United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Terre Haute Division
Jane Magnus-Stinson, Chief Judge
August 8, 2018, Plaintiff Akhenaton El-Shabazz filed this
matter pro se in Sullivan County Circuit Court,
alleging that he was denied a job in the Wabash Valley
Correctional Facility because of his religion. [SeeFiling
No. 1-1.] Defendant Ryan Wehrmeyer, at the time the sole
defendant, removed this matter on September 13, 2018.
[Filing No. 1.] Mr. El-Shabazz sought and received
leave to file a Second Amended Complaint, adding Assistant
Warden Kevin Gilmore as a defendant. [See Filing No.
12.] Since that time, a slew of motions has ensued. Mr.
Wehrmeyer has filed a Motion to Dismiss for failure to state
a claim upon which relief may be granted. [Filing No.
18.] Mr. El-Shabazz has filed a Motion for Summary
Judgment as to his claim against Mr. Gilmore. [Filing No.
34.] The remaining motions pertain to the briefing of
the Motion to Dismiss and the Motion for Summary Judgment,
which has spiraled far beyond the briefing permitted by the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the Local Rules of this
Court. [Filing No. 31; Filing No. 32;
Filing No. 43; Filing No. 45.] For the
reasons described below, the Court DENIES
each of the currently-pending motions.
lone motion for which review on the merits is appropriate is
Mr. Wehrmeyer's Motion to Dismiss, so the Court sets
forth the facts as described in Mr. El-Shabazz's
currently-operative Second Amended Complaint and exhibits.
[Filing No. 13.]
El-Shabazz is a Sufi adherent of Islam who is currently
incarcerated at Wabash Valley Correctional Facility.
[Filing No. 13 at 3-9; Filing No. 13 at
14.] Mr. El-Shabazz has previously worked in the wire
harness shop at the prison. [Filing No. 13 at 17.]
Mr. El-Shabazz interviewed with Mr. Wehrmeyer to be rehired
at the wire harness shop on April 19, 2018. [Filing No.
13 at 17.] During the interview, Mr. El-Shabazz wore a
kufi, which is a skullcap worn by Muslims. [Filing No. 13
at 16.] Also interviewed was Walter Richeson, a
non-Muslim and former worker in the wire harness shop.
[Filing No. 13 at 16-17.]
2, 2018, Mr. Wehrmeyer rehired Mr. Richeson but did not
rehire Mr. El-Shabazz. [Filing No. 13 at 18.] On May
3, 2018, Mr. El-Shabazz submitted an informal grievance,
asserting that, despite being fully qualified for the wire
harness position, Mr. Wehrmeyer did not rehire him because of
his Islamic faith. [Filing No. 13 at 6.] Mr.
Wehrmeyer responded on May 4, 2018 that he “interviewed
a bunch of people, and you were not selected.”
[Filing No. 13 at 6.] No other explanation was given
for Mr. Wehrmeyer's decision not to rehire Mr.
El-Shabazz. [Filing No. 13 at 9.]
parties agree in their briefing on the Motion to Dismiss, the
wire harness shop is operated by Kauffman Engineering, an
independent contractor, [see Filing No. 19-1], and
Mr. Wehrmeyer works for Kauffman as the wire harness shop
supervisor, [seeFiling No. 21 at 2; Filing No.
19 at 3]. Cf. Bible v. Utd. Student Aid
Funds, Inc., 799 F.3d 633, 640 n.1 (7th Cir. 2015)
(“A party opposing [a Rule 12(b)(6)] motion is free to
elaborate upon the facts in a brief.”).
noted, on August 8, 2018, Mr. El-Shabazz filed his Complaint
in state court. [Filing No. 1-1 at 1-10.] After Mr.
El-Shabazz filed an Amended Complaint on September 6, 2018,
[Filing No. 1-1 at 29-39], Mr. Wehrmeyer removed the
matter to this Court, [Filing No. 1]. On October 23,
2018, the Court granted Mr. El-Shabazz's motion for leave
to file a Second Amended Complaint, [Filing No. 12],
which was duly filed the same day, [Filing No. 13].
In his Second Amended Complaint, Mr. El-Shabazz alleges that
Mr. Wehrmeyer violated his rights to freedom of religion and
equal protection of the laws by refusing to rehire him
because of his religious beliefs. [Filing No. 13 at
13.] Mr. El-Shabazz additionally alleges First and
Fourteenth Amendment claims against defendant Kevin Gilmore,
assistant warden of the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility,
based upon Mr. Gilmore's allegedly discriminatory
handling of the grievance Mr. El-Shabazz filed after being
denied employment in the wire harness shop. [Filing No.
13 at 13-20.]
the Court screened Mr. El-Shabazz's claim against Mr.
Gilmore and found it sufficient to state a claim,
various motions ensued. Those motions are now ripe for
A. Legal Standard
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a party may move to
dismiss a claim that does not state a right to relief. The
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that a complaint
provide the defendant with “fair notice of what the . .
. claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.”
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (quoting
Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)).
In reviewing the sufficiency of a complaint, the Court must
accept all well-pled facts as true and draw all permissible
inferences in favor of the plaintiff. See Active
Disposal Inc. v. City of Darien, 635 F.3d 883, 886 (7th
Cir. 2011). A Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss asks whether
the complaint “contain[s] sufficient factual matter,
accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). The Court may not accept
legal conclusions or conclusory allegations as sufficient to
state a claim for relief. See McCauley v. City
of Chicago, 671 F.3d 611, 617 (7th Cir. 2011). Factual
allegations must plausibly state an entitlement to relief
“to a degree that rises above the speculative
level.” Munson v. Gaetz, 673 F.3d 630, 633
(7th Cir. 2012). This plausibility determination is “a
context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to
draw on its judicial experience and common sense.”
Id.Finally, the Court must “construe pro
se filings liberally, ” Parker v. Four Seasons
Hotels, Ltd., 845 F.3d 807, 811 (7th Cir. 2017), and, in
evaluating a complaint under the Rule 12(b)(6) standard, must
be especially sensitive to the limited “opportunities
[incarcerated litigants have] for conducting a precomplaint
inquiry”, Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance
Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009) (quoting
Billman v. Ind. Dep't of Corr., 56 F.3d 785, 789
(7th Cir. 1995)); cf. Id. at 830 (noting
that inmate plaintiff could not, on motion to dismiss,
“be charged fairly with knowing” details about
private entity's relationship to prison system).