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Watfordd v. Harner

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

July 16, 2018

MARLON L. WATFORD, Plaintiff,
v.
HARNER, WINTERS, KERNS, OPOKA, VAN DECKERHOFF, HOLT, HARRINGTON, BUTLER, LASHBROOK, ROSE, SEALS, THEO, LLOYD HANNA, JOHN DOE 1, and JAN DOE Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          MICHAEL J. REAGAN U.S. CHIEF DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Marlon L. Watford, an inmate in Menard Correctional Center, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief, compensatory damages, and punitive 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 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 Complaint

         Plaintiff is a sincere and devout Muslim and follows the tenants of Al-Islam. (Doc. 1, p. 2). It is a tenant of his faith to perform a fast during the holy month of Ramadhan and to complete the fast with the Id-ul-Fitr (feast). (Doc. 1, pp. 2-3). Since 2002 (when Plaintiff was first incarcerated at Menard), prison officials have provided Christian inmates with a feast at Christmas, but Plaintiff has not been given a feast to celebrate Id-ul-Fitr in accordance with his religious beliefs. (Doc. 1, pp. 4-6). Plaintiff has been deprived of the Il-ul-Fitr feast on July 28, 2014, July 18, 2015, July 6, 2016, and June 25, 2017 by Defendants Harner, Winters, Kern, Opoka, Van Deckerhoff, Holt, Theo, Harrington, Butler, and Lashbrook. (Doc. 1, p. 6). Plaintiff alleges that this conduct impedes his religious expression. (Doc. 1, p. 7).

         It is normal practice at Menard to provide Muslim inmates with sahur (pre-dawn) and iftar (sunset) meal trays during the month of Ramadhan in order to fast. (Doc. 1, p. 14). Plaintiff was approved to be added to the institutional fasting list for Muslims who wanted to participate in Ramadhan on April 15, 2017. Id. Despite being approved, Plaintiff was deprived of his fasting meal trays from June 1, 2017 through June 24, 2017 by Harner, Theo, Winters, Van Deckerhoff, Lashbrook, Rose, Seals and John Doe. (Doc. 1, pp. 15-20). Similarly situated Muslim inmates and Christian inmates were not deprived of their religious special diet trays. (Doc. 1, pp. 18-19).

         Another tenant of Plaintiff's faith is that he must not eat of meats of which Allah's name has not been pronounced because that would be impiety. (Doc. 1, pp. 23-24). In order to meet this requirement, Plaintiff was approved for the Lacto-Ovo-Veg religious diet tray on October 22, 2007. (Doc. 1, p. 25). Plaintiff alleges that the IDOC master menu calls for the Lacto-Ovo-Veg religious diet tray to be provided with 2 packs of peanut butter as a protein substitute with hot cereal or cold/dry cereal with bread, jelly, and butter for the Wednesday breakfast. (Doc. 1, pp. 25-26). Starting on March 22, 2017 and on an ongoing basis, Holt and Van Deckerhoff have been putting meat on Plaintiff's religious diet tray in the form of a breakfast sausage in gravy while other religious diet trays continue to receive the peanut butter and cereal option. (Doc. 1, pp. 26-27). Plaintiff alleges this diet denies him adequate nutrition. (Doc. 1, p. 26). Plaintiff wrote to Lashbrook 4 times between March 22, 2017 through April 12, 2017 complaining about the situation, but she failed to respond. (Doc. 1, p. 27).

         Plaintiff also alleges that the IDOC master menu calls for a cold salad tray for the majority of the lunch and dinner meals during the week for the Lacto-Ovo-Veg diet, as well as other religious diets. (Doc. 1, pp. 27-28). Beginning March 20, 2017 and on an ongoing basis afterwards, Theo has been depriving Plaintiff of his cold salad trays, despite the fact that other inmates on religious diets continue to receive them. (Doc. 1, p. 28). On December 8, 2017 and on an ongoing basis thereafter, Hanna, Winters, Kerns, Opoka, Van Deckerhoff, Holt, Theo, Jan Doe, and Lashbrook have been substituting apples for bananas on Plaintiff's food tray. (Doc. 1, p. 40). Plaintiff wrote to Lashbrook 4 times between March 22, 2017 through April 12, 2017 advising her of this problem, but she never responded. (Doc. 1, p. 29).

         The Dietary Department at Menard used to use a computer-generated adhesive sticker system that included information like the inmate's name, prison I.D. number, cell location, and the type of diet required. (Doc. 1, p. 36). The IDOC master menu calls for the Lacto-Ovo-Veg religious diet tray to serve eggs and cheese for breakfast on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and whenever the “country breakfast” dinner meal is served. (Doc. 1, p. 37). In late 2015, the Dietary Department abandoned the computer-generated sticker system in favor of handwritten notes, which are subject to human error. (Doc. 1, p. 38). On December 8, 2017 and on an ongoing basis afterwards, Jan Doe and Theo have provided Plaintiff with a vegan diet tray instead of his Lacto-Ovo-Veg diet tray due to mislabeling, which prevents him from getting eggs and cheese. (Doc. 1, pp. 38-39). Plaintiff alleges ...


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