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Smith v. Rauner

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois

October 12, 2016

MICHAEL W. SMITH and JOSHUA D. WARNER, Plaintiffs,
v.
BRUCE RAUNER, et al., Defendants.

          MERIT REVIEW ORDER

          SUE E. MYERSCOUGH UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiffs, Michael W. Smith and Joshua D. Warner, are civil detainees at the Rushville Treatment and Detention Center. Plaintiffs proceed pro se and seek leave to proceed in forma pauperis. The "privilege to proceed without posting security for costs and fees is reserved to the many truly impoverished litigants who, within the District Court's sound discretion, would remain without legal remedy if such privilege were not afforded to them." Brewster v. North Am. Van Lines, Inc., 461 F.2d 649, 651 (7th Cir. 1972). A court must dismiss cases proceeding in forma pauperis "at any time" if the action is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim, even if part of the filing fee has been paid. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(d)(2). Accordingly, this Court grants leave to proceed in forma pauperis only if the complaint states a federal claim.

         In reviewing the complaint, the Court accepts the factual allegations as true, liberally construing them in Plaintiffs' favor. Turley v. Rednour, 729 F.3d 645, 649 (7th Cir. 2013). However, conclusory statements and labels are insufficient. Enough facts must be provided to "'state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.'" Alexander v. U.S., 721 F.3d 418, 422 (7th Cir. 2013)(quoted cite omitted).

         ALLEGATIONS

         Plaintiffs Michael W. Smith and Joshua D. Warner, are civilly detained in the Rushville Treatment and Detention Center pursuant to the Illinois Sexually Violent Persons Commitment Act, 725 ILCS 207/1, et seq. They have filed a complaint alleging that they have been denied the right to marry. They had written to the Clerk of Schuyler County, Mindy Garrett, asking for an application for a marriage license. Ms. Garrett referred them to Defendant Blaesing, the Quality Assurance Director for Department of Human Services (“DHS”), indicating that Ms. Blaesing would be able provide them with an application. [ECF 1-1 p. 5]. Plaintiffs allege that, despite repeated requests, no application has been provided.

         Plaintiffs cite United States v. Windsor, 133 S.Ct. 2675, 2693 (2013), which held unconstitutional the denial of federal marital benefits to same-sex marriages recognized under state law. Plaintiffs request injunctive relief, compelling Defendants DHS Secretary James Dimas, Rushville Program Director Gregg Scott, Rushville Security Director James Clayton and Assistant Program Director Eric Kunkle to draft and implement a same-sex marriage policy. They request that Defendants Blaesing and Garrett be compelled to issue them an application for marriage license. They assert a demand for compensatory and punitive damages against all Defendants.

         ANALYSIS

         Punishments which are “incompatible with ‘the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society''', violate the Eighth Amendment. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 102 (1976). In this case, as Plaintiffs are detainees rather than convicted prisoners, their § 1983 claim is reviewed under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, rather than the Eighth Amendment. The standard of review, however, is the same under the Fourteenth Amendment, as under the Eight Amendment. Zentmyer v. Kendall County, Ill., 220 F.3d 805, 810 (7th Cir. 2000).

         The United States Supreme Court has affirmed that those in the prison context have a constitutional right to a marital relationship. Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78, 96 (1987). In a more recent decision, the Supreme Court also found that same-sex couples have a fundamental right to marry. Obergefell v. Hodges, 135 S.Ct. 2584, 2599 (2015). This right is also recognized by the forum in which this Court sits as the State of Illinois has codified the right of same-sex couples to marry in its Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act. See 750 ILCS 80/1 et seq.:

§ 10. Equal access to marriage.
(a) All laws of this State applicable to marriage, whether they derive from statute, administrative or court rule, policy, common law, or any other source of civil or criminal law, shall apply equally to marriages of same-sex and different-sex couples and their children.

         The right of prisoners to marry, however, “is subject to substantial restrictions as a result of incarceration.” Turner at 95. “[A] prison regulation [that] impinges on inmates' constitutional rights ... is valid if it is reasonably related to legitimate penological interests.” Riker v. Lemmon, 798 F.3d 546, 551 (7th Cir. 2015) (finding validity of facility's ban on marriage between inmate and a former employee a question of fact, precluding summary judgment).

         To determine the reasonableness of a regulation, the court must balance the constitutional right asserted against the legitimate penological goals of the prison. Id. at 552. See Baskin v. Bogan, 766 F.3d 648, 659 (7th Cir. 2014) cert. denied 135 S.Ct. 316 (2014) (groundless rejection of same-sex marriage is a denial of equal protection) (emphasis in original). See also, See Keeney v. Heath, 57 F.3d 579 (7th Cir. 1995) (officials may burden right to marry where there is penological justification). In Keeney, the Seventh Circuit found penological justification for a prison's ban on romantic relationships between guards and inmates. Id. 581-82.

         It is unclear at this point whether Defendants' apparent refusal to facilitate the marriage was done pursuant to a legitimate penological ...


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