Bankston v. IDOC et al
ORDER REFERRING CASE to Magistrate Judge Donald G. Wilkerson. Signed by Judge Nancy J. Rosenstengel on 9/15/2016. (tjk)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS
Case No. 15 cv–1275 NJR
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
ROSENSTENGEL, District Judge:
Plaintiff Johnnie Bankston, an inmate in Pontiac Correctional Center, brings this action
for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for events that occurred
at Shawnee Correctional Center. On September 8, 2016, Plaintiff notified the Court that he is
currently at Pontiac on a writ, but he expects to be returned to Shawnee (which is consistent with
the information on the website for the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”) that shows
he is still at Shawnee). Bankston requests injunctive relief and damages based on the refusal to
allow him to practice his chosen religion.
This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the Complaint pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 1915A, which provides:
(a) Screening – The court shall review, before docketing, if feasible or, in any
event, as soon as practicable after docketing, a complaint in a civil action in which a
prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a
(b) Grounds for Dismissal – On review, the court shall identify
cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the
(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim on which
relief may be granted; or
(2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune
from such relief.
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An action or claim is frivolous if “it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact.”
Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). Frivolousness is an objective standard that refers
to a claim that any reasonable person would find meritless. Lee v. Clinton, 209 F.3d 1025, 102627 (7th Cir. 2000). An action fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted if it does not
plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). The claim of entitlement to relief must cross “the line
between possibility and plausibility.” Id. at 557. At this juncture, the factual allegations of the
pro se complaint are to be liberally construed. See Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577
F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009).
Bankston originally filed this action on November 16, 2015. (Doc. 1). The Court
undertook to screen the Complaint on December 15, 2015, but because Bankston failed to sign it,
the Court instead directed him to file a signed amended complaint. (Doc. 6). Bankston then
requested an extension of time in which to file the amended complaint. (Doc. 9). The Court
granted that motion, and on January 28, 2016, Bankston filed the First Amended Complaint.
Bankston is a member of the Nation of Gods and Earths. (Doc. 12, p. 2). On March 30,
2015, he met with Chaplain Williams to discuss organizing services for his religion. (Doc. 12, p.
2). Bankston’s beliefs require a Parliament to be held once a month, along with weekly
civilization classes. (Doc. 12, p. 2). Bankston also requested permission to use the emblem of the
church. (Doc. 12, p. 2). Bankston alleges that Williams agreed and told Bankston that services
would be held on April 4, 2015. (Doc. 12, p. 2). Yet Bankston was not issued a call pass when
that date arrived. (Doc. 12, p. 2). Bankston filed a grievance on this issue on May 16, 2015.
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(Doc. 12, p. 2). He then asked Williams about the missed service in person. (Doc. 12, p. 2).
Williams told Bankston that he had been out of town on April 4, 2015, but that he would call
services for the members the next week. (Doc. 12, p. 2). No service was held, and Bankston
wrote another grievance on June 20. (Doc. 12, p. 3).
On September 17, 2015, Bankston received a memorandum from the Chaplain regarding
his request. (Doc. 12, p. 3). Bankston spoke to the Chaplain in person again on October 14, 2015,
at which time Williams told Bankston that services would not be held unless Bankston could stay
out of segregation. (Doc. 12, p. 3). Bankston also alleges that certain institutions within the
IDOC, including Shawnee, have put the Nation of Gods and Earths on the security threat group
list, in violation the constitutional rights of its members.
Based on the allegations of the First Amended Complaint, the Court finds it convenient to
divide the pro se action into three counts. The parties and the Court will use these designations in
all future pleadings and orders, unless otherwise directed by a judicial officer of this Court. The
following claims survive threshold review:
Defendant Williams violated Plaintiff’s First Amendment
rights when he refused to hold services for the Nation of Gods
Defendant Williams violated Plaintiff’s rights under the
Religious Land Use and Institutional Persons Act (RLUIPA)
when he refused to hold services for the Nation of Gods and
Plaintiff’s First Amendment rights were violated when the
Nation of Gods and Earths was designated a security threat
As to Count 1, an inmate is entitled to practice his religion under the First Amendment
“insofar as doing so does not unduly burden the administration of the prison.” Hunafa v. Murphy,
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907 F.2d 46, 47 (7th Cir. 1990). A rule impinging on that right “is valid if it is reasonably related
to legitimate penological interests.” Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S.78, 89 (1987). Restrictions on
access to religious services and other opportunities are reviewed in light of the four Turner
factors: (1) whether there is a valid and rational connection between the regulation prohibiting
access and a legitimate governmental interest to justify it; (2) whether there are alternative means
of exercising the right to practice religion that remain open to inmates; (3) whether
accommodation of the right to practice would have a significant impact on prison staff or other
inmates; and (4) whether the regulation is reasonable in terms of allowing prisoners use of
available alternatives. Turner, 482 U.S. at 78; see also Beard v. Banks, 548 U.S. 521 (2006). In
light of this authority, Defendant Williams’s denial of Bankston’s request to hold services along
with other inmates states a First Amendment claim that withstands scrutiny under § 1915A at
this early stage of the case.
Turning to the RLUIPA claim in Count 2, this statute provides that “[n]o government
shall impose a substantial burden on the religious exercise of a person residing in or confined to
an institution, . . . even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability, unless the
government demonstrates that imposition of the burden on that person (1) is in furtherance of a
compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that
compelling governmental interest.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-1(a).
Notably, money damages are not available to a plaintiff under RLUIPA. Vinning-El v.
Evans, 657 F.3d 591, 592 (7th Cir. 2011) (money damages are not available in suits against a
state under the RLUIPA; further, money damages cannot be awarded against public employees
in their personal capacities (citing Sossamon v. Texas, 563 U.S. 277 (2011)); Will v. Michigan
Department of State Police, 491 U.S. 58 (1989); Nelson v. Miller, 570 F.3d 868 (7th Cir. 2009)).
