Troutman v. Miami Correctional Facility et al
OPINION AND ORDER: Plaintiff, Michael Troutman is GRANTED leave to proceed against Kathy Griffin, Sharon Hawk, Chaplain William Croto, and Chaplain Alex Beane in their individual capacities for monetary damages for violating his free exercise of religion in violation of the First Amendment by prohibiting him from attending Friday worship services after the end of his work shift; GRANTED leave to proceed against Kathy Griffin in her official capacity for injunctive relief for violating his rights under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) by prohibiting him from attending Friday worship services after the end of his work shift; GRANTED leave to proceed against Sharon Hawk and Carolyn Short in their indivi dual capacities for monetary damages for firing him in retaliation for filing administrative grievances, in violation of the First Amendment; GRANTED leave to proceed against Chaplain Alex Beane and Sgt. J. Heater in their individual capacities f or monetary damages for retaliating against him by issuing false Conduct Reports for filing administrative grievances, in violation of the First Amendment; GRANTED leave to proceed against Sharon Hawk, Sandy Roark, and Carolyn Short in their indi vidual capacities for monetary damages for intentionally discriminating against him on the basis of his race or religion in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection Clause; DISMISSES all other claims; DISMISSES Miami Correctional Facil ity, Craig Grage, Sgt. Brenda Bowman, Amy Clark, Lorna Harbourgh, The Indiana Dept. of Correction, Bruce Lemmon, James Basinger, William Wilson, Charlene Burkett, Prison Enterprise Network, and Doug Evans; DIRECTS the Clerk to lift the stay in th is case; and ORDERS, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(g)(2), that Kathy Griffin, Sharon Hawk, Chaplain William Croto, Chaplain Alex Beane, Carolyn Short, Sandy Roark, and Sgt. J. Heater respond, as provided for in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and N.D. Ind. L.R. 10-1(b), only to the claims for which the plaintiff has been granted leave to proceed in this screening order. Signed by Judge Philip P Simon on 8/25/2017. (Copy mailed to pro se party)(lhc)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
SOUTH BEND DIVISION
MIAMI CORRECTIONAL FACILITY,
CAUSE NO. 3:17-CV-409–PPS-MGG
OPINION AND ORDER
Michael Troutman, a pro se prisoner, filed a complaint that can only be described as
a blunderbuss. It’s brought against 19 defendants that he encountered while incarcerated
at the Miami Correctional Facility. ECF 5. At times, Troutman’s complaint is unclear. As
best I can tell, the gist of his complaint centers around two things: his employment at a
prison work program named the Prison Enterprise Network (PEN); and his inability to
attend Friday evening Islamic services at the prison. As for the specific claims he is raising,
although again unclear, I believe they are set out in his request for declaratory judgment.
See ECF 5 at 44-45. Thus, for purposes of clearly identifying his claims, I will rely on that
section of Troutman’s complaint for guidance.
“A document filed pro se is to be liberally construed, and a pro se complaint, however
inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted
by lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quotation marks and citations
omitted). Nevertheless, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, I must review the merits of a
prisoner complaint and dismiss it if the action is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim
upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is
immune from such relief.
As a threshold matter, Troutman’s complaint contains several claims against the
PEN program and the Miami Correctional Facility (“Miami”). However, neither are suable
entities because they are merely divisions of the Indiana Department of Correction. Neither
PEN nor Miami are legal entities separate from the agency they serve, and therefore they
are not subject to suit. See Whiting v. Marathon Cty. Sheriff’s Dep’t, 382 F.3d 700, 704 (7th Cir.
Free Exercise and RLUIPA Claims
Troutman’s first claim is that Superintendent Kathy Griffin, Assistant
Superintendent of Operations Craig Grage, Assistant Superintendent of Programs Sharon
Hawk, Chaplain William Croto, and Chaplain Alex Beane violated his right to free exercise
of his religion. Troutman, a Muslim, was hired as an inmate worker in the PEN program
in May 2015. ECF 5 at 14. His shift at PEN was from 6:45 a.m. to 2:15 p.m., Monday through
Friday. According to Troutman, between May 2015 and January 2016, he was permitted to
go directly to Friday prayer after the conclusion of his shift. Id. at 15. However, on February
5, 2016, Chaplains Croto and Beane told him that Assistant Superintendent Hawk said he
could not go to Friday service anymore. He claims that he sent complaints to Grage, Hawk,
and Griffin but they never responded. He also sent a complaint to Chaplain Beane, who
responded that Troutman had not been permitted to go to the service because he had
turned in his paperwork late.
