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Troutman v. Mutayoba

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

September 6, 2017

JEASON TROUTMAN, No. S07355, Plaintiff,
v.
JAMES MUTAYOBA, STEPHEN KEIM, DAVID RAINS, JOHN BALDWIN Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          STACI M. YANDLE, DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Jeason Troutman, an inmate in Robinson Correctional Center (“Robinson”), brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, based on the denial of his request for a diet that conforms with the tenets of his religion. Plaintiff has also filed a Motion for Temporary Restraining/Preliminary Injunction. (Doc. 3).

         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 “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. 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 Jeason Troutman is a Native American who was born on the Chickasaw reservation and has practiced “Native American” religion for his entire life. (Doc. 1, p. 5). According to the Complaint, Troutman's religious beliefs require eating a daily diet consisting of properly prepared food that has been blessed. Id. His religious diet also involves eating ceremonial feasts of foods, including bison, venison, fry bread, pumpkin, squash, sweet potatoes and corn pemmican. Id.

         Troutman sent a request to Mutayoba (Robinson's Chaplain), asking for a diet consistent with his religious beliefs. Id. On May 11, 2017, Mutayoba denied Troutman's religious diet request, stating “Native American religions have no dietary requirements per [IDOC] guidelines.” Id. On May 22, 2017, Troutman spoke with Mutayoba regarding the denial of his religious diet request. Id. Mutayoba indicated that the request was denied because IDOC does not recognize religious dietary requirements for Native American religions. Id. Additionally, Mutayoba stated that IDOC only allows for four types of religious diets and Troutman's dietary requests did not fall within any of those four types of diets. Id. In an effort to compromise, Troutman asked to be placed on a kosher diet. (Doc. 1, p. 6). According to Troutman, the kosher diet is similar to the Native American religious dietary requirements. Id. Mutayoba denied this request because Troutman is not Jewish. Id. On May 30, 2017, Keim (Robinson's chief chaplain) and Rains (Robinson's warden) also denied Troutman's request for a religious diet. Id.

         Troutman contends that the denial of his requested religious diet violates his constitutional rights and is a violation of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (42 U.S.C. § 2000-cc-1(a)).

         Discussion

         Based on the allegations in the Complaint and the supporting documentation submitted by Plaintiff, the Court finds it convenient to divide the pro se action into a single 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 designation of this count does not constitute an opinion as to its merit.

         Count 1: Defendants denied Plaintiff a religious diet in violation of the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment and the Religious Land Use and ...


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