SEAL v. RICHARDSON et al
ORDER granting in part and denying in part Defendants' 16 Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim. The motion is granted as follows: The RLUIPA claim against Madison County is dismissed. Any claim for injunctive relief is dismissed . Finally, any First Amendment claim against any defendant in his or her official capacity is dismissed. The motion is denied as follows: Any RLUIPA claim for damages against a defendant in his or her official capacity shall proceed. In addition, the First Amendment claim against Michelle Sumpter in her individual capacity shall proceed. Sumpter shall have 21 days after this Entry to file an Answer. Counsel who has appeared on behalf on Richardson is requested to either obtain Richardson 039;s consent to waive service of a summons or notify the Court, through an ex parte filing if necessary, of Richardson's last known address. Counsel shall have thirty days to do so. Copy to Plaintiff via U.S. Mail. Signed by Judge William T. Lawrence on 3/17/2017. (MAC)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
ROBERT A SEAL,
RONALD RICHARDSON Sheriff, Madison
ANDY WILLIAMS Jail Commander,
MICHELLE SUMPTER Supervisor, Madison
Entry Discussing Motion to Dismiss
Plaintiff Robert Seal is a prisoner incarcerated at the Indiana State Prison. He brings this
complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that his rights were violated while he was a
pretrial detainee at the Madison County Jail. Because Seal is a “prisoner” as defined by 28
U.S.C. § 1915(h), this Court screened his complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b) and
permitted the following claims to proceed: (1) the claim all of the defendants violated that his
rights under Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”) when he was not
provided with a halal diet; and (2) his claims that defendants Ronald Richardson, Andy
Williams, and Michelle Sumpter violated his First Amendment rights. The First Amendment
claim against Madison County (the “County”) was dismissed because there is no allegation that
the First Amendment violation was the result of a widespread county practice or policy. The
defendants now seek dismissal of a number of claims that the Court permitted to proceed. For the
reasons that follow, the motion to dismiss [dkt 17] is granted in part and denied in part.
The purpose of a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)
is to test the sufficiency of the complaint, not the merits of the suit. Triad Assocs., Inc. v. Chi.
Hous. Auth., 892 F.2d 583, 586 (7th Cir. 1989). The standard for assessing the procedural
sufficiency of pleadings is imposed by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), which requires
“a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Thus,
although the complaint need not recite “detailed factual allegations,” it must state enough facts
that, when accepted as true, “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 570 (2007). A claim is facially plausible when the plaintiff pleads
facts sufficient for the Court to infer that the defendant is liable for the alleged misconduct.
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The Twombly/Iqbal standard “is not akin to a
‘probability requirement’, but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted
unlawfully.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). By comparison, a complaint that merely
contains “labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action”
does not satisfy the factual plausibility standard. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.
In ruling on a motion to dismiss, the Court views the complaint in the light most
favorable to the plaintiff, accepting all well-pleaded factual allegations as true and drawing all
reasonable inferences from those allegations in favor of the plaintiff. Lee v. City of Chi., 330
F.3d 456, 459 (7th Cir. 2003). Pro se complaints such as that filed by the plaintiff are construed
liberally and held to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers. Obriecht
v. Raemisch, 517 F.3d 489, 491 n.2 (7th Cir. 2008). Additionally, the Court may not rely upon
evidence and facts outside of those alleged in the complaint in ruling on a motion to dismiss.
As discussed below, the defendants seek partial dismissal of Seal’s RLUIPA and First
A. RLUIPA Claims
First the defendants seek dismissal of Seal’s RLUIPA claims against Madison County
and against the defendants in their individual and official capacities.
1. Madison County
First, the County seeks dismissal of the RLUIPA claim against it because the County
does not maintain custody and control of the Jail. Indiana Code § 36-2-2-24(a) states the county
executive is responsible for establishing and maintaining a county jail. But the term “maintain”
imposes only a duty on the board of commissioners to keep the county jail in repair. Weatherholt
v. Spencer County, 639 N.E.2d 354, 356 (Ind. Ct. App. 1994). “Once the county establishes and
then reasonably maintains the jail, it is not responsible for administering the manner of an
inmate’s incarceration.” Id. at 356. Instead, the Jail is under the supervision of the county sheriff,
not the county’s board of commissioners. Ind. Code § 36-2-13-5(a)(7) (“the sheriff shall…take
care of the county jail and the prisoners there.”). Hooper v. Lain, 2015 WL 1942791, at *3-4
(N.D. Ind. 2015) (Indiana law does not create a duty of care on the part of the county to any
particular inmate). Because the sheriff is in charge of the Jail, not Madison County itself, it
cannot be held liable for actions that took place there. Accordingly, Seal’s claims against
Madison County must be dismissed.
2. Individual Defendants
Next, Williams and Sumpter move for dismissal of the RLUIPA claims against them
because RLUIPA does not allow suits against prison staff in their individual capacities. Nelson v.
Miller, 570 F.3d 868, 889 (7th Cir. 2009); Vinning-El v. Evans, 657 F.3d 591, 592 (7th Cir.
