United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin
JOHNSON W. GREYBUFFALO, Plaintiff,
JON LITSCHER, KELLI WILLARD WEST and GARY BOUGHTON, Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
BARBARA B. CRABB District Judge.
prisoner Johnson Greybuffalo brought this case to challenge
what he viewed as violations of his right to practice his
religion. The court has dismissed some claims, dkt. ## 30 and
70, and the parties have settled others, dkt. #105. The only
remaining issue is whether prison officials are violating the
Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act and the
free exercise clause of the First Amendment by refusing to
hold a separate sweat lodge ceremony for prisoners like
plaintiff at the Wisconsin Secure Program Facility who are
adherents of the Native American Church. The prison already
holds a sweat lodge ceremony on a regular basis, but
plaintiff says that the ceremony offered now is not conducted
in accordance with the principles of the Church.
sides have moved for summary judgment, dkt. ##107 and 111,
and both motions are ready for review. I agree with
defendants that plaintiff's claim is premature for two
reasons: (1) plaintiff has never requested a separate sweat
lodge ceremony through the required administrative process;
and (2) plaintiff has not identified anyone who could lead a
sweat lodge ceremony for adherents of the Native American
Church. Accordingly, I am granting defendants' motion for
summary judgment as to this claim.
Failure to Complain to Prison Officials Before Filing
This Law suit
primary issue discussed by the parties is whether plaintiff
complied with 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a), which requires a
prisoner to exhaust all available administrative remedies
before filing a lawsuit in federal court related to his
treatment in prison. Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516,
524 (2002). Prisoners in the Wisconsin Department of
Corrections must complete and submit a form called
“DOC-2075” if they wish to participate in a new
religious practice or obtain approval for a new religious
item. Lagar v. Tegels, 94 F.Supp.3d 998, 1003-04
(W.D. Wis. 2015); Meyer v. Wisconsin Dept. of
Corrections, No. 09-cv-312-bbc, 2010 WL 2486242, at *1
(W.D. Wis. June 16, 2010); Lindell v. Casperson, 360
F.Supp.2d 932, 942 (W.D. Wis. 2005). Thus, if a prisoner
files a lawsuit about the denial of a religious practice
without submitting a DOC-2075 form about the practice, then
the prisoner's claim about that issue must be dismissed
for his failure to exhaust his administrative remedies.
Schlemm v. Frank, No. 11-cv-272-wmc, 2014 WL
2591879, at *9 (W.D. Wis. June 10, 2014), aff'd in
relevant part, Schlemm v. Wall, 784 F.3d 362,
363 (7th Cir. 2015).
parties debate three issues related to DOC-2075: (1) whether
a form plaintiff submitted in 2013 included a request for a
separate sweat lodge ceremony; (2) if not, whether a
grievance plaintiff filed the following year satisfied any
requirement to raise the issue administratively; and (3) if
not, whether the court should conclude that plaintiff did not
need to raise the issue before filing this lawsuit. I will
consider each argument in turn.
first issue is resolved by this court's previous order
addressing the question whether plaintiff had exhausted his
administrative remedies on his claim that he was entitled to
have feasts after religious ceremonies. Greybuffalo v.
Wall, No. 15-cv-8-bbc, 2015 WL 5093340 (W.D. Wis. Aug.
28, 2015), dkt. #30. In that order, I noted that
plaintiff's 2013 form is limited to a request to
“officially recognize the Native American Church as one
of its ‘Umbrella' Group Religions” and to
approve various property items related to the religion.
Because plaintiff did not include a request for religious
feasts, he had not exhausted his administrative remedies as
to that claim.
case, plaintiff does not deny that his DOC-2075 form says
nothing about a separate sweat lodge ceremony, but he says
that “any reasonable person would understand
that” approval of a new religious group “would
entail accompaniment of Religious Services both Congregate in
nature and Study Group related.” Plt.'s Resp. to
Dfts.' PFOF ¶ 7, dkt. #125. That is essentially the
same argument that plaintiff made with respect to his
religious feasts claim and I rejected the argument:
The DOC-2075 form instructs prisoners to “[w]rite a
detailed description of the religious practice that you want
to participate in and what the request is based on.”
Dkt. #1-1 at 1. Generally, a prisoner must comply with prison
rules regarding the type and amount of information that needs
to be included in a grievance or form. Jones v.
Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 218 (2007); King v.
McCarty, 781 F.3d 889, 896 (7th Cir. 2015). At a
minimum, the prisoner must provide enough information to
alert prison officials to the nature of his problem.
Greeno v. Daley, 414 F.3d 645, 652 (7th Cir. 2005).
Without a specific request by plaintiff, officials would have
no way of knowing that they were supposed to be considering a
request for a religious feast as part of a general request
for group recognition.
#30 at 4.
reasoning applies to plaintiff's claim regarding a
separate sweat lodge ceremony as well. Under prison rules,
plaintiff was required to identify each new practice that he
was requesting, even if he believed that it was obvious what
he wanted. Although group worship is a common aspect of
religious exercise, it is not necessarily universal. Even if
it is reasonable to assume that a request for a new group
will include some type of request for a group exercise, the
rules required plaintiff to provide information about his
request. This rule makes sense because different group
exercises will impose different financial, administrative and
security burdens on the prison.
case, the scope of plaintiff's request was not as obvious
as he suggests. Plaintiff says now that he wanted at least
two different kinds of separate group exercises, a sweat
lodge ceremony and a congregate church service. Plaintiff
identifies no way that prison officials could have
anticipated those requests without specific notice from him.
Particularly because plaintiff did not identify any problems
with the current sweat lodge ceremony that would have
required a separate ceremony, I do ...