United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division
HONORABLE PAUL L. MALONEY JUDGE.
a civil rights action brought by a state prisoner under 42
U.S.C. § 1983 and the Religious Land Use and
Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C. §
2000cc-1(a). Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, Pub. L.
No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321 (1996) (PLRA), 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).
Applying these standards, the Court will dismiss Defendant
McLean from the action and will dismiss Plaintiff's free
exercise claim for failure to state a claim against the
remaining Defendants. The Court also will dismiss for failure
to state a claim Plaintiff's request for damages under
RLUIPA against the remaining Defendants.
presently is incarcerated with the Michigan Department of
Corrections (MDOC) at the Chippewa Correctional Facility
(URF) in Kincheloe, Chippewa County, Michigan. The events
about which he complains occurred at that facility. Plaintiff
sues the following URF officials: Food Service Workers
(unknown) Weston and (unknown) Burnette; Sergeant Burnhart;
Business Manager Edson Forrester; Correctional Officer Sherri
Newcomb; and Grievance Coordinator Mike McLean.
is a practicing Sunni Muslim. A central tenet of his belief
is that he must pray five times each day at the following
times: Fajr (early morning); Zuhr (immediately after the sun
begins to decline in the afternoon); Asr (late afternoon);
Maghrib (sunset); and Ishe (full dark).
interviewed with Defendant Weston for a job assignment as a
food service worker on February 1, 2019. During the
interview, Plaintiff explained his need to pray at the
appropriate times. Defendant Weston told Plaintiff that it
would not be a problem and that he could either pray at the
work site or return to his unit for prayer. Plaintiff took
the position with this understanding.
February 2, 2019, however, Defendant Weston informed
Plaintiff that, according to Defendant Correctional Officer
Newcomb, Plaintiff was not permitted to either conduct his
prayers in the kitchen or return to his unit for prayer.
Plaintiff took his concerns to Correctional Officer Rolison,
who was working at the front desk. Plaintiff took Defendant
Weston with him. After discussion, Rolison and Weston
permitted him to go to his unit for prayer. Weston informed
Plaintiff, however, that he would call Defendant Sergeant
Burnhart to clarify if the practice was allowed. After
conferring with Burnhart, Defendant Weston told Plaintiff
that, under the rules, Plaintiff could neither pray on the
work site nor return to his cell. Defendant Weston told
Plaintiff that, if Plaintiff did not work without breaking
for prayer, Weston would fire him, place him on “Double
0” or “00” status (under which Plaintiff
would be restricted to his room from 2:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.,
seven days a week and would lose all privileges during those
hours) and issue a misconduct charge. Alternatively, Weston
suggested, Plaintiff could just quit and be placed on 00
February 4, 2019, Plaintiff spoke to Food Service Supervisor
Albonza (not a Defendant), who told Plaintiff,
“Don't worry about it, I p[re]fer you prayed here,
but don't get caught, or just go back and offer
prayer.” (Compl., ECF No. 1, PageID.4.) When Plaintiff
attempted to leave for prayer, however, Defendant Forrester
stopped him, saying that they had just had a meeting on the
issue and that nobody was allowed to leave for prayer or pray
on the work site. Plaintiff explained that Albonza had given
him permission to leave, but Defendant Forrester responded
that he ran the kitchen and that, if Plaintiff was caught
performing prayers in the kitchen, he would be fired.
filed a grievance on February 4, 2019, complaining about both
the February 2 and February 4 incidents. Plaintiff complains
that the grievance was not investigated and that he sought a
Step-II grievance form after 30 days, because he had received
no response to the Step-I grievance.
continued to miss his prayers during his work shifts between
February 2 and February 8, 2019. On February 9, 2019,
Defendant Burnette called him to work overtime. Plaintiff
refused the overtime, because he needed to offer prayer.
Defendant Burnette gave Plaintiff a direct order to work.
Plaintiff asked to speak with Food Service Supervisor Savior.
Plaintiff explained to Savior that he had taken the job after
being told he would be allowed to pray in the kitchen or go
back to his cell to pray. Plaintiff complained that he now
had been threatened with being disciplined and placed on 00
status. Savior apologized for inconveniencing Plaintiff and
told him that they would find someone else to work overtime
but that Plaintiff must come during his regular work detail
at 2:15 p.m.
Plaintiff started to leave, he was stopped by Defendant
Newcomb. Plaintiff explained that he had permission from
Savior to leave for prayer. Defendant Newcomb stated,
“‘If you go back, I will write you up,'
because work details override any religious ten[e]ts or
beliefs.” (Id., PageID.5.) Newcomb then stated
that she would write him up for getting Savior to allow him
to return to his cell. Plaintiff asked if Defendant Newcomb
was firing him or placing him on 00 status, and she responded
that she was.
returned to his cell and wrote a grievance about Burnette and
Newcomb. On February 10, 2019, Defendant Newcomb issued a
Class-II misconduct ticket for disobeying a direct order.
Plaintiff was found guilty of the misconduct on February 13,
2019. As a result of the misconduct proceeding, Plaintiff was
given three days of top lock, which resulted in the loss of
his prison job. Plaintiff wrote both the food service
director and the classification director, explaining the
issue and requesting a meeting. Plaintiff also filed a
grievance against Defendant Newcomb, complaining that she had
issued the false misconduct ticket in retaliation for
Plaintiff's grievances. Defendant McLean rejected the
grievance as duplicative.
complains that Defendants' refusals to allow him to pray
at work or to be excused from work to pray violated his
rights under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment
and the RLUIPA. Plaintiff also contends that Defendants
Newcomb and McLean retaliated against him for filing
grievances by writing a misconduct ticket against him or
rejecting his grievances.
relief, Plaintiff seeks only compensatory and punitive
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 ...