United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
KYLE A. PARKER, # R-42752, Plaintiff,
JOHN BALDWIN, ANITA BAZILE-SAWYER, and JULIE THOMPSON, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
J. ROSENSTENGEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
an inmate of the Illinois Department of Corrections
(“IDOC”) currently incarcerated at Graham
Correctional Center (“Graham”), has brought this
pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983. His claims arose while he was confined at
Southwestern Illinois Correctional Center
(“Southwestern”). Plaintiff claims that
Defendants infringed on his right to practice his religion
and punished him for engaging in the practice of his faith.
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.
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. 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).
Although 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.
sues Baldwin, who is Acting Director of the IDOC;
Bazile-Sawyer, the Southwestern Warden; and Thompson, an
Internal Affairs officer at Southwestern.
October 16, 2017, Thompson called Plaintiff in to interview
him about his religious practices. Plaintiff is an adherent
of the Asatru faith. (Doc. 1, p. 5). Thompson implied that
Plaintiff was a member of a white supremacist organization
because he practiced Asatru. Plaintiff vehemently disputed
this suggestion, offering to show Thompson documentation that
an Asatru practitioner could not hold racist views. (Doc. 1,
p. 5). Thompson declined to review Plaintiff's
information. Plaintiff acknowledged that he was a
“spiritual leader” with other Asatru
practitioners, but did not hold any authority over them.
(Doc. 1, p. 6). Plaintiff also discussed his history of
teaching an Asatru service while in the Indiana Department of
Corrections, as well as his work with Southwestern chaplains
in an attempt to get Asatru services started there with an
outside volunteer to teach services. (Doc. 1, pp. 6-7).
Plaintiff told Thompson that he was not holding religious
services for “all of the Asatru” in the prison
dayroom, because some members lived in different housing
units and could not join him in his unit's dayroom.
asked Plaintiff to step out of her office while she consulted
with Bazile-Sawyer “to determine if [Plaintiff] would
be put into segregation for practicing and holding religious
services on [his] unit.” (Doc. 1, p. 7). About 20
minutes later, Plaintiff was placed in segregation with no
explanation. Id. The documents he provides show that
he was placed there under investigative status. (Doc. 1-1,
days later, Thompson filed charges against Plaintiff for
dangerous disturbance, security threat group or unauthorized
organization activity, and dangerous communications, because
Plaintiff had provided instruction in the Asatru faith, held
services, and taught the runes. (Doc. 1, pp. 7-8; Doc. 1-1,
pp. 4-6; 8-11). According to Plaintiff's attached
grievances and the responses, he was found guilty of these
offenses and punished with 30 days in segregation, 60 days in
“C” grade status, six months of contact visit
restrictions, and a disciplinary transfer. (Doc. 1-1, p. 11).
Plaintiff contested this action in his grievance, noting that
the Asatru and Wicca faiths are approved religious groups in
the IDOC. (Doc. 1-1, pp. 10-11). He acknowledges that he held
an Asatru study group in his dayroom, but states that the
information on the number of inmates attending and the
identities of those inmates was incorrect. (Doc. 1-1, pp.
asserts that Thompson's disciplinary charges and his
punishment violated his First and Eighth Amendment rights, as
well as his rights under the Religious Land Use and
Incarcerated Persons Act (“RLUIPA”), because he
was disciplined for practicing his religion. (Doc. 1, p. 8).
In addition to the segregation time and other punishment he
received, Plaintiff asserts that the “dangerous
disturbance” conviction will make him ineligible to
receive a six month sentence credit that he would otherwise
be eligible for. (Doc. 1, pp. 8-10).
Plaintiff's time in segregation at Southwestern, he spoke
directly to Bazile-Sawyer on more than one occasion while she
made rounds. (Doc. 1, p. 9). Plaintiff told Bazile-Sawyer
about the violations of his rights as a result of
Thompson's actions, but Bazile-Sawyer refused to
investigate the matter, stating she supported Thompson's
actions. Bazile-Sawyer upheld the disciplinary action after
Plaintiff appealed it.
as the “direct supervisor” of Bazile-Sawyer and
Thompson, also approved the disciplinary action when
Plaintiff's appeal reached him. (Doc. 1, pp 9-10).
seeks compensatory and punitive damages for the violations of
his rights and seeks to have his disciplinary convictions
reversed and expunged from his record. (Doc. 1, p. 11).
Review Pursuant to 28 ...