United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
RONALD M. VAN PELT, # R-00514, Plaintiff,
KIMBERLY BUTLER, CAMERON WATSON, K. BRIDGES, JOHN DOE Correctional Officer, and OFFICER MAYOR, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
M. YANDLE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Ronald Van Pelt, currently incarcerated at Pinckneyville
Correctional Center (“Pinckneyville”), brings
this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff raises several claims which
arose while he was housed at Menard Correctional Center
(“Menard”), including interference with his
religious practice, placement in an unsanitary cell, and
deprivation of his legal property. The Complaint is now
before the Court for a preliminary review pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1915A.
§ 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).
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.
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).
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).
these standards, the Court finds that some of Plaintiff's
claims survive threshold review under § 1915A. Because
the Court also finds that the surviving claims are not
properly joined in the same action, one Count will be severed
into a new case.
claims date back to November and December 2015. On November
28, 2015, Plaintiff was in his cell and in the middle of his
Islamic Salah prayer, when Defendant Lt. Mayor interrupted
his prayers. (Doc. 1, pp. 4-5). Despite the fact that
Plaintiff was obviously praying on his prayer rug, Mayor
repeatedly called out to Plaintiff, ordering him to abandon
his prayer and to answer him or “there would be
consequences.” Id. Plaintiff continued praying
and when he finished, asked Mayor to state his business.
Mayor told Plaintiff to cuff up and took him to segregation.
November 28, 2015, Plaintiff was placed in a segregation cell
that was contaminated with feces all over the cell walls, and
urine on the floor. The water in the cell was not working.
(Doc. 1, p. 5). Plaintiff was not given any bedding or a
pillow for over 72 hours. He complained about the conditions
to John Doe Correctional Officer (who shall be designated
herein as John Doe #1), but the officer said he was not
responsible for Eight Gallery, and Plaintiff would have to
talk to the gallery C/O. Plaintiff did not receive his
bedding, pillows, or clothing until December 26, 2015.
November 30, 2015, Defendant Cameron Watson denied Plaintiff
permission to visit with his mother and 2 sisters, claiming
that they were trespassing on state property. Plaintiff
disputes that they could have been trespassing, and complains
that he was denied due process when the visit was denied.
(Doc. 1, p. 5; Doc. 1-1, pp. 6-9).
same day, Defendant K. Bridges gave Plaintiff an
investigative status ticket for a major infraction. (Doc. 1,
p. 5; Doc. 1-1, p. 10). Plaintiff asserts that according to
prison regulations, a prisoner who receives an investigative
report shall be interviewed within 14 days, and be allowed to
present his views regarding the investigative placement. He
alleges was never given an interview during the entire time
he was in segregation (from November 28 - December 28, 2015).
(Doc. 1, p. 5).
legal property was delivered to him in segregation on
December 15, 2015, by John Doe (Badge # 10789), the personal
property C/O. (Doc. 1, p. 6). By that time, Plaintiff had
been in segregation for 18 days without his legal materials.
He claims that his rights were violated because legal
paperwork is required to be restored to a prisoner within 72
hours of his placement in segregation. John Doe (Badge #
10789) also gave Plaintiff his other personal property items.
However, Plaintiff's prayer rug, Qur'an and Kufi were
missing. (Doc. 1, p. 6). The John Doe officer told Plaintiff
he would return in a few minutes with Plaintiff's
religious items, but he never did so.
December 26, 2015, the “property C/O John Doe
returned” to bring Plaintiff his laundry bag and clean
clothing. However, he still did not bring the prayer
rug, Qur'an, or Kufi, which Plaintiff pointed out to him.
The following day, the John Doe officer brought
Plaintiff's prayer rug to him. Plaintiff was released
from segregation on December 28, 2015. Altogether, Plaintiff
was deprived of his prayer rug, Qur'an, and Kufi for
about a month. (Doc. 1, p. 6).
seeks compensatory and punitive damages for the alleged
violations of his rights. (Doc. 1, p. 7).
Review Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A
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
Mayor, for disturbing Plaintiff's practice of his
religion on November 28, 2015;
Count 2: Eighth Amendment deliberate
indifference claim against John Doe #1 for failing to remedy
the unsanitary conditions in Plaintiff's segregation cell
on November 28, 2015;
Count 3: Eighth Amendment claim against
Watson, for denying Plaintiff a visit with his family members
on November 30, 2015;
Count 4: Fourteenth Amendment due process
claim against Bridges, for failing to provide Plaintiff with
a hearing after he was placed in investigative status in
segregation on November 30, 2015;
Count 5: First Amendment claim against John
Doe (Badge # 10789) for depriving Plaintiff of his legal
property for 18 days while Plaintiff was in segregation;
Count 6: First Amendment claim against John
Doe (Badge # 10789) for depriving Plaintiff of his religious
items (prayer rug, Qur'an, and Kufi) between November 28
and December 28, 2015, while Plaintiff was in segregation.
discussed below, Counts 2 and 6 survive review under §
1915A. However, Counts 1, 3, 4, and 5 fail to state a claim
upon which relief may be granted, and will be dismissed.
Further, because Counts 2 and 6 arose from separate incidents
and involve different Defendants, Count 6 will be severed
into a separate action. See George v. Smith, 507
F.3d 605 (7th Cir. 2007) (unrelated claims against different
defendants belong in separate lawsuits).
of Count 1 - Interference with Religious Practice - Defendant
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). 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)). Such