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Seal v. Richardson

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

March 17, 2017

ROBERT A SEAL, Plaintiff,
v.
RONALD RICHARDSON Sheriff, Madison County, ANDY WILLIAMS Jail Commander, Madison County, MICHELLE SUMPTER Supervisor, Madison County, MADISON COUNTY, Defendants.

          ENTRY DISCUSSING MOTION TO DISMISS

          Hon. William T. Lawrence, Judge

         Plaintiff Robert Seal is a prisoner incarcerated at the Indiana State Prison. He brings this complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that his rights were violated while he was a pretrial detainee at the Madison County Jail. Because Seal is a “prisoner” as defined by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(h), this Court screened his complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b) and permitted the following claims to proceed: (1) the claim all of the defendants violated that his rights under Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”) when he was not provided with a halal diet; and (2) his claims that defendants Ronald Richardson, Andy Williams, and Michelle Sumpter violated his First Amendment rights. The First Amendment claim against Madison County (the “County”) was dismissed because there is no allegation that the First Amendment violation was the result of a widespread county practice or policy. The defendants now seek dismissal of a number of claims that the Court permitted to proceed. For the reasons that follow, the motion to dismiss [dkt 17] is granted in part and denied in part.

         I. Standard

         The purpose of a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) is to test the sufficiency of the complaint, not the merits of the suit. Triad Assocs., Inc. v. Chi. Hous. Auth., 892 F.2d 583, 586 (7th Cir. 1989). The standard for assessing the procedural sufficiency of pleadings is imposed by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), which requires “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Thus, although the complaint need not recite “detailed factual allegations, ” it must state enough facts that, when accepted as true, “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 570 (2007). A claim is facially plausible when the plaintiff pleads facts sufficient for the Court to infer that the defendant is liable for the alleged misconduct. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The Twombly/Iqbal standard “is not akin to a ‘probability requirement', but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). By comparison, a complaint that merely contains “labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action” does not satisfy the factual plausibility standard. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.

         In ruling on a motion to dismiss, the Court views the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, accepting all well-pleaded factual allegations as true and drawing all reasonable inferences from those allegations in favor of the plaintiff. Lee v. City of Chi., 330 F.3d 456, 459 (7th Cir. 2003). Pro se complaints such as that filed by the plaintiff are construed liberally and held to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers. Obriecht v. Raemisch, 517 F.3d 489, 491 n.2 (7th Cir. 2008). Additionally, the Court may not rely upon evidence and facts outside of those alleged in the complaint in ruling on a motion to dismiss.

         II. Discussion

         As discussed below, the defendants seek partial dismissal of Seal's RLUIPA and First Amendment claims.

         A. RLUIPA Claims

         First the defendants seek dismissal of Seal's RLUIPA claims against Madison County and against the defendants in their individual and official capacities.

         1. Madison County

         First, the County seeks dismissal of the RLUIPA claim against it because the County does not maintain custody and control of the Jail. Indiana Code § 36-2-2-24(a) states the county executive is responsible for establishing and maintaining a county jail. But the term “maintain” imposes only a duty on the board of commissioners to keep the county jail in repair. Weatherholt v. Spencer County, 639 N.E.2d 354, 356 (Ind.Ct.App. 1994). “Once the county establishes and then reasonably maintains the jail, it is not responsible for administering the manner of an inmate's incarceration.” Id. at 356. Instead, the Jail is under the supervision of the county sheriff, not the county's board of commissioners. Ind. Code § 36-2-13-5(a)(7) (“the sheriff shall…take care of the county jail and the prisoners there.”). Hooper v. Lain, 2015 WL 1942791, at *3-4 (N.D. Ind. 2015) (Indiana law does not create a duty of care on the part of the county to any particular inmate). Because the sheriff is in charge of the Jail, not Madison County itself, it cannot be held liable for actions that took place there. Accordingly, Seal's claims against Madison County must be dismissed.

         2. Individual Defendants

         Next, Williams and Sumpter move for dismissal of the RLUIPA claims against them because RLUIPA does not allow suits against prison staff in their individual capacities. Nelson v. Miller, 570 F.3d 868, 889 (7th Cir. 2009); Vinning-El v. Evans, 657 F.3d 591, 592 (7th Cir. 2011) (“RLUIPA does not authorize any kind of relief against public employees, as opposed to governmental bodies that receive federal funds…”). Williams' and Sumpter's request for dismissal of the RLUIPA claims against them in their individual capacities is granted.

         3. Official ...


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