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Moir v. Amdahl

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

March 24, 2017

DREW M. MOIR, # M-48561, Plaintiff,
v.
TIMOTHY J. AMDAHL, DAVID W. RAINS, JOHN BALDWIN, RACHEL DODD, MONICA CARRELL, MICHELLE NEESE, DEEDEE BROOKHART, SCOTT REIS, SHELLY JOHNSON, DAVID SHEA, C/O GEIER, BYRLEY, T. SCOTT KEEN, and SHERRY BENTON, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          David R. Herndon United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff, currently incarcerated at Robinson Correctional Center (“Robinson”), has brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Among other claims, Plaintiff asserts that he was denied the opportunity to attend religious services, and was singled out for harassment on account of his race and religion. This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

         Under § 1915A, the Court is required to screen prisoner complaints to filter out non-meritorious claims. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must dismiss any portion of the complaint that is legally frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or asks for money damages from a defendant who by law is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

         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 “no reasonable person could suppose to have any merit.” 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. Conversely, a complaint is plausible on its face “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Although the Court is obligated to accept factual allegations as true, see Smith v. Peters, 631 F.3d 418, 419 (7th Cir. 2011), some factual allegations may be so sketchy or implausible that they fail to provide sufficient notice of a plaintiff's claim. Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 581 (7th Cir. 2009). Additionally, Courts “should not accept as adequate abstract recitations of the elements of a cause of action or conclusory legal statements.” Id. At the same time, however, the factual allegations of a pro se complaint are to be liberally construed. See Arnett v. Webster, 658 F.3d 742, 751 (7th Cir. 2011); Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009).

         Applying these standards, the Court finds that some of Plaintiff's claims survive threshold review under § 1915A.

         The Complaint

         Plaintiff is white, and is a practicing member of the Al-Islam faith. During the time period pertinent to this action, he attended Jumah services regularly. Jumah services were held at Robinson every Friday at 1:00 p.m. (Doc. 1, p. 8).

         On Friday, December 18, 2015, at approximately 12:35 p.m., Plaintiff attempted to sign out of his housing unit (4B) to attend Jumah service. Officer Amdahl told Plaintiff that he didn't know anything about the service and was not going to call to find out about it. (Doc. 1, p. 4). At approximately 1:05 p.m., Plaintiff went to the 4B control unit and asked Amdahl whether the Jumah service had been called; Amdahl responded that it had not. Plaintiff requested Amdahl to call and find out why the Jumah line had not been called; Amdahl responded, “You shouldn't even have it, so I'm not calling.” Id. Soon afterward, Plaintiff saw other inmates carrying prayer rugs proceeding to the gym. Plaintiff returned to the 4B control area and asked Amdahl to call the gym because Plaintiff had seen other prisoners on their way there. Officer Byrley stated that no Jumah line had been called. Plaintiff was not permitted to attend Jumah service that day.

         Plaintiff filed a grievance over this incident. Several weeks later, Grievance Officer Dodd responded, saying that memos had gone out to inform “Operations” of the regular Jumah schedule, and they are responsible to call all lines. Amdahl told Dodd that each wing gets a call regarding Jumah lines, and they must not have received a call on December 18. Plaintiff's grievance was denied, and the denial was affirmed by Keen (Administrative Review Board) and Baldwin (IDOC Director). (Doc. 1, pp. 4-5).

         The following Friday, December 25, 2015, Plaintiff asked a Lieutenant to make sure Jumah was called in House 4B as he did not want the same problem to recur. The Jumah service was called that day in 4B, and Plaintiff attended.

         Upon Plaintiff's return to his unit, Amdahl immediately shook him down “for no apparent or valid reason.” (Doc. 1, p. 5). Following the shakedown, Plaintiff asked Amdahl to call in a crisis team; Amdahl refused. Plaintiff asked for a grievance form and for Amdahl to call a superior officer. Amdahl refused, and ordered Plaintiff to step into the wing, which Plaintiff did. Amdahl then wrote a disciplinary report on Plaintiff.[1] Plaintiff asked Amdahl for a crisis team two more times when Amdahl walked through the unit, but Amdahl ignored him. (Doc. 1, p. 6). Plaintiff later filed a grievance over Amdahl's conduct, which was denied. (Doc. 1-1, p. 8). After Amdahl left due to a shift change, Plaintiff asked the new officer for a crisis team referral; this officer allowed Plaintiff to go to Operations to discuss the crisis.

         About 3:00 p.m. on December 25, 2015, Plaintiff spoke with Officer Shea to address his crisis issue, and explained that he was being “harassed, intimidated, and discriminated against, ” and the problem “not only affect[ed] my life but also my eternity.” (Doc. 1, p. 6). Shea responded that this was not a crisis; a crisis team should be used when someone dies. Shea asked whether Plaintiff liked it at Robinson, and then said he could send Plaintiff somewhere where there is no air conditioning, concluding, “Don't play with the crisis team.” Id. Plaintiff responded that death is inevitable and shouldn't be a crisis, but hindering him from practicing his religion will affect him for eternity, and is very serious.

