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Lopp v. Washington

United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division

September 3, 2019

JOSHUA LOPP, Plaintiff,
HEIDI WASHINGTON et al., Defendants.


          Paul L. Maloney United States District Judge.

         This is a civil rights action brought by a state prisoner under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), and state law. 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 Plaintiff's complaint against Defendants Washington, Finco, and Leach, as well as Plaintiff's claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and state law.


         I. Factual Allegations

         Plaintiff Joshua Lopp is presently incarcerated with the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) at the Lakeland Correctional Facility (LCF) in Coldwater, Branch County, Michigan. Plaintiff sues MDOC Director Heidi Washington, Deputy Director Thomas Finco, Classification Director L. Heinritz, Special Activities Coordinator David Leach, and LCF Warden Noah Nagy. Plaintiff sues all defendants in both their personal and official capacities.

         Plaintiff alleges that he is a member of the “Nation of Gods and Earth” (NOGE), also known as the “Five Percenters.” (Compl., ECF No. 1, PageID.4.) As part of his affiliation with that group, he believes that he must refrain from eating meat or meat by-products.

         In October 2017, Plaintiff asked to be placed on the “religious meal” plan available at LCF, but his request was denied. Plaintiff filed a grievance about the issue, but his grievance was denied. He asked to be placed on a meat-free diet again in 2018, but Defendants Nagy, Adamson, and Heinritz denied his request on December 3, 2018. Plaintiff filed another grievance about the issue, but that grievance was denied at all three steps of the grievance process.

         Plaintiff alleges that Deputy Director Finco failed to direct his staff to follow prison policy pertaining to religious meals, and that Director Washington and Deputy Director Finco had the authority to correct the actions of MDOC staff but failed to do so.

         Plaintiff claims that Defendants have, individually and in a conspiracy with one another, violated prison policy and deprived Plaintiff of his rights under the First Amendment and RLUIPA by preventing him from exercising his religious beliefs pertaining to his diet.

         In addition, Plaintiff claims that Defendants have denied him equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment and 42 U.S.C. § 1981 because they are treating him differently from prisoners who belong to other religious groups.

         As relief, Plaintiff seeks a declaration that Defendants denied him his rights under the First Amendment, monetary damages, and an injunction requiring Defendants to allow him to eat from the meatless diet available at LCF.

         II. 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.” 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)).

         III. Insufficient ...

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