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Pack v. Mueller

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

October 25, 2017

JAMES L. PACK, Plaintiff,



         Plaintiff James L. Pack, an inmate in Centralia Correctional Center, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff requests injunctive relief and 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).

         Upon careful review of the Amended Complaint and any supporting exhibits, the Court finds it appropriate to exercise its authority under § 1915A; portions of this action are subject to summary dismissal.

         The Amended Complaint

         Plaintiff originally brought suit on August 21, 2017. (Doc. 1). Prior to screening, Plaintiff sought leave to file an Amended Complaint on September 8, 2017. (Doc. 8). The Court granted leave once as a matter of course on October 3, 2017, (Doc. 10), and the Amended Complaint was filed on October 4, 2017. (Doc. 11).

         Plaintiff became a Wiccan in the fall of 2014. (Doc. 11, p. 15).[1] On December 12, 2014, he ordered a book, Witches' Craft: A Multidenominational Wiccan Bible. Id. Before he could receive Witches' Craft, Officer Voss told him that it had to be sent to the Publication Review Board. Id. The Publication Review Board determined that the book contained 6 pages of objectionable material depicting bondage, and that it was on a state-wide banned list. Id. Plaintiff offered to cut out the 6 pages, but Larry Gebke and Monika Christianson told him he had to send Witches' Craft out or have it destroyed. (Doc. 11, pp. 15-16).

         On May 3, 2016, Voss called Plaintiff to the personal property department to pick up a Celtic cross with a small pentagram, which had been approved by Chaplain Heimgardtner. (Doc. 11, p. 16). Plaintiff filed a motion to join a related action in this court, 14-cv-661-SMY-RJD, on October 16, 2016. Id. On October 25, Voss confiscated the cross on the orders of McQuarrie. Id. Voss specifically told Plaintiff that he was following McQuarrie's orders and did not know why the cross was being confiscated. Id. Plaintiff's counselor, Susan Walker, denied his grievance on this issue. (Doc 11, p. 17). Bart Toennies and Warden Robert Mueller also denied the grievance in January 2017. Id.

         Officer Farthing, who was assigned to Plaintiff's housing unit as a “Control Officer, ” shook down Plaintiff's cell on January 7, 2017. Id. Plaintiff alleges that shaking down cells was Officer Meier's duty, not Farthing's. (Doc. 11, p. 17, 19). The shakedown focused on Plaintiff's property, not his cellmate's. (Doc. 11, p. 17). Farthing destroyed a 2-inch pyramid that Petitioner used in the practice of his religion. Id. As he did so, Farthing laughed and told Plaintiff that he didn't like Wiccans. (Doc. 11, p. 17, 19). Farthing also confiscated a denim coat and 2 small prayer stones. Id. Farthing told Plaintiff that if he could prove the stones were vital to his religion, he would return them. Id. Plaintiff was issued a ticket regarding the coat because it had a secret pocket; Plaintiff contests this characterization. (Doc. 11, p. 17-18). Plaintiff alleges that Farthing continued to point and laugh at Plaintiff to other officers after the incident. (Doc. 11, p. 20).

         Plaintiff went before a disciplinary committee made up of Burton and Rupert after the cell shakedown. (Doc. 11, p. 18). When Plaintiff tried to explain about his prayer stones, Burton said, “They are not fucking prayer stones. They are just rocks and prayer stones are what the state approves and comes in through the mail.” Id. As punishment, Plaintiff received 1 month B grade. Id. He filed a grievance, which was denied by Wegman, Mueller, and Baldwin. Id.

         Plaintiff also alleges that his grievances regarding the confiscation of his religious items and the scheduling of Wiccan prayer services should have been heard by the Religious Practice Advisory Board and not the Administrative Review Board. (Doc. 11, p. 19).

         On September 6, 2017, Plaintiff was making legal copies for this suit when the law librarian, Sondra Millner noticed a copy of an email between Chief Chaplain Keim and Teri Anderson regarding the banning of the Witches' Craft. (Doc. 11, p. 20). Millner suggested the email be confiscated and Mueller agreed. Id. Dille confiscated the email. (Doc. 11, p. 12). Millner also refused to make copies of certain Illinois regulations when she discovered the nature of his cause of action. (Doc. 11, p. 20).

         Plaintiff has also been prohibited from possessing a set of Rune tiles, a deck of Tarot cards, a prayer rug, and a pentagram, which are all necessary to the practice of his sincerely held religious beliefs. (Doc. 11, p. 21). Wiccans are also not allowed to access the chapel space on the same basis as other groups. Id. When Chaplain Heimgardtner was chaplain, he allowed Wiccans to meet on the 1st, 3rd, and 5th Fridays of the month; when Chaplain Boehler took over in January 2017, he changed the scheduled to every 2nd and 4th Friday of the month because he did not want the Wiccans to be able to meet twice in a row during months with 5 weeks. Id. The change in the schedule has also caused problems with creating accurate call lists for services. Id.


         Based on the allegations of the Complaint, the Court finds it convenient to divide the pro se action into 10 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 following claims survive threshold review:

Count 1 - Mueller, Boehler, Keim, Baldwin, and John and Jane Does (Unknown Publication Review Board members) impermissibly burdened Plaintiff's exercise of his sincerely held religious beliefs when they created or approved policies that prohibited the possession of tarot cards, Witches' Craft: A Multidenominational Wiccan Bible, rune tiles, a pentagram symbol, etc.; and that offered services to Wiccan inmates on unequal terms as members of other religious denominations in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Person's Act (RLUIPA), and the Illinois Religious Freedom Restoration Act (IRFRA);
Count 2 - Gebke, Christianson, Voss, and John and Jane Doe members withheld Witches' Craft: A Multidenominational Wiccan Bible from Plaintiff in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments, RLUIPA, and IFRRA;
Count 3 - Heimgardtner, McQuarrie, Walker, Waggoner, Toennies, and Mueller confiscated Plaintiff's Celtic cross from him in violation of the First and ...

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