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. The Court has granted Plaintiff leave
to proceed in forma pauperis. 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. §§ 1915(e)(2), 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).
these standards, the Court will dismiss Defendant J.
Daugherty because Plaintiff has failed to state a claim
against him. The Court will also dismiss Plaintiff's
Eighth Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment claims for failure
to state a claim. Plaintiff's First Amendment and
Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000
(RLUIPA) claims premised upon his allegation that the vegan
menu imposes a substantial burden on his religious beliefs
will be dismissed for failure to state a claim. The Court
will serve the complaint against Defendants Leach and
Willard, but only with respect to the remaining claims
against them: Plaintiff's First Amendment and RLUIPA
claims premised upon his allegation that the vegan menu
causes him gastro-intestinal distress such that it interferes
with his religious practices.
has also filed a motion for the appointment of counsel (ECF
No. 3). For the reasons set forth herein, the Court will deny
William Kitchen III, who identifies himself as William
“Ash-Shahir” Kitchen, is presently incarcerated
with the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) at the
Baraga Maximum Correctional Facility (AMF) in Baraga,
Michigan. The events of which Plaintiff complains have
occurred at AMF and at Plaintiff's previous placement,
the Ionia Maximum Correctional Facility (ICF) in Ionia,
Michigan. Plaintiff sues Dave Leach, Special Activities
Coordinator for the MDOC; Patricia Willard, State Dietician
for the MDOC; and J. Daugherty, Food Supervisor at ICF. All
three Defendants are sued in their official capacities.
Defendants Leach and Willard are also sued in their personal
is a Muslim prisoner. He has requested a Halaldiet, a diet
that is consistent with Islamic dietary laws. Defendant Leach
authorized Plaintiff to receive MDOC religious meals.
MDOC offers one religious meal plan. Plaintiff describes the
plan as a non-lacto, strict vegetarian diet. The diet is soy
oriented; it is non-dairy and offers no meat protein.
Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Leach and Willard developed
the diet to satisfy the Judaic, Islamic, and Buddhist dietary
restrictions. A Halal diet, however, does not preclude dairy
or meat. Plaintiff explains:
Halal means that which is authorized by Islamic Law (figh).
The Halal dietary restrictions regarding animals are as
follow[s]: Animals such as cow, sheep, goat, deer, moose,
chicken, duck, game birds, etc. are all Halal but they must
be Zabihah (slaughtered according to Islamic Rites) in order
to be suitable for consumption. Once slaughtered one must
pronounce the name of Allah Ta'ala or recite a blessing
which contains the name of Allah Ta'ala.
(Compl., ECF No. 1, PageID.3-4.)
MDOC religious diet causes Plaintiff gastro-intestinal
distress. The gastrointestinal distress, Plaintiff claims,
disrupts Plaintiff's state of purity and cleanliness
required for the conduct of his daily religious rituals.
Plaintiff contends that the disruption presents a perpetual
burden on the exercise of his prayer rites. Plaintiff also
contends that Defendants Leach and Willard have been
deliberately indifferent to his medical complications.
attaches documents to his complaint that indicate he brought
to the attention of Defendants Leach and Willard that Halal
does not preclude meat or dairy and that Defendants are
effectively making him eat a Buddhist diet. Plaintiff
indicates he also brought to the attention of Defendant
Willard the gastro-intestinal distress brought on by his
consumption of the MDOC vegan diet. (Compl. Exh. D, ECF No.
1-1, PageID.15.) She noted that a high fiber diet can cause
intestinal side effects when a person is not used to it.
(Id.) She recommended consuming at least 80 ounces
of water per day and getting daily exercise to help alleviate
the symptoms. (Id.) Plaintiff does not indicate
whether Defendant Willard's recommendation proved helpful
or whether he followed the recommendation. ICF healthcare
personnel recommended over-the-counter medicine for
Plaintiff's gastro-intestinal problems, but Plaintiff
reported that the medicine did not help. (Compl. Exh. E, F,
ECF No. 1-1, PageID.17-18.)
sues Defendant Daugherty because the styrofoam tray in which
he received his religious meals was marked
“kosher” or with a “k.” Plaintiff
states this improperly identified him as a Jew. Plaintiff
contends that to accept, answer, or allow that identification
is prohibited in Plaintiff's religion. Plaintiff's
rejection of the designation and the “kosher”
sign on his cell door led to verbal altercations with guards.
Plaintiff suffered this practice at ICF and continues to
suffer the practice at MSP.
attaches to his complaint communications with Defendant
Daugherty, including one communication specifically directed
to this practice. Defendant Daugherty states: “They
should be marking it as a Religious tray and I have addressed
this with the workers from the Religious kitchen.”
(Compl. Exh. J, ECF No. 1-1, PageID.27.) Plaintiff does not
reveal whether Defendant Daugherty's efforts corrected
the problem at ICF. In any event, according to Plaintiff, the
practice continues at MSP.
seeks a declaration that the actions of Defendants violate
the First Amendment guarantee of free exercise, as well as a
deliberate violation of section 3 of the Religious Land Use
and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA), and the
Fourteenth Amendment guarantee of equal protection. In
addition to that declaration, Plaintiff asks that the Court
enjoin Defendants Leach and Willard from using a strict
vegetarian diet as the Halal diet but to instead offer an
alternative menu that suits Plaintiff's medical and
religious criteria. Plaintiff asks the Court to enjoin
Defendant Daugherty to stop identifying Plaintiff's trays
as “kosher.” Finally, Plaintiff seeks an award of
punitive damages against Defendants Leach and Willard in the
amount of $500.00 each.
Failure to state a claim
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.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 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.” Iqbal, 556
U.S. 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); Street
v. Corr. Corp. of Am., 102 F.3d 810, 814 (6th Cir.
1996). 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).