United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division
T. Neff United States District Judge.
a civil rights action brought by a state prisoner pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 1983. Under the Prison Litigation Reform
Act, Pub. L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321 (1996), the Court is
required to dismiss any prisoner action brought under federal
law if the complaint is frivolous, malicious, fails to state
a claim upon which relief can be granted, or seeks monetary
relief from a defendant immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915A; 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c). The Court must read
Plaintiff's pro se complaint indulgently,
see Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972), and
accept Plaintiff's allegations as true, unless they are
clearly irrational or wholly incredible. Denton v.
Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 33 (1992). Applying these
standards, Plaintiff's action will be dismissed for
failure to state a claim.
David Todd Bennett, Sr. is incarcerated with the Michigan
Department of Corrections at the Muskegon Correctional
Facility (MCF) in Muskegon Heights, Michigan. Plaintiff sues
four defendants in their official and personal capacities:
MCF Warden S. L. Burt; MCF Classifications Director R.
Kitchens; MCF Food Service Director R. Eckert; and former MCF
Food Service shift supervisor (unknown) Mosley. Plaintiff
raises only one claim against these Defendants. He alleges
that they violated his First Amendment right to freely
exercise his religion when they removed him from a kitchen
work detail because he refused to work on Saturdays, his
sabbath day of rest. Plaintiff seeks a declaratory judgment
that Defendants' actions violated his First Amendment
rights as well as compensatory and punitive damages from each
allegations are concise:
On [Wednesday] 3/30/16 Plaintiff recieved [sic] a
callout/itinarary [sic] for a work detail in the chow hall.
Immediatly [sic] upon reporting for work Plaintiff spoke with
Ms. Mosley about the days of work for this detail. Ms. Mosley
informed Plaintiff his scheduled days for work were
Saturday-Wednesday. Plaintiff then stated to Ms. Mosley that
he would not be able to work on Saturday as that day is his
religious sabbath day for rest, and it would be a violation
of his First Amendment right to freedom of religion to be
forced to work. Ms. Mosley then stated that per policy
Plaintiff would need to get a religious release from the
At the end of Plaintiff”s work shift on Wednesday
3/30/16, after returning to his housing unit, the unit
officer instructed Plaintiff to the L.T.A. building and speak
with Defendant R. Kitchens, Plaintiff then was directed to
the chow hall to speak with Food Service Director Eckert, in
an attempt to get Plaintiff to reconsider his position, to no
avail, at which time Eckert sent Plaintiff back to
classifications to speak with R. Kitchens again, who informed
Plaintiff that there was nothing he could do other than
remove Plaintiff from the callout.
On [Thursday] 3/31/16, after not recieving [sic] a callout
for work, Plaintiff wrote a kite to warden S. Burt explaining
the situation and the attempt to violate Plaintiff's
First Amendment rights. As of the filing of this complaint
there has not been any response from warden Burt on this
On [Monday] 4/4/16 after not recieving [sic] any response
from warden Burt Plaintiff filed a Step I grievance.
On [Thursday] 4/07/16 after filing the grievance Plaintiff
was reinstated back to work in the chow hall dinning [sic]
(Compl., ECF No. 1, PageID.7, 8.) Plaintiff's allegations
are insufficient to state a claim for violation of his First
Failure to state a claim A complaint may be
dismissed for failure to state a claim if it fails
“‘to give the defendant fair notice of what the .
. . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'”
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)
(quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)).
While a complaint need not contain detailed factual
allegations, a plaintiff's allegations must include more
than labels and conclusions. Twombly, 550 U.S. at
555; Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)
(“Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of
action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not
suffice.”). The court must determine whether the
complaint contains “enough facts to state a claim to
relief that is plausible on its face.”
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. “A claim has facial
plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that
allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the
defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. Although the plausibility
standard is not equivalent to a “‘probability
requirement, ' . . . it asks for more than a sheer
possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.”
Id. 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).
“[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court
to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the
complaint has alleged - but it has not ‘show[n]' -
that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Id.
at 679 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)); see also Hill v.
Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010) (holding
that the Twombly/Iqbal plausibility standard applies
to dismissals of prisoner cases on initial review under 28
U.S.C. §§ 1915A(b)(1) and 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)).
state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must
allege the violation of a right secured by the federal
Constitution or laws and must show that the deprivation was
committed by a person acting under color of state law.
West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988);
Dominguez v. Corr. Med. Servs., 555 F.3d 543, 549
(6th Cir. 2009). Because § 1983 is a method for
vindicating federal rights, not a source of substantive
rights itself, the first step in an action under § 1983
is to identify the specific constitutional right allegedly
infringed. Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 271
(1994). Plaintiff alleges that Defendants infringed his First
Amendment right to freely exercise his religion.
First Amendment right to free exercise of religion
First Amendment provides “Congress shall make no law
respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the
free exercise thereof . . . .” U.S. Const. amend I. The
right to freely exercise one's religion falls within the
fundamental concept of liberty under the Fourteenth
Amendment. Cantwell v. Connecticut, 310 U.S. 296,
303 (1940). Accordingly, state legislatures and those acting
on behalf of a state are “as incompetent as
Congress” to interfere with the right. Id.
“lawful incarceration brings about the necessary
withdrawal or limitation of many privileges and rights,
” inmates clearly retain the First Amendment protection
to freely exercise their religion. See O'Lone v.
Shabazz, 482 U.S. 342, 348 (1987) (citations omitted).
To establish that this right has been violated, Plaintiff
must establish that: (1) the belief or practice he seeks to
protect is religious within his own “scheme of things,
” (2) that his belief is sincerely held, and (3)
Defendant's behavior infringes upon this practice or
belief. Kent v. Johnson, 821 F.2d 1220, 1224-25 (6th
Cir. 1987); see also Flagner v. Wilkinson, 241 F.3d
475, 481 (6th Cir. 2001) ...