2011) (“RLUIPA does not authorize any kind of relief against public employees, as opposed to
governmental bodies that receive federal funds…”). Williams’ and Sumpter’s request for
dismissal of the RLUIPA claims against them in their individual capacities is granted.
3. Official Capacity Claims
The defendants also move to dismiss Seal’s RLUIPA claims for injunctive relief. Seal
seeks injunctive/declaratory relief to “require the Madison County Jail to provide religious diets
and/or vegan alternative meal.” Because Seal is no longer incarcerated at the Madison County
Jail, the defendants assert that his claim for injunctive relief is moot. Higgason v. Farley, 83 F.3d
807, 811 (7th Cir. 1996) (When “a prisoner is transferred to another prison, his request for
injunctive relief against officials of the first prison is moot unless he can demonstrate that he is
likely to be retransferred.”). Seal responds that he could be transferred back to the Jail because he
has pending proceedings for post-conviction relief. But “the mere possibility of re-transfer is
insufficient” to render a request for injunctive relief live. Shidler v. Moore, 446 F.Supp.2d 942,
946 (N.D. Ind. 2006). Here, while it is possible that Seal will be transferred back to the Jail, he
has not alleged that it is likely. Accordingly, his request for injunctive relief must be dismissed
Any claim for damages under RLUIPA against the defendants in their official capacities
is not moot, however, and can proceed. Cf. Centro Familiar Cristiano Buenas Nuevas v. City of
Yuma, 651 F.3d 1163, 1168 (9th Cir. 2011) (allowing monetary damages claim under RLUIPA
against a municipality); see also Opulent Life Church v. City of Holly Springs, Miss., 697 F.3d
279, 290 (5th Cir. 2012).
B. First Amendment Claims
The defendants also seek dismissal of the First Amendment claims against defendant
Michelle Sumpter in her individual capacity and against all of them in their official capacities.
1. Michelle Sumpter
Defendant Michelle Sumpter seeks dismissal of the claims against her arguing that Seal
does not allege that she personally participated in the alleged deprivation of Seal’s rights.
“A damages suit under § 1983 requires that a defendant be personally involved in the
alleged constitutional deprivation.” Matz v. Klotka, 769 F.3d 517, 528 (7th Cir. 2014); see Minix
v. Canarecci, 597 F.3d 824, 833 (7th Cir. 2010) (“[I]ndividual liability under § 1983 requires
‘personal involvement in the alleged constitutional deprivation.’”) (citation and quotation marks
omitted). Here, Seal alleges that Sumpter and the other defendants “failed to provide an adequate
diet in accordance with the Plaintiff Seal’s sincere religious beliefs.” Dkt. 1 at 4. This is
sufficient at the pleading stage to state a claim that Sumpter personally violated Swanson’s First
Amendment rights. Cf. Swanson v. Citibank, N.A., 614 F.3d 400, 405 (7th Cir. 2010) (to allege
an employment discrimination claim, all that was needed was to allege the type of
discrimination, by whom, and when). The motion to dismiss the First Amendment claim against
her is therefore denied.
2. Official Capacity Claims
Next, the defendants seek dismissal of any First Amendment claims against them in their
official capacity. Any claim against an individual defendant in his or her official capacity is in
essence a claim against the Sheriff. But a municipality is vicariously liable under 42 U.S.C.§
1983 for the alleged misdeeds of its employees only if the injury alleged is the result of a policy
or practice. Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816 (7th Cir. 2009). Because Seal
has made no claim that the defendants’ actions were the result of a policy or practice of the
Sheriff, any First Amendment claim against a defendant in his or her official capacity is
For the foregoing reasons, the motion to dismiss [dkt 16] is granted in part and denied
The motion is granted as follows: The RLUIPA claim against Madison County is
dismissed. Any claim for injunctive relief is dismissed. Finally, any First Amendment claim
against any defendant in his or her official capacity is dismissed.
The motion is denied as follows: Any RLUIPA claim for damages against a defendant in
his or her official capacity shall proceed. In addition, the First Amendment claim against
Michelle Sumpter in her individual capacity shall proceed.
IV. Further Proceedings
Because Sumpter’s request for dismissal of the claims against her has been denied, she
shall have twenty-one days after the issuance of this Entry to file an Answer.
The Court notes that defendant Ronald Richardson has not filed an Answer or responsive
pleading to the complaint though counsel has filed an appearance on his behalf. The Court sent
Notice of Lawsuit and Request to Waive Service of a Summons forms to this defendant on
December 7, 2016. The forms were not returned either executed or unexecuted. It is the Court’s
duty to attempt to assist pro se litigants in effecting service on defendants. Consistent with this
duty, counsel who has appeared on behalf on Richardson is requested to either obtain
Richardson’s consent to waive service of a summons or notify the Court, through an ex
parte filing if necessary, of Richardson’s last known address. Counsel shall have thirty days
to do so.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Hon. William T. Lawrence, Judge
United States District Court
Southern District of Indiana
Matthew L. Hinkle
COOTS HENKE & WHEELER
John Vincent Maurovich
COOTS, HENKE & WHEELER
ROBERT A SEAL
INDIANA STATE PRISON
INDIANA STATE PRISON
One Park Row
MICHIGAN CITY, IN 46360
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