In March 2016, Troutman submitted a complaint with the Department of Justice and
sent a copy of his complaint to Assistant Superintendent Hawk. He also wrote a complaint
to Assistant Superintendent Grage, but Grage responded that he did not oversee prison
programs and he forwarded the complaint to a different department within the prison.
Troutman sent additional complaints to Hawk, Griffin, and Grage, and forwarded copies
of his complaints to Defendants IDOC Commissioner Bruce Lemmon, IDOC Deputy
Commissioner James Basinger, and Executive Director of IDOC Adult Facilities William
In April 2016, Assistant Superintendent Hawk responded to Troutman’s complaint.
Hawk told Troutman that to fix his schedule conflict he would have to quit his job at PEN
and apply for a different job. Hawk stated in her response that she would “make this
happen.” Two hours after he received Hawk’s response, PEN Shop Supervisor Short
informed Troutman that he had been fired because he was unhappy and had filed
numerous grievances about the schedule conflict. Troutman claims that Short already had
prepared a negative job evaluation for him, in anticipation of his termination. Short told
him that the decision to terminate his employment had come from Miami, not PEN.
Troutman claims that PEN Plant Manager Roark and Short then prepared a “false
classification hearing report,” ECF 5 at 26, and they again reiterated that the termination
decision had come from Miami. He was given 90 days unpaid time to find another job.
After his termination, Troutman wrote to Hawk. Hawk claimed that she was not
involved in his termination. He claims that when he wrote to Roark, Roark told him that
he was fired because he had missed too many days of work. He claims that Classification
Supervisor Clark told him that he was fired because he received a negative job evaluation.
He also claims that he wrote to Doug Evans, the CEO of PEN, but Evans did not respond.
Troutman argues that Griffin, Grage, Hawk, Croto, and Beane violated his First
Amendment right to free exercise of his religion by prohibiting him from attending Friday
prayer after his shift ended at PEN. He also claims that these defendants violated his rights
under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA). Prisoners have
a right to exercise their religion under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.
Vinning-El v. Evans, 657 F.3d 591, 592-93 (7th Cir. 2011). Nevertheless, restrictions that limit
the exercise of religion are permissible if they are reasonably related to legitimate
penological objectives, which include safety, security, and economic concerns. Turner v.
Safley, 482 U.S. 78, 89-91 (1987).
RLUIPA affords even broader protections than the First Amendment by providing
that “No government shall impose a substantial burden on the religious exercise of a
person residing in or confined to an institution . . . 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); see generally Holt v. Hobbs, 135 S. Ct. 853
(2015). A particular restriction imposes a substantial burden on an inmate’s religious
practice when it “ ‘seriously’ violates or contradicts an inmate’s religious beliefs.” West v.
Grams, 607 F. App’x 561, 567 (7th Cir. 2015) (citation omitted). However, the statute does
not authorize an award of money damages against state officials; an inmate may only
obtain injunctive relief under RLUIPA. See Sossamon v. Texas, 563 U.S. 277, 285 (2011).
Troutman may proceed with his First Amendment claim against Griffin, Hawk,
Croto, and Beane. At this stage of the litigation, it appears that Troutman, and other
Muslim inmates in his job assignment, were prohibited from attending Friday night service
because their job assignment conflicted with attendance at the service. However, it remains
unclear whether there was a legitimate reason for imposing restrictions on this practice.
But, given the inferences to which Troutman is entitled, he has stated a plausible claim
against Defendants Griffin, Hawk, Croto, and Beane and may proceed against them in their
individual capacities for monetary and injunctive relief. Troutman may also proceed
against Defendant Griffin in her official capacity for injunctive relief for violating RLUIPA.
Defendant Grage, however, will be dismissed. When Troutman contacted Grage,
Grage informed him that, as Assistant Superintendent of Operations, he did not oversee
religious programs. Grage then forwarded Troutman’s complaint to the appropriate
department. Grage was not responsible for the alleged violations of Troutman’s rights, and
took action to see that his complaints were addressed by the appropriate people. Troutman
has failed to allege how Grage was personally involved in violating his federal rights.
