United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
OPINION AND ORDER
Rudell Gregory, a prisoner without a lawyer, filed a
complaint. “A document filed pro se is to be liberally
construed, and a pro se complaint, however inartfully
pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal
pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Erickson v.
Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quotation marks and
citations omitted). Nevertheless, pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915A, the court must review the merits of a prisoner
complaint and dismiss it if the action is frivolous or
malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be
granted, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is
immune from such relief. Since the commencement of this
lawsuit, Gregory has filed two motions to amend the
complaint. In accordance with Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(1), the
court grants the most recently filed motion to amend (ECF 13)
and will screen the attached amended complaint.
amended complaint, Gregory alleges that, at the Westville
Correctional Facility, he was prevented from bringing his
bible with him to Christian religious services from July 8,
2018, to August 5, 2018. On July 8, 2018, Officer Wilson told
Gregory that he needed to return his bible to his dormitory
to attend religious services. On July 15, 2018, Lieutenant
Darinksi prevented Gregory from taking his bible to the
chapel and stated, “Stop putting drugs in your
bibles.” When Gregory attempted to grieve this issue,
his case manager refused to provide him with a grievance
form. He seeks money damages and an order directing
correctional staff to not interfere with his religious
practices and to comply with the grievance policy.
asserts that Officer Wilson and Lieutenant Darinski violated
his rights under the Free Exercise Clause of the First
Amendment by preventing him from bringing his bible to
Christian religious services. “[T]he protections of the
Free Exercise Clause pertain if the law at issue
discriminates against some or all religious beliefs or
regulates or prohibits conduct because it is undertaken for
religious reasons.” Church of the Lukumi Babalu
Aye, Inc. v. City of Hialeah, 508 U.S. 520, 532, (1993).
“The Free Exercise Clause prohibits the state from
imposing a substantial burden on a central religious belief
or practice.” Kaufman v. Pugh, 733 F.3d 692,
696 (7th Cir. 2013). “[A] prison inmate retains those
First Amendment rights that are not inconsistent with his
status as a prisoner or with the legitimate penological
objectives of the corrections system.” Pell v.
Procunier, 417 U.S. 817, 822 (1974). “[W]hen a
prison regulation impinges on inmates' constitutional
rights, the regulation is valid if it is reasonably related
to legitimate penological interests.” Turner v.
Safley, 482 U.S. 78, 89 (1987) Kaufman v.
McCaughtry, 419 F.3d 678, 682 (7th Cir. 2005). The
complaint states a plausible First Amendment claim against
Officer Wilson and Lieutenant Darinksi.
also asserts an injunctive relief claim for an order
directing correctional staff at the Westville Correctional
Facility to allow him to take his bible to Christian
religious services. The Religious Land Use and
Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) affords even broader
protections than the First Amendment. This act prohibits
governmental actors from imposing “a substantial burden
on the religious exercise of a person residing in or confined
to an institution . . . unless the government demonstrates
that imposition of the burden on that person is in
furtherance of a compelling governmental interest and is the
least restrictive means of furthering that compelling
governmental interest.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-1(a);
Holt v. Hobbs, 135 S.Ct. 853 (2015). A restriction
imposes a substantial burden on an inmate's religious
practice when it “seriously violates or contradicts an
inmate's religious beliefs.” West v.
Grams, 607 Fed.Appx. 561, 567 (7th Cir. 2015). Money
damages and injunctive relief are available under Section
1983, but only injunctive relief is available under RLUIPA.
Sossamon v. Texas, 563 U.S. 277, 285 (2011). Gregory
adequately states a claim for injunctive relief against
Warden Mark Sevier in his official capacity.
Gregory lists Sergeant Shouse as a defendant, this defendant
is mentioned nowhere else in the complaint. Additionally,
Gregory asserts that correctional staff mishandled his
grievances. However, “the alleged mishandling of [a
prisoner's] grievances by persons who otherwise did not
cause or participate in the underlying conduct states no
claim.” Owens v. Hinsley, 635 F.3d 950, 953
(7th Cir. 2011). Therefore, Gregory cannot proceed against
Sergeant Shouse, nor can he proceed on the grievance
final matter, Gregory filed a motion for default judgment,
arguing that the defendants failed to file a timely response
to his complaint as required by Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(a). This
motion is premature because the defendants have not been
served nor have they waived service. Therefore, the motion
for default judgment is denied.
these reasons, the court:
(1) GRANTS the motion to amend (ECF 13);
(2) DENIES the motion for default judgment (ECF 12) and the
motion to amend (ECF 14);
(3) GRANTS Marcus Rudell Gregory leave to proceed on a claim
against Officer Wilson and Lieutenant Darinksi for money
damages for violating his rights under the Free Exercise
Clause by preventing him from taking a bible to religious
(4) GRANTS Marcus Rudell Gregory leave to proceed on a claim
for injunctive relief against Mark Sevier in his official
capacity to allow him to take a bible to religious services
to the extent required by the Religious Land Use and
Institutionalized Persons Act;
(5) DISMISSES Sergeant Shouse;
(6) DISMISSES all other ...