United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin
OUATI K. ALI, Plaintiff,
SCOTT ECKSTEIN, MICHELLE HAESE, MICHAEL DONOVAN, ALAN DEGROOT, KELLY SALINAS, and CINDY O'DONNELL, Defendants.
Stadtmueller U.S. District Judge.
who is incarcerated at Green Bay Correctional Institution,
filed a pro se complaint under 42 U.S.C. §
1983, alleging that his civil rights were violated. (Docket
#1). This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff's
motion to proceed in forma pauperis. (Docket #2).
Plaintiff has been assessed and paid an initial partial
filing fee of $9.05. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(4).
Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners
seeking relief against a governmental entity or officer or
employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a).
The Court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if the
prisoner has raised claims that are legally “frivolous
or malicious, ” that fail to state a claim upon which
relief may be granted, or that seek monetary relief from a
defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. §
is legally frivolous when it lacks an arguable basis either
in law or in fact. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25,
31 (1992); Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325
(1989); Gladney v. Pendelton Corr. Facility, 302
F.3d 773, 774 (7th Cir. 2002). The Court may, therefore,
dismiss a claim as frivolous where it is based on an
indisputably meritless legal theory or where the factual
contentions are clearly baseless. Neitzke, 490 U.S.
at 327; Gladney, 302 F.3d at 774. “Malicious,
” although sometimes treated as a synonym for
“frivolous, ” “is more usefully construed
as intended to harass.” Lindell v. McCallum,
352 F.3d 1107, 1109 (7th Cir. 2003) (citations omitted);
accord Paul v. Marberry, 658 F.3d 702, 705 (7th Cir.
state a cognizable claim under the federal notice pleading
system, the plaintiff is required to provide a “short
and plain statement of the claim showing that [he] is
entitled to relief[.]” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). It is not
necessary for the plaintiff to plead specific facts and his
statement need only “give the defendant fair notice of
what the…claim is and the grounds upon which it
rests.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355
U.S. 41, 47 (1957)); Christopher v. Buss, 384 F.3d
879, 881 (7th Cir. 2004). However, a complaint that offers
“labels and conclusions” or “formulaic
recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not
do.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
(2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). To state
a claim, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter,
accepted as true, “that is plausible on its
face.” Id. (quoting 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.” Id. (citing
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). The complaint allegations
“must be enough to raise a right to relief above the
speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555
(citation omitted); Christopher, 384 F.3d at 881.
considering whether a complaint states a claim, courts should
follow the principles set forth in Twombly by first
“identifying pleadings that, because they are no more
than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of
truth.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. Legal
conclusions must be supported by factual allegations.
Id. If there are well-pleaded factual allegations,
the Court must “assume their veracity and then
determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement
to relief.” Id.
state a claim for relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a
plaintiff must allege that: (1) he was deprived of a right
secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States; and
(2) the deprivation was visited upon him by a person or
persons acting under color of state law. Buchanan-Moore
v. Cnty. of Milwaukee, 570 F.3d 824, 827 (7th Cir. 2009)
(citing Kramer v. Village of North Fond du Lac, 384
F.3d 856, 861 (7th Cir. 2004)); see also Gomez v.
Toledo, 446 U.S. 635, 640 (1980). The Court is obliged
to give the plaintiff's pro se allegations,
“however inartfully pleaded, ” a liberal
construction. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89,
94 (2007) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97,
states that he is an adherent of Islam. (Docket #1 at 2). In
2016, the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which involves
fasting from morning to evening, lasted from June 6 to July
5. On April 1, 2016, Plaintiff sent a request to the prison
Chapel Services department, asking that he be provided a
“religious diet form, ” which he would use to
request an appropriate meal for the Eid-al-Fitr feast at the
close of Ramadan. Id. Plaintiff also filed a request
to be placed on the list for “Ramadan
participation” beginning on June 6, 2016. Id.
