred at the Madison County Jail. Plaintiff requests costs and declarative relief. 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.

         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). Frivolousness is an objective standard that refers to a claim that any reasonable person would find meritless. Lee v. Clinton, 209 F.3d 1025, 1026-27 (7th Cir. 2000). 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). The claim of entitlement to relief must cross “the line between possibility and plausibility.” Id. at 557. At this juncture, the factual allegations of the 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 and any supporting exhibits, the Court finds it appropriate to exercise its authority under § 1915A; portions of this action are subject to summary dismissal.

         The Complaint

         Plaintiff was incarcerated in the Madison County Jail until approximately August 2014. Plaintiff is a practicing Muslim, with sincerely-held beliefs. (Doc. 1, p. 7-8). Islam requires Jumu’ah services, traditionally held on Fridays with an Iman presiding. No Muslim in the Madison County Jail was allowed time on Fridays for Jumu’ah services. (Doc. 1, p. 7). Inmates were allowed to attend non-denominational services on Saturdays and Sundays, but Plaintiff alleges that these services were Christian themed. (Doc. 1, p. 7-8). Other non-Christian clergy were permitted to visit in the public visiting room, “time permitting.” (Doc. 1, p. 7). Additionally, if a Christian detainee requested chaplaincy services, they were given an hour to meet with the Chaplain, and the visit was not counted towards their personal visit maximum. (Doc. 1, p. 9). Plaintiff would have had to use a personal visit to meet with an Iman, and those visits were limited to 30 minutes. (Doc. 1, p. 12). Plaintiff was permitted to participate in Ramadan. (Doc. 1, p. 7).

         Plaintiff informed Bost, Bunt, and Hertz that he was a practicing Muslim and requested time for “Jumu’ah” prayer and religious counseling, but his requests were denied. (Doc. 1, p. 7). Plaintiff also alleges that he made verbal complaints to Bost and Bunt. (Doc. 1, p. 7). None of the individual Defendants ever responded to Plaintiff’s complaints. (Doc. 9).

         Discussion

         Based on the allegations of the Complaint, the Court finds it convenient to divide the pro se action into one count. The parties and the Court will use this designation in all future pleadings and orders, unless otherwise directed by a judicial officer of this Court. The following claim survives threshold review.

Count 1 -Defendants impermissibly burdened the free exercise of Plaintiff’s religion in violation of ...

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