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Garner v. Muenchow

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

February 24, 2016

OSCAR GARNER, Plaintiff,
v.
JAMES MUENCHOW, DONALD STRAHOTA, MR. GREFF, LT. SCHNEIDER, LT. WALLER, and FRANCIS PALIEKARA, Defendants.

DECISION AND ORDER

HON. RUDOLPH T. RANDA U.S. District Judge

Oscar Garner, a Wisconsin state prisoner, filed an action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated when he could not order prayer items while confined in disciplinary segregation. On September 30, 2015, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss for failure to allege personal involvement of Muenchow, Strahota, Greff, Schneider, and Paliekara. The plaintiff responded on October 15, 2015 (ECF No. 25), and the defendants replied on October 30, 2015 (ECF No. 28). For the reasons stated below, the Court will deny the defendants’ motion.

I. Complaint Allegations

The plaintiff, Oscar Garner, is an inmate at the Waupun Correctional Institution. Between November 2012 and March 2013, he was confined in B-range, i.e. disciplinary segregation, and had requested a copy of the prison’s canteen catalog to order several religious items.[1] His request for a copy of the catalog was denied.

On November 27, 2012, the plaintiff wrote to Unit Manager Brian Greff stating that he was not allowed to order prayer items from the canteen catalog. Greff responded that he had not received anything from the plaintiff. On January 13, 2013, the plaintiff wrote to Greff again requesting to order prayer items from the canteen catalog. Greff responded in writing that the plaintiff should contact a Sergeant or Lieutenant to place his order. The next day, on January 14, 2013, Greff spoke with the plaintiff in person and told him that he would have to talk to Lieutenant Waller to order out of the catalog.

Later that day, on January 14, 2013, the plaintiff wrote a request to Lieutenant Waller and Lieutenant Schneider. Neither responded. The next day, on January 15, 2013, Waller spoke with the plaintiff in person.

Waller told the plaintiff that “you can’t order until you go to range-C and if you don’t like it write a[n] [offender complaint].” On February 4, 2013, the plaintiff wrote to Chaplain Francis Paliekara requesting a copy of the Qur’an. His letter indicated that segregation denied him the right to order his religious items. On February 9, 2013, Paliekara spoke with the plaintiff in person and told him that he should be able to order his religious items but that it would have to be through the Segregation Sergeant or the Unit Manager.

The plaintiff then filed an inmate complaint regarding his right to order prayer items while in B-range. James Muenchow, the Inmate Complaint Examiner, dismissed the complaint. He wrote that “allowing orders from the canteen catalog vendors would be an influx of property that would exhaust staff resources…” and that prison security and facility resources were reasonable restrictions on the right to practice religion in disciplinary segregation. Donald Strahota accepted the recommendation and dismissed the complaint on March 1, 2013.

On March 12, 2013, a different inmate in disciplinary segregation filed an inmate complaint regarding Muslim prayer items in B-range. The complaint was rejected as moot because Greff had since compiled a “Segregation Catalog” from which segregation inmates could order religious items. The Segregation Catalog was handed out the week of March 18, 2013.

II. Standard of Review

A motion to dismiss tests the legal sufficiency of the complaint. Triad Assocs., Inc. v. Chi. Hous. Auth. 892 F.2d 583, 586 (7th Cir. 1989). The complaint must allege enough facts that, when accepted as true, “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). A claim is plausible on its face when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

The Court accepts all well-pleaded factual allegations as true and draws all reasonable inference in favor of the non-moving party. Lee v. City of Chi., 330 F.3d 456, 459 (7th Cir. 2003). A motion to dismiss is granted when “it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief.” Killingsworth v. HSBC Bank Nev., N.A., 507 F.3d 614, 618 (7th Cir. 2007).

III. Discussion

The defendants seek to remove Muenchow and Strahota from the action because both are complaint examiners who were not “personally involved” in the underlying constitutional violation. The defendants seek to remove Greff, Schneider, and Paliekara from the action because each individual’s personal involvement in the matter was limited to ...


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