On April 4, 2016, in response to his first request, Chaplin
Donovan (“Donovan”) of Chapel Services sent
Plaintiff a “new religious practice or property”
form, which Plaintiff alleges was not the form he requested
and not the proper form for the meal request. Id.
Plaintiff further claims that Donovan did not respond at all
to Plaintiff's second request-that he be placed on the
list for Ramadan participation. Id.
April 5, 2016, Plaintiff sent an
“interview/information” request form to Donovan,
inquiring as to whether he had been placed on the list for
Ramadan observance. Id. On April 13, 2016, Donovan
responded, stating that the deadline to sign up for Ramadan
observance was April 7, 2016. Id. at 3. Donovan
further stated that “Management would not allow me
(Donovan) to put a memo on channel 8, posting a deadline
date.” Id. The Court gathers that
“channel 8” is an intra-prison television channel
that provides announcements and other information to inmates,
including deadlines for submitting forms such as the Ramadan
April 15, 2016, Plaintiff encountered Donovan while on his
way to dinner. Id. Plaintiff again requested that he
be placed on the Ramadan observance list, noting that his
request was timely made on April 1. Id. Donovan
suggested that Plaintiff should write to Program Director
Michelle Haese (“Haese”) and ask that she help
rectify Donovan's error. Id. Plaintiff wrote to
Haese the same day. Id. She allegedly responded on
April 16, 2016, stating that Plaintiff should “[b]e
patient” as she was “trying to resolve the
April 18, 2016, Plaintiff filed a complaint with the prison
complaint examiner regarding his problems in attempting to
participate in Ramadan. Id. On or around April 22,
2016, Plaintiff spoke with the prison warden, Scott Eckstein
(“Eckstein”), and prison Security Director, John
Kind, regarding these problems. Id. Plaintiff
alleges that the three men discussed Plaintiff's failure
to receive notice of the deadline to sign up for Ramadan
participation. Id. Apparently, the prison had
replaced using “channel 8” for notifying inmates
of such deadlines, though Plaintiff does not describe what
the new notification system was. Id. During this
conversation, Eckstein agreed that the new notification
system was not working and stated that other inmates had
complained of not being notified of the Ramadan sign-up
deadline. Id. Eckstein also agreed, according to
Plaintiff, that there was no notice given to inmates that
there were going to be changes to the manner in which inmates
were notified of upcoming deadlines related to religious
matters. Id. Plaintiff alleges that “[a]t the
end of our discussion, Warden Eckstein had reassured me that
he [would] look into the issue.” Id.
11, 2016, complaint examiner Alan DeGroot
(“DeGroot”) dismissed Plaintiff's April 18
complaint. Id. DeGroot reasoned that: (1) Plaintiff
had not informed Haese that he wanted to participate in
Ramadan; (2) Plaintiff could fast on his own, without the
provision of a morning and evening meal from the kitchen
staff, and feed himself in the morning and evening at his own
expense with food purchased from the canteen or by saving
food from the meals he was given during the day. Id.
Eckstein reviewed and confirmed DeGroot's decision.
Id. On May 20, 2016, Plaintiff appealed the
decision, which was affirmed on June 14, 2016 by complaint
examiner Kelly Salinas (“Salinas”). Id.
On July 13, 2016, Cindy O'Donnell
(“O'Donnell”), of the Wisconsin Department of
Corrections Office of the Secretary, confirmed the complaint
examiner's decision, too. Id. In his complaint,
Plaintiff prays for money damages against each of the named
defendants. Id. at 4.
complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be
granted for a number of reasons. First, Plaintiff must tell
the Court what injury he suffered. Was he unable to
participate in Ramadan at all, or was he able to participate
in Ramadan but with accommodations from the prison? A
defendant must be placed on notice of what injury Plaintiff
claims he suffered.
once Plaintiff identifies his injury or injuries, he must
clearly identify which of his rights he believes were
violated by which of the named defendants. In particular, if
Plaintiff is seeking to recover under 42 U.S.C. § 1983
for constitutional violations by these defendants, he should
so state. If he has some other theory for recovery, he should
make that clear. ...