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Kruger v. Baldwin

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

June 20, 2019

JOSHUA KRUGER, #K50216, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHN R. BALDWIN, KIMBERLY BUTLER, JACQUELINE LASHBROOK, STEVEN KEIM, ELDON KENNELL, SHERRY BENTON, HUTCHINSON, HOWARD HARNER, JOHN DOE #4, JOHN DOE #5, JOHN DOE #6, JOHN DOE #7, JOHN DOE #8, JOHN DOE #9, JOHN DOE #10, and JOHN DOE #11, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          ROSENSTENGEL, CHIEF JUDGE:

         Plaintiff Joshua Kruger, an inmate of the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”) who is currently incarcerated at Pontiac Correctional Center (“Pontiac”), brings this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for deprivations of his constitutional rights, as well as violations of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc et seq. (“RLUIPA”). while at Menard Correctional Center (“Menard”) and Pontiac relating to his ability to practice his religion, Asatru-Odinism. He seeks monetary damages and injunctive relief.

         This case was severed from Kruger v. Lashbrook, 18-cv-512-NJR, and consists of Counts 10-12 of the Amended Complaint filed in that case. (Doc. 2). These severed Counts are now before the Court for preliminary review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Under Section 1915A, the Court is required to screen prisoner complaints to filter out non-meritorious claims. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). Any portion of a 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 must be dismissed. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b). At this juncture, the factual allegations of the pro se complaint are to be liberally construed. Rodriquez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009).

         The Complaint

          Plaintiff has been confined by the IDOC since 2003. In 2009, he formally changed his religious designation from Christian to Asatru-Odinism. (Doc. 2, p. 8). In November 2013, he was transferred to Pontiac and requested runestones (used in devotional activities) and religious feast trays from Kennell, the Chaplain at Pontiac. Id., pp. 6, 8-9. Kennell forwarded the request to Keim, Chief Chaplain at IDOC. Id. Kennell told Plaintiff in 2015 that runestones were not allowed under IDOC policy and that he would have to file a lawsuit to get that changed. Id., p. 9. He was later refused permission to wear his religious medallion. Id., p. 12. Plaintiff alleges that Baldwin (Director of IDOC), Keim, Hutchinson, Butler, Lashbrook, and John Does #4-11 (members of the Religious Practice Advisory Board) implemented policies, practices and procedures burdening his religious practice, including prohibiting prisoners from having runestones or runic flashcards, having monthly feast trays and from wearing religious medallions while at Menard. Id., pp. 9, 15, 20-21.

         Plaintiff filed an emergency grievance in November 2016 about lack of response from Keim or John Does #4-11. Hutchinson denied emergency status and told him to pursue it through normal channels. Id., p. 15.[1]

         Plaintiff wrote Harner, the Chaplain at Menard, regarding his religious requests with no result. Id., p. 18. Plaintiff wrote Lashbrook about the issues; she forwarded the inquiry to Harner. Id. Harner's response was that runes are not allowed in IDOC. Id. Plaintiff also wrote an omnibus grievance to Benton regarding his struggles to have his religious needs accommodated and the failure of the Religious Advisory Practice Board (John Does #4-11) to respond to his requests and grievances. Id., p. 19. Benton refused to review this grievance. Id.

         Discussion

          Based on the allegations in the Amended Complaint, the Court finds it convenient to divide the claims in this case into the following Counts:

Count 1: First Amendment claim against Baldwin, Butler, Lashbrook, Keim, Kennell, Harner, and John Does # 4-11 for refusing to allow Plaintiff to fully practice his Asatru-Odinist faith by prohibiting him from possessing runestones or runic flashcards, disallowing congregate worship, and denying religious feast trays;
Count 2: RLUIPA claim against Baldwin, Butler, Lashbrook, Keim, Kennell, Harner, and John Does # 4-11 for refusing to allow Plaintiff to fully practice his Asatru-Odinist faith by prohibiting him from possessing runestones or runic flashcards, disallowing congregate worship, and denying religious feast trays;
Count 3: First Amendment and RLUIPA claim against Baldwin, Butler, Hutchinson, and Lashbrook for enacting, adopting, and/or enforcing. a policy and practice of refusing all Asatru-Odinist prisoners the right to wear their religious medallions while at Menard; and
Count 4: Fourteenth Amendment due process claim against Baldwin, Keim, Benton, and John Does #4-11 for denying him due process and retaliating against him by refusing to answer his grievances and letters complaining about religious discrimination.

         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. Any claim that is mentioned in the Complaint but not addressed in this Order is considered dismissed ...


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