         On January 9, 2016, Amdahl approached Plaintiff in the hallway of the unit, addressing him as “Hebrew - that's your name, isn't it?” (Doc. 1, p. 7). Plaintiff responded that his name was not “Hebrew.” Amdahl took Plaintiff to the control area, and asked him if he knew another inmate across the hall named “Hebrew.” Amdahl described the inmate's physical appearance; Plaintiff responded that he knew the person, but his name is not “Hebrew.” Amdahl said this inmate wanted to speak to Plaintiff, and asked Officer Geier whether the inmate was on his housing wing (4A). Geier said he was there but was probably asleep, having just returned from work. Plaintiff returned to his own 4B wing. (Doc. 1, p. 8).

         The inmate who was the subject of Amdahl's “Hebrew” inquiry was Bourey, who, like Plaintiff, was a white practicing member of the Al-Islam faith. Two days later, Plaintiff asked Bourey if he needed to speak with Plaintiff. Bourey said he did not, and that officers had also approached him, calling him “Hebrew” and told Bourey that Plaintiff wanted to speak to him. Neither Bourey nor Plaintiff had asked an officer to relay a message to the other. (Doc. 1, p. 9). Plaintiff filed a grievance against Amdahl over this incident, which he viewed as harassment and an encouragement to break the rules against communicating with inmates on other housing wings. (Doc. 1-1, pp. 10-11).

         On January 12, 2016, when Plaintiff checked back into his wing after getting a haircut, Amdahl asked to inspect Plaintiff's hair. (Doc. 1, p. 9). Plaintiff asked why, and Amdahl replied, “To make sure it is safe.” Id. Plaintiff questioned whether the officer at the barbershop had asked Amdahl to check his hair, because that officer had already made sure Plaintiff's hair complied with regulations. Amdahl said, “No, I just want to see your hair.” Id. Plaintiff filed a grievance over this incident. (Doc. 1-1, pp. 15-16). In Amdahl's response to the grievance, he claimed that he was speaking to another inmate about his hair, but Plaintiff says there was no other inmate present or returning to the unit at that time. (Doc. 1, p. 10).

         On January 22, 2016, Plaintiff again was not allowed to participate in the Friday Jumah service. (Doc. 1, p. 10). Plaintiff went to the dayroom at 12:30 p.m. to wait for the Jumah call. Over the next 40 minutes, Amdahl called the lines for 3 other activities, but not Jumah. At 1:10 p.m., Plaintiff asked Amdahl to call the gym to inquire about the Jumah line. Amdahl claimed that he had called the Jumah line “a while ago;” but Plaintiff informed Amdahl he had been waiting ever since the dayroom opened. Id. Amdahl refused Plaintiff's request to be allowed to attend Jumah, and refused to call a Lieutenant. Plaintiff followed Amdahl's order to step back into the wing.

         Soon after this discussion, Amdahl took Plaintiff back to the control area. No other officers were present, and Plaintiff asked if they could talk in front of other people. Amdahl ignored this request, and locked the control room door. Amdahl, with an aggressive tone, asked Plaintiff if he had a problem with him (Amdahl). (Doc. 1, p. 11). Plaintiff said he had a problem with Amdahl denying him his religious rights and services. Amdahl said, “If you have a problem then let's address it.” Id. Plaintiff, fearing violence, said they could not address anything because he would just get a ticket and nothing would be solved. Amdahl responded, “That's right, ” then asked Plaintiff why it was always him missing Jumah. Id. Plaintiff said, “I'm the only one who goes consistently, and you don't call the line.” Id. Amdahl told Plaintiff to go back to the wing and “keep [his] f***ing mouth shut or I'll have your ass walked to seg.” Id.

         Amdahl proceeded to write Plaintiff a disciplinary ticket, claiming that Plaintiff had used profanity and refused multiple orders to return to his wing. (Doc. 1-1, p. 27). This ticket was expunged. (Doc. 1, p. 11; Doc. 1-1, p. 28-29).

         Based on these incidents, Plaintiff raises several claims under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. (Doc. 1, pp. 12-13). These include claims against Amdahl and Byrley for denial of access to religious services; claims against Amdahl and Geier for singling out Plaintiff for discrimination and harassment because of his religion and race; an equal protection claim against Shea; claims against Amdahl for lying and filing illegible documents; and claims against Rains, Keen, Baldwin, Dodd, Carrell, Neese, Brookhart, Benton, Reis, and Johnson for failing to take action on his grievances and violating administrative procedures. Plaintiff seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as compensatory and punitive damages. (Doc. 1, p. 15).

         Merits Review Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A

         Based on the allegations of the Complaint, the Court finds it convenient to divide the pro se action into the following counts. The parties and the Court will use these designations in all future pleadings and orders, unless otherwise directed by a judicial officer of this Court. The designation of these counts does not constitute an opinion as to their merit. Any other claim that is mentioned in the Complaint but not addressed in this Order should be considered dismissed without prejudice.

Count 1: First Amendment claim against Amdahl and Byrley, for preventing Plaintiff from attending Jumah services on two occasions (December 18, 2015, and January 22, 2016);
Count 2: Fourteenth Amendment discrimination/equal protection claim against Amdahl and Geier, for targeting Plaintiff for harassment and intimidation because of his race and religion;
Count 3: First Amendment retaliation claim against Amdahl, for filing an unsubstantiated disciplinary charge against Plaintiff and for harassing him, after Plaintiff complained and filed grievances against ...

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