Medina v. John Doe et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER that the Plaintiff shall file an amended complaint by November 14, 2016, that states a claim upon which relief may be granted. Failure to file an amended complaint within the time specified by the court will result in the court dismissing this case without further notice to Plaintiff. The clerk of the court is directed to set a pro se case management deadline using the following text: November 14, 2016 check for amended complaint. Ordered by Senior Judge Richard G. Kopf. (Copy mailed to pro se party) (LAC)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEBRASKA
JOHN DOE, Chaplain, and JANE
This matter is before the court on initial review of Plaintiff’s Complaint. (Filing
No. 1.) For the reasons that follow, the court finds Plaintiff’s pleadings do not state
any claims on which relief may be granted. However, the court will allow Plaintiff
to file an amended complaint.
I. SUMMARY OF COMPLAINT
Plaintiff maintains that Defendants violated the Religious Land Use and
Institutionalized Persons Act, as well as his due process rights. Plaintiff alleges that
while he was incarcerated in Lancaster County Jail, he requested that Defendant John
Doe provide him with religious reading materials. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant
John Doe denied his request. Plaintiff further contends that he submitted a grievance
to Defendant Jane Doe about the denial of his request for the materials, but that she
did not respond. (Filing No. 1.)
II. STANDARDS ON INITIAL REVIEW
The court is required to review prisoner and in forma pauperis complaints
seeking relief against a governmental entity or an officer or employee of a
governmental entity to determine whether summary dismissal is appropriate. See 28
U.S.C. §§ 1915(e) and 1915A. The court must dismiss a complaint or any portion of
it that states a frivolous or malicious claim, that fails to state a claim upon which relief
may be granted, or that seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from
such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B); 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).
Pro se plaintiffs must set forth enough factual allegations to “nudge their
claims across the line from conceivable to plausible,” or “their complaint must be
dismissed.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 569-70 (2007); see also
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (“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.”).
“The essential function of a complaint under the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure is to give the opposing party ‘fair notice of the nature and basis or grounds
for a claim, and a general indication of the type of litigation involved.’” Topchian v.
JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A., 760 F.3d 843, 848 (8th Cir. 2014) (quoting Hopkins v.
Saunders, 199 F.3d 968, 973 (8th Cir. 1999)). However, “[a] pro se complaint must
be liberally construed, and pro se litigants are held to a lesser pleading standard than
other parties.” Topchian, 760 F.3d at 849 (internal quotation marks and citations
Liberally construed, Plaintiff alleges federal constitutional claims. To state a
claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege a violation of rights protected
by the United States Constitution or created by federal statute and also must show that
the alleged deprivation was caused by conduct of a person acting under color of state
law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Buckley v. Barlow, 997 F.2d 494, 495
(8th Cir. 1993).
Plaintiff has failed to state a claim under the Religious Land Use and
Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”). The Supreme Court recently discussed the
standard applicable to claims under RLUIPA:
Section 3 [of RLUIPA]–the provision at issue in this case–governs
religious exercise by institutionalized persons, § 2000cc-1. Section 3 .
. . 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.’ § 2000cc-1(a).
Holt v. Hobbs, 135 S. Ct. 853, 860 (2005).
Here, Plaintiff alleges that he requested a copy of the “Rites of Initiation of the
Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite.” Plaintiff claims that Defendant John Doe denied
his request because the materials were too extensive. (Filing No. 1 at CM/ECF pp. 78.) Plaintiff claims that he subsequently requested “Pietre-Stone Review: Rites of
Initiation of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite,” but that his request was denied
because the publication was copyrighted. (Filing No. 1 at CM/ECF p. 8.) These
allegations do not explain how Plaintiff’s exercise of religion was substantially
burdened. In other words, Plaintiff does not explain why he needs the reading
materials for his religious practices. Therefore, Plaintiff has not stated a claim under
Moreover, Plaintiff’s allegation that Defendant Jane Doe did not respond to his
grievance regarding the denial of the reading materials in a timely manner does not
state a viable claim under § 1983. A prison official’s failure to investigate a grievance
does not rise to the level of a constitutional violation. See Buckley v. Barlow, 997
F.2d 494, 496 (8th Cir. 1993) (finding that prison officials’ failure to process
grievances is not actionable under § 1983).
Out of an abundance of caution, the court will provide Plaintiff an opportunity
to file an amended complaint that states a claim upon which relief may be granted.
Plaintiff shall file his amended complaint no later than November 14, 2016. Failure
to file an amended complaint within the time specified by the court will result in the
court dismissing this case without further notice to Plaintiff.
IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that:
Plaintiff shall file an amended complaint by November 14, 2016, that
states a claim upon which relief may be granted. Failure to file an amended complaint
within the time specified by the court will result in the court dismissing this case
without further notice to Plaintiff.
The clerk of the court is directed to set a pro se case management
deadline using the following text: November 14, 2016 check for amended complaint.
DATED this 13th day of October, 2016.
BY THE COURT:
s/ Richard G. Kopf
Senior United States District Judge
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