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Morecraftt v. Baldwin

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

May 21, 2018

ANDREW R. MORECRAFT, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHN BALDWIN, NICHOLAS LAMB, DEEDEE BROOKHART, and DAVID VAUGHN Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          STACI M. YANDLE U.S. District Judge.

         Plaintiff Andrew R. Morecraft, an inmate in Lawrence Correctional Center, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff seeks declarative relief, injunctive relief, and 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 has been incarcerated at Lawrence Correctional Center since July 2016. (Doc. 1, p. 5). He practices the Asatru religion, also known as Odinism. Id. Plaintiff has practiced his faith for nearly 6 years and credits it with giving him perspective and self-control. Id. He denies being a member of any gang. Id.

         Asatru practitioners use runes made from small pieces of engraved wood, altar cloths with faith symbols, and wear medallions. (Doc. 1, p. 6). It is also traditional to feast after religious ceremonies and to honor the High Feast days. Id. Plaintiff believes that there are approximately 30 other Asatru practitioners at Lawrence. (Doc. 1, p. 7).

         Plaintiff alleges that Lawrence officials have denied requests for weekly group worship sessions for Asatru practitioners, outdoor group worship sessions with accompanying ritual items, ritual feasting, possession of personal medallions for religious purposes, and celebration of the Asatru holy days. (Doc. 1, pp. 7-8). Specifically, he alleges that Defendant Vaughn has ignored his requests for services multiple times. (Doc. 1-1, p. 4). Plaintiff's exhibits also show that he wrote to Defendant Brookhart multiple times about his request. (Doc. 1-1, pp. 38-41). Plaintiff further alleges that his religious items were taken during a shakedown on November 25, 2017 and that he was issued a disciplinary report for possessing the items. (Doc. 1, p. 8) (Doc. 1-1, p. 7).

         Discussion

         Based on the allegations of the Complaint, the Court finds it convenient to divide the pro se action into 2 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 - Baldwin, Lamb, Vaughn and Brookhart substantially burdened Plaintiff's practice of the Asatru religion when they denied him access to group worship services ...

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