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Medina v. Doe

United States District Court, D. Nebraska

October 13, 2016

ERNEST MEDINA, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHN DOE, Chaplain, and JANE DOE, Director, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          Richard G. Kopf Senior United States District Judge.

         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 omitted).

         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).

         III. DISCUSSION

         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. 7-8.) 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 ...


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