United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin
OUATI K. ALI, Plaintiff,
KELLI WEST, MICHELLE HAESE, KELLY SALINAS, ALAN DEGROOT, CINDY O'DONNELL, SCOTT ECKSTEIN, and MICHAEL DONOVAN, Defendants.
Stadtmueller U.S. District Judge.
December 19, 2016, the Court screened Plaintiff's
original complaint. (Docket #8). The Court found that
Plaintiff failed to state any viable claims for relief, but
it permitted him to amend his complaint. Id. at 6-7.
Plaintiff submitted an amended complaint on December 29,
2016. (Docket #9).
noted in the first screening order, the 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 “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. Id. § 1915A(b). All of
the standards cited in the first screening order remain
applicable here. (Docket #8 at 1-3).
why Plaintiff's amended allegations largely fail to
correct his prior errors, the Court will relate them in
detail. Initially, Plaintiff describes the jobs and authority
of each of the named defendants. Defendant Kelli West
(“West”) is the Religious Coordinator for the
Wisconsin Department of Corrections and, in that capacity,
she is allegedly “responsible for the overall
operations of the department and each institution under its
jurisdiction, including Green Bay Correctional Institution,
” the prison where Plaintiff is incarcerated. (Docket
#9 at 2). Defendant Michelle Haese (“Haese”) is
the Institution Social Service Director. Id. She is
“responsible for the over all operations of the
institution” and she “executes its policy.”
Id. Defendant Kelly Salinas (“Salinas”)
is a Corrections Complaint Examiner and is “responsible
for overseeing the overall operations of the department's
complaint division and each institution under its
jurisdiction.” Id. Defendant Alan DeGroot
(“DeGroot”) is the Institution Complaint Examiner
at Plaintiff's prison. Id. He is
“responsible for its day-to-day operations and executes
its policies as it pertains to inmate grievances.”
Id. Defendant Cindy O'Donnell
(“O'Donnell”) is the Secretary of the Office
of the Wisconsin Department of Corrections, and she is
“responsible for its day-to-day operations and executes
its policies as it pertains to inmate grievances for the
state of Wisconsin.” Id. Defendant Scott
Eckstein (“Eckstein”) is the warden of the prison
where Plaintiff is housed and is “responsible for the
day-to-day operations and executes its policies.”
Id. Finally, Defendant Michael Donovan is the
chaplain at Plaintiff's prison and is “responsible
for the day-to-day operations and executes its
policies.” Id. at 3.
amended complaint, Plaintiff alleges that on or around March
29, 2016, a fellow inmate instructed him to submit a request
to the prison's Chapel Services department for provision
of the “Eid Meal, ” which the Court interprets as
the special meal eaten during the Eid-al-Fitr feast at the
close of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. (Docket #9 at
That same date, he “forwarded to be placed on the list
for the Ramadan Participation that was to began [sic] June 6,
April 4, 2016, Donovan sent Plaintiff a “New Religious
Practice or Property” form. Id. Plaintiff
alleges that this “was the incorrect form.”
Id. He further alleges that Donovan never
acknowledged whether Plaintiff had been placed on the list
for Ramadan participation as he had requested. Id.
On April 5, 2016, Plaintiff sent an interview/information
request to Donovan, asking if he had been added to the list
for Ramadan participation. Id. at 4-5. Donovan
replied on April 13, 2016, stating in part that “[t]he
deadline to sign up for Ramadan was April 7, 2016. . .and
management would not allow him to put a memo on channel 8,
posting a deadline date.” Id. at 5.
around April 15, 2016, Plaintiff, along with a fellow Muslim
inmate, were en route to the dining facility when they
crossed paths with Donovan. Id. Plaintiff asked
Donovan again whether he had been placed on the
“Ramadan list.” Id. Donovan responded
that he would not place Plaintiff's name on the list and
that Plaintiff should write to Haese. Id.
did so on April 15, 2016, sending Haese “an
Interview/Information Request attached with Donovan's
response.” Id. Plaintiff does not further
describe what he wrote in this request to Haese. See
Id. She responded on some later date, saying “[b]e
patient, I am trying to resolve the problem.”
Id. On April 18, 2016, Plaintiff filed an inmate
grievance which “presented facts relating to [the
amended] complaint.” See Id. at 3. He provides
no further details as to the contents of that grievance.
around April 22, 2016, Plaintiff, along with two other
inmates, met with Eckstein and prison security director Kind
(whose first name is not given). Id. at 5. Plaintiff
claims that he and his associates questioned Eckstein and
Kind regarding being denied participation in the 2016 Ramadan
fast. Id. The inmates voiced concern that they
“were not notified of the 2016 Ramadan by channel 8
bulletin and how the institution never notified inmates of
this change in policy.” Id. According to
Plaintiff, Eckstein “agreed that the new system was not
working, for there had been other inmates complaining of not
being notified.” Id. Eckstein “assured
[the inmates] that he [would] look into the issue” and
follow up with them. Id.
11, 2016, the complaint examiner dismissed Plaintiff's
April 18 complaint, which Plaintiff appealed on May 20.
Id. at 3. On June 14, 2016, the dismissal was
affirmed by the corrections complaint examiner. Id.
Plaintiff received notice of this decision on July 13, 2016.
Id. at 4.
on these facts, Plaintiff alleges two claims for deprivation
of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1983. Id. at 6. First, Defendants violated his right
to the free exercise of his religion under the First
Amendment when they denied him participation in the Ramadan
fast. Id. Second, Defendants violated his due
process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment when they
“deprived him of his liberty to practice his religion
without government interference.” Id.
amended complaint generally fails to state claims upon which
relief may be granted. The Court will discuss each of
Plaintiff's specific claims in turn, but first, it should
be noted that the amended complaint omits several details
which were included in the original complaint. Plaintiff was
expressly instructed in the Court's original screening
order that his amended complaint “supersedes the prior
complaint and must be complete in itself without reference to
the original complaint.” (Docket #8 at 7) (citing
Duda v. Bd. of Educ. of Franklin Park Pub. Sch. Dist. No.
84, 133 F.3d 1054, 1056-57 (7th Cir. 1998)).
Plaintiff's failure to both replicate his prior
allegations and improve upon them is the source of many of
the deficiencies described below.
FREE EXERCISE CLAIM
prevail on a claim that Defendants, by denying him
participation in the Ramadan fast, deprived Plaintiff the
right to the free exercise of his religion, Plaintiff must
allege facts showing that the prison officials in question
“personally and unjustifiably placed a substantial
burden on his religious practices.” Thompson v.
Holm, 809 F.3d 376, 379 (7th Cir. 2016); Conyers v.
Abitz, 416 F.3d 580, 585 (7th Cir. 2005). A burden is
“substantial” when it “put[s] substantial
pressure on an adherent to modify his behavior and to violate
his beliefs, ” Thomas v. Review Bd., 450 U.S.
707, 717-18 (1981), or where it forces a person to
“choose between following the precepts of her religion
and forfeiting [governmental] benefits, on the one hand, and
abandoning one of the precepts of her religion. . .on the
other hand, ” Sherbertv. Verner, 374
U.S. 398, 404 (1963). A burden is “unjustified”
if it is not reasonably related to a legitimate penological
interest. Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78, 89-91
(1987). A rule that is “neutral and of general