Brown El v. Skeen et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER - IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the Clerk is directed to issue process on defendant Melvin Skeen in his individual capacity for claims regarding the prohibition on Islamic clothing in the chapel. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that claims a gainst defendant Terry Russell are DISMISSED without prejudice. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that plaintiff's official-capacity claims against Melvin Skeen are DISMISSED. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that plaintiff's RLUIPA claims are DISMISSED. An Order of Partial Dismissal will be filed separately.. Signed by District Judge E. Richard Webber on January 25, 2016. (MCB)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
KEITH E. BROWN EL,
MELVIN SKEEN, et al.,
No. 4:15CV1089 ERW
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
This matter is before the Court on review of plaintiff’s second amended complaint under
28 U.S.C. § 1915(e). After reviewing the complaint, the Court finds that some of plaintiff’s
claims must be dismissed.
Standard of Review
Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e), the Court is required to dismiss a complaint filed in forma
pauperis if it is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.
To state a claim for relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a complaint must plead more than “legal
conclusions” and “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action [that are] supported
by mere conclusory statements.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). A plaintiff must
demonstrate a plausible claim for relief, which is more than a “mere possibility of misconduct.”
Id. at 679. “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. at 678. Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief [is] a
context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and
common sense. Id. at 679.
Plaintiff is currently a prisoner at the Jefferson City Correctional Center. Plaintiff brings
this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act,
42 U.S.C. § 2000cc–1 (“RLUIPA”).
At all times relevant to the complaint, plaintiff was
confined in the Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center (“ERDCC”). Defendants
are Melvin Skeen, the Chaplain at ERDCC, and Terry Russell, the Superintendent of ERDCC.
Plaintiff sues defendants in their individual and official capacities. He seeks monetary and
Plaintiff alleges that he is Muslim and that he was not able to properly participate in the
Ramadan of 2011 because he was in disciplinary segregation. He says that he was not allowed to
properly wash himself before prayers or to wear outer clothing during prayers, which are both
required by the Quran. Plaintiff says this was a result of institutional polices enforced by the
Plaintiff claims that defendant Skeen forbade him to wear his “Islamic apparel” to chapel,
except for his Kufi head cap. Plaintiff argues that the prohibition interfered with his ability to
practice his religion.
Plaintiff sues defendant Russell “for having established, promulgated &/or otherwise
given tacit consent to the enforcement of Institutional policies which were inimical to the
obligatory tenets of plaintiff’s [Islamic] faith . . .”
Section 1983 Claims
The Court finds that plaintiff’s § 1983 claim against Skeen in his individual capacity
regarding the prohibition on Islamic clothing in the chapel should not be dismissed. As a result,
the Court will direct the Clerk to issue process on Skeen.
Naming a government official in his or her official capacity is the equivalent of naming
the government entity that employs the official, in this case the State of Missouri. Will v.
Michigan Dep=t of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989). “[N]either a State nor its officials acting
in their official capacity are >persons= under ' 1983.” Id. As a result, the complaint fails to state
a claim upon which relief can be granted against Skeen in his official capacity.
“Liability under § 1983 requires a causal link to, and direct responsibility for, the alleged
deprivation of rights.” Madewell v. Roberts, 909 F.2d 1203, 1208 (8th Cir. 1990); see Ashcroft
v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 676 (2009) (“Because vicarious liability is inapplicable to Bivens and §
1983 suits, a plaintiff must plead that each Government-official defendant, through the official’s
own individual actions, has violated the Constitution.”); see Camberos v. Branstad, 73 F.3d 174,
176 (8th Cir. 1995) (“a general responsibility for supervising the operations of a prison is
insufficient to establish the personal involvement required to support liability.”). Plaintiff has
not alleged facts showing that either Skeen or Terry Russell were directly responsible for his
inability to participate in Ramadan. His conclusory allegations to the effect that defendants were
responsible for enforcing prison policy does not show the necessary causal link. As a result, this
claim does not state a plausible claim for relief, and defendant Russell must be dismissed.
Pursuant to RLUIPA,
No 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
42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-1(a).
RLUIPA does not authorize individual capacity claims against prison officials. E.g.,
Blake v. Cooper, 2013 WL 523710, *1 (W.D. Mo. Feb. 12, 2013). While RLUIPA allows
official-capacity claims against prison officials, it does not authorize monetary damages based on
official-capacity claims. See Van Wyhe v. Reisch, 581 F.3d 639, 655 (8th Cir. 2009). Plaintiff’s
only available relief, therefore, lies in equity. In this case, however, plaintiff’s demand for
injunctive relief is moot because he is no longer imprisoned at ERDCC. Therefore, plaintiff’s
RLUIPA claims are frivolous.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the Clerk is directed to issue process on defendant
Melvin Skeen in his individual capacity for claims regarding the prohibition on Islamic clothing
in the chapel.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that claims against defendant Terry Russell are
DISMISSED without prejudice.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that plaintiff’s official-capacity claims against Melvin
Skeen are DISMISSED.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that plaintiff’s RLUIPA claims are DISMISSED.
An Order of Partial Dismissal will be filed separately.
So Ordered this 25th day of January, 2016.
E. RICHARD WEBBER
SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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