United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
OPINION AND ORDER
P. SIMON JUDGE
Standifer, a prisoner without a lawyer, filed a complaint
alleging that he has been denied his right to practice his
religion. “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, I 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.
who has practiced Islam for over thirty years, alleges that
he was attending a religious Jummah service at the Westville
Correctional Facility (WCF) on November 9, 2018, when he
needed to use the restroom. He asked Chaplain Blummer to
unlock the door for him, but Chaplain Blummer refused.
Standifer decided he couldn't wait for the service to end
before using the restroom, so he attempted to head back to
his dorm. Although Standifer had witnessed Chaplain Blummer
allow other inmates to leave religious services in the past
without consequence, Standifer was told that he was not
authorized to do so and was directed to return to the
auditorium. When he did not, he was subsequently handcuffed
by an unnamed officer.
week later, Chaplain Blummer visited Standifer in his dorm to
inform him that he was suspended from attending all religious
services. Standifer requested an interview with Warden Mark
Sevier to insist that his rights to practice his religion be
reinstated. In response to that request, Chaplain Blummer
sent him a written letter detailing the terms of his
suspension effective November 1, 2018, which noted that he
was eligible to return to the “count letters”
upon written request after ninety days but could be suspended
for up to six additional months for poor conduct.
See ECF 2-1 at 1- 2. Standifer has sued Warden
Sevier, Chaplain Blummer, Chaplain Walton, and Chaplain
Ungroudgt for monetary damages and for injunctive relief in
the form of restoration of his right to “Religious
Practices and Islamic Affairs.” ECF 2 at 4.
have a right to exercise their religion under the Free
Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. Vinning-El v.
Evans, 657 F.3d 591, 592-93 (7th Cir. 2011).
Nevertheless, correctional officials may restrict the
exercise of religion if the restrictions are reasonably
related to legitimate penological objectives, which include
safety, security, and economic concerns. Turner v.
Safley, 482 U.S. 78, 89-91 (1987). The Religious Land
Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) affords even
broader protections than the First Amendment. This act
prohibits governmental entities 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). Though money damages and injunctive relief are
available under the First Amendment, only injunctive relief
is available under RLUIPA. Sossamon v. Texas, 563
U.S. 277, 285 (2011).
of Standifer's claims can be disposed of in short order.
According to the docket (ECF 10), Standifer has been
transferred from WCF-where the events in question occurred-to
the Indiana State Prison. Because there is not a realistic
likelihood that Standifer will again be incarcerated at WCF
and subjected to the same actions that he complains about
here, his claims for injunctive relief are “purely
speculative in nature” and must be dismissed. See
Maddox v. Love, 655 F.3d 709, 716 (7th Cir. 2011)
(citing Ortiz v. Downey, 561 F.3d 664, 668 (7th Cir.
2009)). And, because he has no claim for injunctive relief in
light of that transfer, he is not entitled to any relief
under RLUIPA. Id. at 717 (noting that state
officials are immune from monetary damages in their official
capacities and that they cannot be sued in their individual
capacities under RLUIPA).
leaves only Standifer's First Amendment claims for
monetary damages. All of the Defendants in their official
capacity are shielded from liability by the Eleventh
Amendment. Maddox, 655 F.3d at 716. With regard to
Standifer's individual capacity claims, liability under
42 U.S.C. § 1983 “depends on each defendant's
knowledge and actions, not on the knowledge or actions of
persons they supervise.” Burks v. Raemisch,
555 F.3d 592, 594 (7th Cir. 2009). The doctrine of
respondeat superior, which allows an employer to be
held liable for subordinates' actions in some types of
cases, has no application to § 1983 actions. Moore
v. State of Indiana, 999 F.2d 1125, 1129 (7th Cir.
1993). “‘[N]o prisoner is entitled to insist that
one employee do another's job,' and the division of
labor is critical to the efficient functioning of the
organization.” Aguilar v. Gaston-Camara, 861
F.3d 626, 633 (7th Cir. 2017) (quoting Burks, 555
F.3d at 594).
alleges that Warden Sevier was “in-cahoots” with
Chaplain Blummer. ECF 2 at 3. But the only fact he provides
in support of that assertion is that Chaplain Blummer was the
one to respond to his request for an interview with the
Warden. That is not enough. Personal liability requires more
than a showing that the defendant knew of his plight or that
the defendant was a supervisor. See Burks, 555 F.3d
at 595. Similarly, although Standifer lists Chaplain Walton
and Chaplain Ungroudgt as Defendants in the caption of his
complaint, he does not list them in the body of the complaint
or explain how they were involved in the matter at all.
“[P]ublic employees are responsible for their own
misdeeds but not for anyone else's.” Id.
at 596. Accordingly, Warden Sevier, Chaplain Walton, and
Chaplain Ungroudgt will be dismissed from this lawsuit.
Standifer claims that Chaplain Blummer restricted his right
to exercise his religion when he unreasonably refused to let
him use the restroom or leave the Jummah service and then
subsequently denied him the ability to practice any form of
his religion for an extended period of time. To determine if
such a restriction is constitutional, I must consider several
factors: (1) whether the restriction is rationally connected
to a legitimate government objective; (2) whether there is an
“alternative means of exercising” the restricted
religious right; (3) what impact the restriction would have
on other inmates as well as prison staff and facility
resources; and (4) the existence of other options that would
suggest the prison is exaggerating its concerns. Munson
v. Gaetz, 673 F.3d 630, 633 (7th Cir. 2012) (citing
Turner, 482 U.S. at 89-91). Although it appears that
the restriction in this case was tied to a legitimate
government objective (namely, prison security and discipline
related to Standifer's refusal to follow orders),
Standifer has alleged that he was unreasonably singled out
and then subjected to an excessively harsh restriction-which
prevented him from practicing his religion altogether. Giving
him the benefit of the inferences to which he is entitled at
this stage, as I must, it is plausible that less restrictive
options were available and that Chaplain Blummer was
exaggerating the penological concerns when he suspended
Standifer. And, while it is not clear from the face of the
complaint, it is possible that Chaplain Blummer chose to
punish Standifer in the manner that he did specifically
because of his faith. Cooper v. Pate, 382 F.2d 518,
521 (7th Cir. 1967) (“It is clear that prison
authorities must not punish a prisoner nor discriminate
against him on account of his religious faith.”).
Therefore, Standifer will be allowed to proceed against
GRANTS Leonard Standifer leave to proceed on a First
Amendment claim against Chaplain Blummer in his individual
capacity for monetary damages for violating his right to
exercise his religion by suspending him for ninety days from
all Islamic services and count letters effective November 1,
DISMISSES Warden Mark Sevier, Chaplain Walton, and Chaplain
DISMISSES all other claims;
DENIES AS MOOT the motions for ...