Therefore, he may not proceed with his First Amendment claim against Grage.
Troutman also claims that Defendants Griffin, Grage, Hawk, Croto, and Beane
violated his rights under RLUIPA by periodically cancelling the Friday prayer service. The
Friday service was cancelled on April 3, 2015 and July 3, 2015 due to the State holiday of
Good Friday and Independence Day. ECF 5 at 14. The facility cancelled these two services
due to the unavailability of a chaplain or outside volunteer to lead the services, as well as
staff shortages. The prayer service was again cancelled on January 1, 2016, presumably for
the same administrative reasons. The cancellation of these three services over a nine-month
period does not plausibly identify a substantial burden on Troutman’s free exercise of his
faith. Cf. Turner v. Hamblin, 590 F. App’x 616, 620 (7th Cir. 2014) (affirming denial of
prisoner’s claim that, in light of the frequently cancelled Islamic services, the prison’s ban
on inmate-led services substantially burdened his free religious exercise); Maddox v. Love,
655 F.3d 709, 718–19 (7th Cir. 2011) (“Prisons need not provide every religious sect or group
within a prison with identical facilities or personnel and need not employ chaplains
representing every faith among the inmate population”). Due to the de minimus nature of
the cancellations, Troutman may not proceed on this claim.
Troutman also raises a number of retaliation claims. He claims that Superintendent
Griffin, Assistant Superintendent Grage, and Assistant Superintendent Hawk colluded
with PEN Plant Manager Sandy Roark and PEN Shop Supervisor Carolyn Short to fire him
in retaliation for filing grievances regarding his access to Friday prayer service. ECF 5 at
30, 45. “To prevail on his First Amendment retaliation claim, [Troutman] must show that
(1) he engaged in activity protected by the First Amendment; (2) he suffered a deprivation
that would likely deter First Amendment activity in the future; and (3) the First
Amendment activity was at least a motivating factor in the Defendants’ decision to take the
retaliatory action.” Gomez v. Randle, 680 F.3d 859, 866 (7th Cir. 2012) (quotation marks and
citations omitted). Here, his prison grievances constitute protected speech. He claims that
Hawk made the retaliatory decision to terminate him from the job, and that Short
knowingly participated in the scheme. He has adequately pleaded his retaliation claim
against Defendants Hawk and Short.
He has not, however, stated a plausible claim against Defendants Griffin, Grage, or
Roark. He has not made any factual allegation that these Defendants were aware of the
retaliatory plan prior to its enactment. His claim that he complained to these defendants
after he was terminated is insufficient to establish these defendants’ personal involvement
in the retaliatory act itself. Thus, the retaliation claim against Defendant Griffin, Grage, and
Roark will be dismissed.
Troutman also alleges that Grievance Specialist Brenda Bowman and Classification
Supervisor Amy Clark retaliated against him for filing administrative grievances. He does
not specify how they retaliated against him. ECF 5 at 45. His only factual allegation against
these defendants is that they inadequately responded to grievances and complaints that he
sent them. ECF 28-29. His allegations amount to little more than disagreement with the
answers they provided to his complaints. Troutman has not stated a plausible claim of
retaliation against Defendants Bowman and Clark because he has not sufficiently pled
retaliatory motive, and has not identified a deprivation that would likely deter First
Amendment activity in the future. Therefore, the retaliation claim against Defendants
Bowman and Clark will be dismissed.
Troutman’s final retaliation claim is that Chaplain Beane and Sergeant Heater issued
false conduct reports against him in retaliation for grievances that he filed. He asserts that
Chaplain Beane falsely charged him with lying to staff, and that this charge was later
dismissed by the disciplinary hearing officer. He claims that Heater falsely charged him
with possession of unauthorized prayer oils. He argues that although prison staff
ultimately permitted him to have his prayer oils, Heater had stored them in such a way that
the oils had spilled and the bottles had emptied. Troutman may proceed with his
retaliation claims against Defendants Beane and Heater.
