Crowe v. Marquis et al
Opinion & Order signed by Judge James S. Gwin on 3/12/18. The Court, for the reasons set forth in this order, dismisses this action under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e). The Court certifies, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3), that an appeal from this decision could not be taken in good faith. (Related Doc. 1 ) (D,MA)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF OHIO
GREGORY HILTON CROWE,
WARDEN DAVE MARQUIS, et al.,
CASE NO. 1:17-CV-02188
OPINION & ORDER
[Resolving Doc. No. 1]
JAMES S. GWIN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE:
Pro se Plaintiff Gregory Hilton Crowe filed this action against Richland Correctional
Institution (“RICI”)Warden Dave Marquis, RICI Deputy Warden Tim Mulligan, RICI Chaplain
Scott Login, and RICI Chaplain Audrey McClain. In the Complaint, Plaintiff alleges sacred
objects for the practice of his Native American religion were lost or stolen from the Chaplain’s
office. He asserts Defendants violated his First Amendment right to practice his religion, and
seeks monetary damages.
Plaintiff states he is a member of the Alderville First Nation Native American tribe that
practices an Ojibway religion. Plaintiff utilizes a prayer pipe, tobacco, sage, sweet grass, and
smudging in the practice of his beliefs. In May 2017, Plaintiff filed a request for religious
accommodation to use the pipe while incarcerated at the Lorain Correctional Institution in May
2017. He indicates he was unable to practice his religion until this request was approved by the
Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (“ODRC”) on August 1, 2017. By that time,
he had been transferred to RICI. He alleges the RICI Chaplains initially told him his family
could send religious objects into the prison, so they forwarded a family heirloom prayer pipe
made by Plaintiff’s grandfather, and a quantity of tobacco. Plaintiff signed for the pipe upon its
arrival and was told it would be kept in the Chaplain’s office. He contends that when he came
to the office for his first ritual ceremony, McClain allowed him to have the pipe, and observed a
smudging but would not allow him to smoke the tobacco sent by his family because it did not
come directly from a vendor. Plaintiff contends after his worship was finished, he placed the
pipe and the objects of worship back in the box in the presence of McClain and a corrections
officer. When Plaintiff returned on his next scheduled worship day, his pipe was missing. He
alleges McClain did not properly secure his pipe after the previous ceremony. He filled out a
theft report, and a corrections officer ordered a search of the area, but they could not locate the
pipe. Plaintiff asserts Defendants violated his right to free exercise of his religion.
II. Legal Standard
Although the Court does not hold pro se pleadings to the same standard as those filed by
attorneys, the Court is required to dismiss an in forma pauperis action under 28 U.S.C. §1915(e)
if it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or if it lacks an arguable basis in law
or fact.1 A claim lacks an arguable basis in law or fact when it is based on an unquestionably
meritless legal theory or when the factual allegations are clearly baseless.2 A cause of action
fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted when it does not contain enough facts to
Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972); Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319 (1989); Sistrunk v. City of
Strongsville, 99 F.3d 194, 197 (6th Cir. 1996); Lawler v. Marshall, 898 F.2d 1196 (6th Cir. 1990).
Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327.
suggest Plaintiff has a plausible claim that entitles him to the relief he seeks.3 This does not
mean a Plaintiff is required to allege the facts of his Complaint in great detail, but he still must
provide more than “an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.”4 A
Complaint that offers only legal conclusions or a simple listing of the elements of a cause of
action will not meet this standard.5 When reviewing the Complaint under § 1915(e), the Court
must read it in a way that is the most favorable to the Plaintiff. 6
Prisoners retain the First Amendment right to the free exercise of their religion.7 “The
circumstances of prison life, however, may require some restrictions on prisoners’ exercise of
their religious beliefs,” requiring a Court to “balance the prisoners’ constitutionally protected
interest in the free exercise of their religious beliefs against the state’s legitimate interests in
operating its prisons.”8 To state a claim for denial of freedom of religion, the inmate first must
show the prison staff interfered with a sincerely held religions belief.9 If this criterion is met,
then the Court must determine whether the prison’s actions were justified by “legitimate
In this case, Plaintiff does not allege Defendants denied an accommodation. In fact, his
accommodation was approved by the ODRC and the RICI chaplains. He contends errors were
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677-78 (2009).
Id. at 678.
Bibbo v. Dean Witter Reynolds, Inc., 151 F.3d 559, 561 (6th Cir. 1998).
Walker v. Mintzes, 771 F.2d 920, 929 (6th Cir. 1985).
Flagner v. Wilkinson, 241 F.3d 475, 481 (6th Cir. 2001)
Id.; Boles v. Neet, 486 F.3d 1177, 1182 (10th Cir. 2007) (citation omitted) (explaining that the first
requirement in a § 1983 First Amendment free-exercise claim is for the plaintiff to show that the prison's action
“substantially burdened his sincerely-held religious beliefs”).
made in the implementation of the religious accommodation plan, which temporarily limited
with his ability to practice his religion. He contends Chaplain McClain failed to properly secure
his prayer pipe resulting in its theft or loss. He also contends he was given incorrect
information that his family could send tobacco to him when prison policy requires it to be
shipped to him directly from a vendor.
Isolated acts of negligence by prison staff do not state a constitutional claim under §
Accordingly, this action is dismissed under 28 U.S.C. §1915(e). The Court certifies,
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3), that an appeal from this decision could not be taken in good
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Dated: March 12, 2018
James S. Gwin
JAMES S. GWIN
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
See Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327, 330 (1986) (holding that the protections of the Due Process Clause
of the constitution are not “triggered by a lack of due care by prison officials.”) (citing Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S.
97, 106 (1976) (“Medical malpractice does not become a constitutional violation merely because the victim is a
prisoner ....”) and Baker v. McCollum, 443 U.S. 137, 146 (1979) (holding that false imprisonment does not violate
the Fourteenth Amendment simply because the defendant is a state official). Numerous courts have recognized that
a prison official’s isolated negligent interference with a prisoner’s religious diet does not violate the constitution.
See Colvin, 605 F.3d at 293-94 (holding that isolated negligence by prison officials in implementing kosher food
requirements is not actionable under the First Amendment); Gallagher v. Shelton, 587 F.3d 1063, 1069 (10th
Cir.2009) (isolated acts of negligence in providing kosher diet do not support a free-exercise claim); Lovelace v.
Lee, 472 F.3d 174, 201 (4th Cir.2006) (“[Plaintiff] must assert conscious or intentional interference with his free
exercise rights to state a valid claim under § 1983.”) (citing Daniels, 474 U.S. at 330).
28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3) provides:
An appeal may not be taken in forma pauperis if the trial court certifies that it is not taken in
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