United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
J. ROSENSTENGEL CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
Antoine Ridley, an inmate of the Illinois Department of
Corrections (“IDOC”) who is currently
incarcerated at Pinckneyville Correctional Center, brings
this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In the Complaint,
Plaintiff alleges defendants denied him a kosher diet in
violation of the First Amendment and the Religious Land Use
and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”).
Plaintiff seeks declaratory judgment, monetary damages, and
case is now before the Court for preliminary review of the
Complaint 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).
makes the following allegations in his Complaint: Upon
transferring to Pinckneyville, Plaintiff submitted a request
to Arnold to be placed on a kosher diet (Doc. 1, p. 28). He
noted in his request that he was on a kosher diet prior to
his transfer. He did not receive a response and continued to
submit requests weekly until Arnold granted Plaintiff an
in-person interview on May 14, 2019. During the meeting,
Plaintiff informed Arnold that he had been on a kosher diet
since 2016, but Arnold denied his request for a kosher diet
at Pinckneyville because Arnold noted that Plaintiff's
commissary purchases included non-kosher items (Id.
at pp. 28-29). Arnold informed Plaintiff that he would
monitor his commissary purchases in the future to see if a
kosher diet was warranted, but Plaintiff alleges that he buys
non-kosher items at the commissary in order to trade for
kosher items with other inmates. (Id. at pp. 28-30).
Plaintiff wrote grievances about Arnold's denial, but
those grievances were denied by Baylor and Mercier
(Id. at pp. 30-32). On June 7, 2019, Plaintiff made
another request for a kosher diet and was granted another
interview with Arnold (Id. at p. 30). Plaintiff
presented Arnold with documents supporting his claim that he
was previously granted a kosher diet, but Arnold stated that
he had to fill out more forms before his request would be
accepted (Id. at p. 31). Plaintiff wrote additional
grievances, but those grievances were denied (Id. at
on the allegations in the Complaint, the Court finds it
convenient to designate a single count in this pro
1: Richard Arnold, S. Mercier, and Travis Baylor denied
Plaintiff a kosher diet in violation of the First Amendment
and RLUIPA. 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
other claim that is mentioned in the Complaint but not
addressed in this Order should be considered dismissed
without prejudice as inadequately pled under the
Twombly pleading standard.
Court finds that the allegations in the Complaint state a
viable claim against Arnold for violation of his First
Amendment rights. Plaintiff also states a viable RLUIPA claim
for Arnold's denial of a kosher diet. 42 U.S.C. §
2000cc-1. RLUIPA does not authorize a suit for money damages
against defendants in their individual capacities.
Grayson v. Schuler, 666 F.3d 450, 451 (7th Cir.
2012); Maddox v. Love, 655 F.3d 709, 717 (7th Cir.
2011). But a court may order injunctive relief to correct a
violation of RLUIPA. Therefore, Plaintiff may not pursue a
claim for money damages against any defendant under RLUIPA.
Instead, the Court will add Scott Thompson, in his official
capacity as Acting Warden of Pinckneyville, to the case for
purposes of implementing any injunctive relief awarded on
Plaintiff's RLUIPA claim. To the extent that Plaintiff
has attempted to state an official capacity claim against
anyone else, those claims are dismissed.
Plaintiff fails to state a claim against Mercier and Baylor.
Plaintiff alleges that they denied his grievances regarding
Arnold's denial of his kosher diet. While a grievance may
put the defendants on notice of Plaintiff's issues,
see Turley v. Rednour, 729 F.3d 645, 652-53 (7th
Cir. 2013); Perez v. Fenoglio, 792 F.3d 768, 781-82
(7th Cir. 2015), the denial or mishandling of a grievance
does not amount to a constitutional violation. Owens v.
Hinsley, 635 F.3d 950, 953 (7th Cir. 2011) (“[T]he
alleged mishandling of [a prisoner's] grievance by
persons who otherwise did not cause or participate in the
underlying conduct states no claim.”); George v.
Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 609-10 (7th Cir. 2007). Plaintiff
alleges that Mercier and Taylor turned a blind eye to his
need for a kosher diet, but the allegations in his Complaint
suggest that Mercier and Taylor reviewed his grievances and
denied them. Their actions do not suggest that they turned a
blind eye to his needs. Perez, 792 F.3d at 781
(official may be liable where they know of unconstitutional
conduct and approve, condone, or turn a blind eye to the
conduct). Accordingly, Plaintiff's claims against Mercier
and Taylor are DISMISSED without prejudice.
request for relief includes a request for a preliminary and
permanent injunction to order the defendants to provide him
with a kosher diet (Doc. 1, p. 34). Plaintiff has not filed a
separate motion for preliminary injunction, nor has he
demonstrated in his Complaint that he is entitled to such
relief at this time. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 65;
Planned Parenthood v. Commissioner of Indiana State
Dep't Health, 699 F.3d 962, 972 (7th Cir. 2012).
Accordingly, Plaintiff's request for a preliminary
injunction is DENIED without prejudice.
Should Plaintiff wish to seek a preliminary injunction in
this case he would need to file a separate motion and
demonstrate that he is entitled to such relief.
Plaintiff's motion for counsel (Doc. 3), Plaintiff states
that he has written six attorneys. Given the early stage of
the litigation, however, it is difficult to accurately
evaluate the need for the assistance of counsel. See
Kadamovas v. Stevens, 706 F.3d 843, 845 (7th Cir. 2013)
(“[U]ntil the defendants respond to the complaint, the
plaintiff's need for assistance of counsel ... cannot be
gauged.”). Further, counsel is not needed at this
time because the defendants have not yet been served and a
discovery schedule has not been entered. Thus,