Failure to Intervene Claims
Troutman argues that Defendants IDOC, Grievance Specialist Bowman,
Classification Supervisor Clark, Director of Indiana Ombudsman Service Charlene Burkett,
Director of Investigations and Intelligence Lorna Harbourgh, IDOC Commissioner Bruce
Lemmon, Deputy Commissioner of Operations James Basinger, Executive Director of Adult
Facilities William Wilson, and PEN CEO Doug Evans knew about the retaliation, but failed
to intervene. A prison official “can be held liable under § 1983 if [he] (1) had reason to
know that a fellow officer was . . . committing a constitutional violation, and (2) had a
realistic opportunity to intervene to prevent the act from occurring.” Lewis v. Downey, 581
F.3d 467, 472 (7th Cir. 2009). Troutman does not allege that any of these defendants knew
he was going to be fired in retaliation, prior to his termination. Thus, it cannot plausibly
be inferred that these defendants had a realistic opportunity to intervene and prevent his
termination. He may not proceed with his failure to intervene claim against Defendants
Bowman, Clark, Burkett, Harbourgh, Lemmon, Basinger, or Wilson.
Troutman may not proceed with his failure to intervene claim against the IDOC for
an additional reason. Only a “person” may be sued under Section 1983. 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
Neither a State nor its agencies are considered “persons” who may be sued. Will v.
Michigan Dep’t of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 70-71 (1989). In Indiana, the IDOC, as a state
agency, is not considered a “person.” McDole v. Indiana Dept. Of Correction, No. 2:11-cv-232,
2012 WL 130411 (S.D. Ind. Jan. 17, 2012) (noting that the IDOC is an arm of the State and
not a “person” for the purposes of Section 1983). Therefore, Troutman’s failure to intervene
claim against the IDOC will be dismissed for this reason too.1
Equal Protection Claims
Troutman claims that Defendants Hawk, Roark, and Short’s involvement in his
termination was motivated by religious and racial animus in violation of the Equal
Protection Clause. He claims that the prison strategically scheduled Christian services so
that Christian inmates would not face a conflict between their prison job schedules and
their religious service schedules. He also claims that similarly situated white workers were
It is worth noting that the Eleventh Amendment bars a suit against a State or state agency in federal
court unless the State has consented to be sued or Congress has abrogated the State’s sovereign immunity.
Alabama v. Pugh, 438 U.S. 781, 782 (1978). Thus, the IDOC would typically be entitled to immunity under the
Eleventh Amendment in federal court. Wynn v. Southward, 251 F.3d 588, 592 (7th Cir. 2001). However, when
the State removes a case from state court to federal court, such as it did here, the State waives that immunity.
Lapides v. Board of Regents of University System of Georgia, 535 U.S. 613, 618-19 (2002).
allowed to remain employed at PEN, while he was terminated. Giving Troutman the
deference his claims are due at this stage of the litigation, he has sufficiently stated an equal
protection claim against Defendants Hawk, Roark, and Short. These allegations state a
Nevertheless, as these claims move forward it will be important to keep in mind that
the standards for evaluating race and religion claims are different in the prison context.
Race claims do not afford nearly as much deference to the penological concerns of prison
The right not to be discriminated against based on one’s race is not
susceptible to the logic of Turner. It is not a right that need necessarily be
compromised for the sake of proper prison administration. On the contrary,
compliance with the Fourteenth Amendment’s ban on racial discrimination
is not only consistent with proper prison administration, but also bolsters the
legitimacy of the entire criminal justice system. Race discrimination is
especially pernicious in the administration of justice. And public respect for
our system of justice is undermined when the system discriminates based on
Johnson v. California, 543 U.S. 499, 510–11 (2005) (quotation marks and citation omitted).
On the other hand, the standard for religion claims is not nearly as strict.
In providing [an] opportunity, the efforts of prison administrators,
when assessed in their totality, must be evenhanded. Prisons cannot
discriminate against a particular religion except to the extent required by the
exigencies of prison administration. The rights of inmates belonging to
minority or non-traditional religions must be respected to the same degree
as the rights of those belonging to larger and more traditional
denominations. Of course, economic and, at times, security constraints may
require that the needs of inmates adhering to one faith be accommodated
differently from those adhering to another. The treatment of all inmates must
be qualitatively comparable.
Maddox v. Love, 655 F.3d 709, 719–20 (7th Cir. 2011) (citations, quotation marks, and
Troutman claims that all Defendants conspired with each other to violate his federal
rights. This claim implicates the intra-corporate conspiracy doctrine and will be dismissed.
