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Haslett v. Arnold

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

October 24, 2017

DARRYL HASLETT, #R-01829, Plaintiff,
v.
CHAPLAIN ARNOLD, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          DAVID R. HERNDON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Darryl Haslett, an inmate currently incarcerated at Pontiac Correctional Center (“Pontiac”), filed this pro se action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for constitutional violations that allegedly occurred at Pinckneyville Correctional Center (“Pinckneyville”). Plaintiff, who is a Muslim, asserts that Pinckneyville's chaplain interfered with his ability to practice his religious beliefs by preventing Plaintiff from participating in the Ramadan fasts in 2015 and 2016. In connection with these claims, Plaintiff names Chaplain Arnold (a chaplain allegedly employed by IDOC) and seeks monetary damages.

         This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the Complaint (Doc. 1) 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 was transferred to Pinckneyville in February of 2015. (Doc. 1, p. 5). After attending orientation, Plaintiff wrote a letter to Arnold asking to be approved for Jummah service as well as Ramadan, which is mandatory for “every able bodied Muslim.” Id. Plaintiff apparently wrote several letters before finally receiving a response from Arnold on June 16, 2015. Id. Arnold's letter indicated that, as of June 15, 2015, Plaintiff had been added to the Jummah service list. Id. However, Plaintiff's request to participate in Ramadan was denied. Id. Arnold claimed that the Plaintiff's Ramadan request was untimely (all requests were to have been filed on or before May 4, 2015 and Arnold claimed Plaintiff missed the sign-up deadline). Arnold indicated that the deadline had been posted on the chalkboard in the Jummah service room. Id. However, because Plaintiff was not approved for Jummah service, he never would have seen the deadline postings.[1]Ultimately, Plaintiff was not permitted to participate in Ramadan in 2015. Id. Plaintiff's grievances regarding this issue were denied. Id.

         In 2016, Plaintiff completed a timely request to participate in Ramadan and personally delivered the request to Arnold. (Doc. 1, p. 6). Ramadan began on June 6, 2016. Id. On June 6, 2016, Plaintiff was informed that he was not on the list to participate in Ramadan. Id. Plaintiff wrote a letter to Arnold explaining that he had submitted a timely request and had personally delivered it to Arnold. (Doc. 1, pp. 6, 18). Arnold never responded. (Doc. 1, p. 6). Plaintiff complained to an officer and a counselor, but both indicated that nothing could be done without Arnold's approval. (Doc. 1, pp. 6, 29). Plaintiff also contends that, at some point, Arnold “lied” to him, indicating that Arnold had no authority to place Plaintiff on the approval list. (Doc. 1, p. 6). Plaintiff wrote another letter to Arnold on June 9, 2016, but heard nothing. (Doc. 1, pp. 6, 19).

         Plaintiff alleges he attempted to file a grievance in early July. (Doc. 1, p. 6). However, the grievance was apparently lost by his counselor. (Doc. 1, pp. 6, 22-25). Plaintiff also submitted a grievance on July 22, 2016 and September 9, 2016. (Doc. 1, pp. 6, 20-21, 26-27). The grievances were eventually denied as being untimely. (Doc. 1, p. 28). Plaintiff attempted to fast, as required by Ramadan, on his own, but was unable to complete the process. As a result, Plaintiff fell off his path of righteousness, began swearing, fighting, and gambling, and eventually was placed in disciplinary segregation. Id.

         Merits Review Under § 1915(A)

         Based on the allegations of the Complaint, 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. ...


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