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Cunningham v. Vaughn

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

June 18, 2017

TIMOTHY J. CUNNINGHAM, SR., Plaintiff,
v.
CHAPLIN VAUGHN Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          STACI M. YANDLE U.S. District Judge

         Plaintiff Timothy J. Cunningham Sr., an inmate in Lawrence Correctional Center, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff requests monetary damages. 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

          Plaintiff originally brought claims in case No. 16-1360-MJR. (Doc. 1). On February 8, 2017, the Court determined that the present claim was unrelated to the other claims in that action and severed it into a new case pursuant to George v. Smith. (Doc. 1).

         Relevant to the instant action, Plaintiff asserts that he is a Christian and requires communion, i.e. unleavened bread and wine, on a regular basis. (Doc. 2, p. 10) (Doc. 2-7). He alleges that Chaplain Vaughn has chosen not to offer communion at Lawrence. Id.

         Discussion

         The Court's prior Order severed the following claim into this action:

         Count 7 - Vaughn substantially burdened Plaintiff's practice of religion in violation of the First Amendment when he denied Plaintiff access to regular communion, a requirement of his Christian beliefs; It is well-established that “a prisoner is entitled to practice his religion insofar as doing so does not unduly burden the administration of the prison.” Hunafa v. Murphy, 907 F.2d 46, 47 (7th Cir. 1990); see Al-Alamin v. Gramley, 926 F.2d 680, 686 and nn. 3-5 (7th Cir. 1991) (collecting cases). On the other hand, a prison regulation that impinges on an inmate's First Amendment rights is nevertheless valid “if it is reasonably related to legitimate penological interests.” O'Lone v. Estate of Shabazz, 482 U.S. 342, 349 (1987) (quoting Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78, 89 (1987)). Legitimate penological interests include the preservation of security in prison, as well as economic concerns. See Ortiz v. Downey, 561 F.3d 664, 669 (7th Cir. 2009).

         When these concerns are raised as justifications by prison officials for their actions that restrict the practice of religion, the Court looks at four factors to ...


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