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Bankston could seek injunctive relief under the RLUIPA, however, he is no longer housed at
Shawnee, where his claims against Defendant Williams arose. “[W]hen a prisoner who seeks
injunctive relief for a condition specific to a particular prison is transferred out of that prison, the
need for relief, and hence the prisoner’s claim, become moot.” Lehn v. Holmes, 364 F.3d 862,
871 (7th Cir. 2004). See also Higgason v. Farley, 83 F.3d 807, 811 (7th Cir. 1995). Only if
Bankston can show a realistic possibility that he would again be incarcerated at Shawnee under
the conditions described in the Amended Complaint, would it be proper for the Court to consider
injunctive relief in this action. See Maddox v. Love, 655 F.3d 709, 716 (7th Cir. 2011) (citing
Ortiz v. Downey, 561 F.3d 664, 668 (7th Cir. 2009)). The Court finds that Bankston has made
this showing here, however, as his last change of address indicates he expected to spend a week
at Pontiac, starting on September 9, 2016, and that week has not yet expired. The Court will
allow Bankston’s claim for injunctive relief in Count 2 to proceed at this time, although if
Bankston were transferred away from Shawnee permanently, his claim would be moot.
Count 3 must be dismissed, however. Bankston has alleged that the designation of the
Nation of Gods and Earths as a security threat group was improper. While Bankston named both
the IDOC and its Director, John Baldwin, in his original unsigned Complaint, neither of those
parties is mentioned in the First Amended Complaint, which has the effect of terminating them
from this litigation. (Doc. 12). Bankston also has not alleged that Williams made the allegedly
improper designation. In order to be held individually liable, a defendant must be “personally
responsible for the deprivation of a constitutional right.” Sanville v. McCaughtry, 266 F.3d 724,
740 (7th Cir. 2001) (quoting Chavez v. Ill. State Police, 251 F.3d 612, 651 (7th Cir. 2001)). See
also Monell v. Dep’t of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658 (1978). Count 3 fails because Bankston has not
alleged that Williams was responsible for designating his religion as a security threat group, and
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Bankston has not described or attempted to identify any other defendant who might have done
so. Dismissal of this count shall be without prejudice.
Bankston’s Motion to Appoint Counsel (Doc. 3) will be referred to Magistrate Judge
Donald G. Wilkerson for disposition.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that COUNTS 1 and 2 shall proceed in this litigation.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that COUNT 3 fails to state a claim upon which relief may
be granted, and thus is DISMISSED without prejudice.
IT IS ORDERED that the Clerk of Court shall prepare for Defendant Williams:
(1) Form 5 (Notice of a Lawsuit and Request to Waive Service of a Summons), and (2) Form 6
(Waiver of Service of Summons). The Clerk is DIRECTED to mail these forms, a copy of the
complaint, and this Memorandum and Order to Defendant’s place of employment as identified
by Plaintiff. If Defendant fails to sign and return the Waiver of Service of Summons (Form 6) to
the Clerk within 30 days from the date the forms were sent, the Clerk shall take appropriate steps
to effect formal service on Defendant, and the Court will require Defendant to pay the full costs
of formal service, to the extent authorized by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that, if Defendant cannot be found at the work address
provided by Plaintiff, the employer shall furnish the Clerk with Defendant’s current work
address, or, if not known, Defendant’s last-known address. This information shall be used only
for sending the forms as directed above or for formally effecting service. Any documentation of
the address shall be retained only by the Clerk. Address information shall not be maintained in
the court file or disclosed by the Clerk.
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IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Plaintiff shall serve upon Defendant (or upon
defense counsel once an appearance is entered), a copy of every pleading or other document
submitted for consideration by the Court. Plaintiff shall include with the original paper to be filed
a certificate stating the date on which a true and correct copy of the document was served on
Defendant or counsel. Any paper received by a district judge or magistrate judge that has not
been filed with the Clerk or that fails to include a certificate of service will be disregarded by the
Defendant is ORDERED to timely file an appropriate responsive pleading to the
complaint and shall not waive filing a reply pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(g).
Pursuant to Local Rule 72.1(a)(2), this action is REFERRED to United States Magistrate
Judge Donald J. Wilkerson for further pre-trial proceedings.
Further, this entire matter is REFERRED to United States Magistrate Judge Wilkerson
for disposition, as contemplated by Local Rule 72.2(b)(2) and 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), should all the
parties consent to such a referral.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that if judgment is rendered against Plaintiff, and the
judgment includes the payment of costs under Section 1915, Plaintiff will be required to pay the
full amount of the costs, notwithstanding that his application to proceed in forma pauperis has
been granted. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(f)(2)(A).
Plaintiff is ADVISED that at the time application was made under 28 U.S.C. § 1915 for
leave to commence this civil action without being required to prepay fees and costs or give
security for the same, he and his attorney were deemed to have entered into a stipulation that the
recovery, if any, secured in the action shall be paid to the Clerk of the Court, who shall pay
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therefrom all unpaid costs taxed against plaintiff and remit the balance to plaintiff. Local Rule
Finally, Plaintiff is ADVISED that he is under a continuing obligation to keep the Clerk
of Court and each opposing party informed of any change in his address; the Court will not
independently investigate his whereabouts. This shall be done in writing and not later than 7
days after a transfer or other change in address occurs. Failure to comply with this order will
cause a delay in the transmission of court documents and may result in dismissal of this action
for want of prosecution. See FED. R. CIV. P. 41(b).
IT IS SO ORDERED.
DATED: September 15, 2016
NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL
United States District Judge
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