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Bankston v. Williams

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

September 15, 2016



          NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Johnnie Bankston, an inmate in Pontiac Correctional Center, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for events that occurred at Shawnee Correctional Center. On September 8, 2016, Plaintiff notified the Court that he is currently at Pontiac on a writ, but he expects to be returned to Shawnee (which is consistent with the information on the website for the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”) that shows he is still at Shawnee). Bankston requests injunctive relief and damages based on the refusal to allow him to practice his chosen religion.

         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).

         The Complaint

         Bankston originally filed this action on November 16, 2015. (Doc. 1). The Court undertook to screen the Complaint on December 15, 2015, but because Bankston failed to sign it, the Court instead directed him to file a signed amended complaint. (Doc. 6). Bankston then requested an extension of time in which to file the amended complaint. (Doc. 9). The Court granted that motion, and on January 28, 2016, Bankston filed the First Amended Complaint. (Doc. 12).

         Bankston is a member of the Nation of Gods and Earths. (Doc. 12, p. 2). On March 30, 2015, he met with Chaplain Williams to discuss organizing services for his religion. (Doc. 12, p. 2). Bankston's beliefs require a Parliament to be held once a month, along with weekly civilization classes. (Doc. 12, p. 2). Bankston also requested permission to use the emblem of the church. (Doc. 12, p. 2). Bankston alleges that Williams agreed and told Bankston that services would be held on April 4, 2015. (Doc. 12, p. 2). Yet Bankston was not issued a call pass when that date arrived. (Doc. 12, p. 2). Bankston filed a grievance on this issue on May 16, 2015. (Doc. 12, p. 2). He then asked Williams about the missed service in person. (Doc. 12, p. 2). Williams told Bankston that he had been out of town on April 4, 2015, but that he would call services for the members the next week. (Doc. 12, p. 2). No service was held, and Bankston wrote another grievance on June 20. (Doc. 12, p. 3).

         On September 17, 2015, Bankston received a memorandum from the Chaplain regarding his request. (Doc. 12, p. 3). Bankston spoke to the Chaplain in person again on October 14, 2015, at which time Williams told Bankston that services would not be held unless Bankston could stay out of segregation. (Doc. 12, p. 3). Bankston also alleges that certain institutions within the IDOC, including Shawnee, have put the Nation of Gods and Earths on the security threat group list, in violation the constitutional rights of its members.


         Based on the allegations of the First Amended Complaint, the Court finds it convenient to divide the pro se action into three counts. The parties and the Court will use these designations in all future pleadings and orders, unless otherwise directed by a ...

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