Under this doctrine, a “conspiracy cannot exist solely between members of the same
entity.” Beese v. Todd, 35 F. App’x 241, 243 (7th Cir. 2002) (internal quotation omitted) (each
of the defendants were members of the same entity, the Wisconsin Department of
Corrections, and thus could not be sued under Section 1985 for conspiracy). Therefore, this
claim will be dismissed.
Due Process Claims
Troutman claims that Defendants Hawk, Roark, and Short violated his due process
rights by terminating his position at PEN. However, “[t]he Constitution does not give
prisoners any substantive entitlements to prison employment.” Soule v. Potts, 676 F. App’x
585, 586 (7th Cir. 2017); see also DeWalt v. Carter, 224 F.3d 607, 613 (7th Cir. 2000) (the Due
Process Clause does not afford prisoners a liberty or property interest in their jobs and
therefore inmate-plaintiff had no procedural due process claim regarding the loss of his
job). This claim will be dismissed.
Troutman also alleges that Defendant Hawk violated his due process right to a fair
and impartial decision-maker by presiding over his classification hearing. As part of his
termination from PEN, Troutman’s classification status was altered. He argues that Hawk
should not have considered the propriety of his classification change because she was
involved in his termination and classification change from the beginning. To the extent that
Troutman’s amended classification resulted in an increase in his sentence, he was entitled
to the procedural due process protections enumerated in Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539
(1974). One of these protections is the right to an impartial decision-maker. However, “in
order to recover damages for allegedly unconstitutional conviction or imprisonment, or for
other harm caused by actions whose unlawfulness would render a conviction or sentence
invalid, a § 1983 plaintiff must prove that the conviction or sentence has been reversed on
direct appeal, expunged by executive order, declared invalid by a state tribunal authorized
to make such determination, or called into question by a federal court’s issuance of a writ
of habeas corpus, 28 U.S.C. § 2254.” Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 486-87 (1994). “Thus
when a state prisoner seeks damages in a § 1983 suit, the district court must consider
whether a judgment in favor of the plaintiff would necessarily imply
the invalidity of his
conviction or sentence; if it would, the complaint must be dismissed unless the plaintiff can
demonstrate that the conviction or sentence has already been invalidated.” Id. Because
Troutman has not established that his re-classification has been invalidated, he may not
proceed with this claim.
(1) Michael Troutman is GRANTED leave to proceed against Kathy Griffin, Sharon
Hawk, Chaplain William Croto, and Chaplain Alex Beane in their individual capacities for
monetary damages for violating his free exercise of religion in violation of the First
Amendment by prohibiting him from attending Friday worship services after the end of
his work shift;
(2) Michael Troutman is GRANTED leave to proceed against Kathy Griffin in her
official capacity for injunctive relief for violating his rights under the Religious Land Use
and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) by prohibiting him from attending Friday
worship services after the end of his work shift;
(3) Michael Troutman is GRANTED leave to proceed against Sharon Hawk and
Carolyn Short in their individual capacities for monetary damages for firing him in
retaliation for filing administrative grievances, in violation of the First Amendment;
(4) Michael Troutman is GRANTED leave to proceed against Chaplain Alex Beane
and Sgt. J. Heater in their individual capacities for monetary damages for retaliating
against him by issuing false Conduct Reports for filing administrative grievances, in
violation of the First Amendment;
(5) Michael Troutman is GRANTED leave to proceed against Sharon Hawk, Sandy
Roark, and Carolyn Short in their individual capacities for monetary damages for
intentionally discriminating against him on the basis of his race or religion in violation of
the Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection Clause;
(6) DISMISSES all other claims;
(7) DISMISSES Miami Correctional Facility, Craig Grage, Sgt. Brenda Bowman,
Amy Clark, Lorna Harbourgh, The Indiana Dept. of Correction, Bruce Lemmon, James
Basinger, William Wilson, Charlene Burkett, Prison Enterprise Network, and Doug Evans;
(8) DIRECTS the Clerk to lift the stay in this case; and
(9) ORDERS, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(g)(2), that Kathy Griffin, Sharon Hawk,
Chaplain William Croto, Chaplain Alex Beane, Carolyn Short, Sandy Roark, and Sgt. J.
Heater respond, as provided for in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and N.D. Ind. L.R.
10-1(b), only to the claims for which the plaintiff has been granted leave to proceed in this
ENTERED: August 25, 2017
_/s Philip P. Simon____________
United States District Court
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