United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin
TREVOR C. BURTTON, Plaintiff,
KENOSHA COUNTY JAIL, KENOSHA COUNTY SHERIFF, and CHAPLAIN HASAN HAKEEM, Defendants.
Stadtmueller U.S. District Judge.
Trevor C. Burtton, who is incarcerated at the Kenosha County
Jail (the “Jail”), proceeds in this matter
pro se. He filed a complaint alleging that
Defendants violated his constitutional rights. (Docket #1).
This matter comes before the court on Plaintiff's motion
to proceed without prepayment of the filing fee (in forma
pauperis). (Docket #2). Due to Plaintiff's
indigence, the Court waived payment of an initial partial
filing fee in his case. (Docket #6). The Court proceeds to
screen the complaint.
court shall screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking
relief against a governmental entity or an 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. Id. §
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); Hutchinson ex rel. Baker v. Spink, 126 F.3d
895, 900 (7th Cir. 1997). 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.
“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- 10 (7th Cir. 2003)
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 Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S.
41, 47 (1957)). However, a complaint that offers mere
“labels and conclusions” or a “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's
allegations “must be enough to raise a right to relief
above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550
U.S. at 555 (citation omitted).
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, second, “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. Section 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. County of Milwaukee, 570 F.3d 824, 827 (7th Cir.
2009) (citing Kramer v. Vill. of N. 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,
alleges that he is Jewish and desires to eat kosher meals.
(Docket #1 at 3). These were apparently being provided to him
during his stay at the Jail until November 27, 2018.
Id. at 2. On that day, a correctional officer named
Julie Meltzer (“Meltzer”) observed Plaintiff
trading his kosher food with other inmates. Id.
Plaintiff does not expressly state that Meltzer was mistaken,
but his allegations suggest that he might dispute her
account. Id. at 2-3. In any event, Defendant
Chaplain Hasan Hakeem (“Hakeem”) was notified of
Meltzer's observations and promptly disallowed Plaintiff
from receiving kosher meals. Id. at 3. Plaintiff
went on a brief hunger strike to protest Hakeem's
punishment, but he soon relented and ate non-kosher meals
against his religious beliefs. Id. Plaintiff seeks
damages and an order that Hakeem no longer be allowed to
remove someone from the religious meal program. Id.
at 4. Plaintiff instead suggests that rule-breakers should be
given a punishment such as a warning or time in solitary
allegations invoke two related protections for religious
beliefs. The first is the Free Exercise Clause of the First
Amendment, which forbids prison officials from imposing a
substantial burden on the free exercise of religion, unless
the burden is reasonably related to a legitimate penological
interest. Kaufamn v. Pugh, 733 F.3d 692, 696 (7th
Cir. 2013). In determining whether prison officials'
asserted justification for a burden is rationally related to
a legitimate penological objective, courts consider whether
there are alternative means of exercising the right that
remain open to the inmate, the impact an accommodation of the
asserted right would have on guards and other inmates, and
whether there are “obvious alternatives” to the
restriction. Ortiz v. Downey, 561 F.3d 664, 669 (7th
second protection is in the form of a statute, the Religious
Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act
(“RLUIPA”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-1(a). The
RLUIPA offers broader protections than the First Amendment.
Grayson v. Schuler, 666 F.3d 450, 451 (7th Cir.
2012). It applies to state and local governments and to those
acting under color of state law. See 42 U.S.C.
§ 2000cc-5(4). The RLUIPA prohibits the imposition of a
substantial burden on an inmate's religious exercise
unless the burden furthers a “compelling”
government interest and it is the “least
restrictive” means of doing so. 42 U.S.C. §
2000cc-1(a). However, unlike the First Amendment, the RLUIPA
only provides for prospective injunctive relief. West v.
Grams, 607 Fed.Appx. 561, 566 (7th Cir. 2015).
light of the lenient standard of review applied at the
screening stage, the Court finds that Plaintiff's
allegations support claims under both the First Amendment and
the RLUIPA. Plaintiff plainly states that his religious
exercise was burdened by Hakeem's action, and he seeks
both monetary and injunctive relief. Hakeem may argue that
the Jail has a compelling interest in having religious
inmates abide by the rules of the meal programs, but that
assertion cannot be considered at screening. The Court will
dismiss the Jail and the Kenosha County Sheriff, as the Jail
is not a suable entity, and the sheriff is not alleged to
have done anything to Plaintiff.
light of the foregoing, the Court finds that Plaintiff may
proceed on the following claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
Claim One: Denial of kosher meals to
Plaintiff, in violation of his rights under the Free Exercise
Clause of the First Amendment, by Hakeem, wherein Plaintiff
seeks monetary damages; and
Claim Two: Denial of kosher meals to
Plaintiff, in violation of his rights under the Religious
Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, by Hakeem,