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Jones v. West

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

February 27, 2017

JUMAR JONES, Plaintiff,
v.
KELLI WEST, MICHELLE HAESE, KELLY SALINAS, ALAN DEGROOT, MICHAEL DONOVAN, and SCOTT ECKSTEIN, Defendants.

          DECISION AND ORDER GRANTING THE PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR LEAVE TO PROCEED WITHOUT PREPAYMENT OF THE FILING FEE (DKT. NO. 2), SCREENING AMENDED COMPLAINT (DKT. NO. 8), AND ORDERING PLAINTIFF TO FILE A SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT

          HON. PAMELA PEPPER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         The plaintiff, a Wisconsin state prisoner who is representing himself, filed this lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. §1983, dkt. no. 1, along with a motion for leave to proceed without prepayment of the filing fee, dkt. no. 2. The plaintiff filed an amended complaint on January 30, 2017. Dkt. No. 8. The amended complaint replaces his original complaint. This order resolves his motion and screens his amended complaint.

         I. Motion for Leave to Proceed without Prepayment of the Filing Fee

         The Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) applies to this case because the plaintiff was incarcerated when he filed his complaint. 28 U.S.C. §1915. The PLRA allows a court to give an incarcerated plaintiff the ability to proceed with his lawsuit without prepaying the case filing fee, as long as he meets certain conditions. One of those conditions is that the plaintiff pay an initial partial filing fee. 28 U.S.C. §1915(b).

         On January 6, 2017, the court ordered the plaintiff to pay an initial partial filing fee of $21.98. Dkt. No. 7. The plaintiff paid that fee on January 19, 2017. Accordingly, the court will grant the plaintiff's motion. The court will require the plaintiff to pay the remainder of the filing fee over time as set forth at the end of this decision.

         II. Screening the Plaintiff's Amended Complaint

         The law requires the court to screen complaints, including amended 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 if the plaintiff raises 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. §1915A(b).

         To state a claim, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, “that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows a court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

         To proceed 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 defendant was acting under color of state law. Buchanan-Moore v. County 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 gives a pro se plaintiff's 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, 106 (1976)).

         A. The Plaintiff's Allegations

         The plaintiff alleges that he learned in mid-April 2016 from a fellow inmate named Ouati Ali that a list had been posted in the chapel, inviting inmates to sign up for bagged meals to accommodate their observation of Ramadan, which was to begin in June.[1] Dkt. No. 8 at 4. Ali told the plaintiff that he'd heard this from yet another inmate, Kamani Ward, and that Ward had indicated that while the list had been posted in the chapel for about three weeks, it wasn't posted any longer. Ward had indicated that he believed that the list required inmates to sign up for the meals by April 7, 2016. Id.

         The plaintiff alleges that he sent an information request to defendant Michael Donovan, the chaplain, asking whether the deadline had, in fact, been April 7, 2016, and inquiring why a memo advising inmates of the list and deadline had not been sent to the entire institution. Id. On April 15, 2016, Donovan responded that “[he] was directed by management that [he] could post an announcement only in the chapel and library.” Id. at 5.

         That same day, the plaintiff, along with inmate Ali, spoke to Donovan about the fact that he had not had his name added to the Ramadan list because he'd missed the deadline by seven days. Id. Donovan explained that there had been a change in the DAI notification policy regarding religious observances. Id. He said that notifications would be posted only in the chapel or library. Id. The plaintiff told Donovan that notifications of changes to other prison policies were posted, and asked why that wouldn't be true for changes in policies about religious observances. Id. Donovan directed the plaintiff and Ali to contact defendant Michelle Haese in the social services department. Id.

         The plaintiff wrote Haese a letter asking to be added to the Ramadan list. Id. Haese denied his request on April 16, 2016. Id. In her response, Haese stated,

Green Bay Correctional Institution used to make notifications on the Institution channel 8 to provide notification of Congregate Meal Dates. For the 2016 [sic], GBCI surveyed other maximum security institutions, as well received [sic] feedback from DAI Central Office to ensure we were completing all expectations for proper notification to our inmates. Despite being a change to our procedure, we found by posting our 2016 Mult-Day [sic] Religious meal Accommodation & Congregate Meal Dates to our chapel, library, and RSHU ...

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