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Derby v. Wiskus

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

November 21, 2019

ADAM DERBY, Plaintiff,
RICHARD WISKUS, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff Adam Derby, a civil detainee at the Sexual Offender Rehabilitation and Treatment Services Center (“SORTS”), seeks leave to proceed in forma pauperis in this civil action brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Having reviewed Plaintiff's financial information, the Court grants Plaintiff's Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis. See 28 U.S.C. §1915. Additionally, after reviewing the Complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e) and for the reasons discussed below, the Court will give Plaintiff the opportunity to file an amended complaint.

         I. Legal Standard on Initial Review

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), the Court is required to dismiss a complaint filed in forma pauperis if it is frivolous, is malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. To state a claim for relief, 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.

         When reviewing a pro se complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915, the Court accepts the well-plead facts as true, White v. Clark, 750 F.2d 721, 722 (8th Cir. 1984), and liberally construes the complaint. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). A “liberal construction” means that if the essence of an allegation is discernible, the district court should construe the plaintiff's complaint in a way that permits his or her claim to be considered within the proper legal framework. Solomon v. Petray, 795 F.3d 777, 787 (8th Cir. 2015). However, even pro se complaints are required to allege facts which, if true, state a claim for relief as a matter of law. Martin v. Aubuchon, 623 F.2d 1282, 1286 (8th Cir. 1980). See also Stone v. Harry, 364 F.3d 912, 914-15 (8th Cir. 2004) (refusing to supply additional facts or to construct a legal theory for the pro se plaintiff that assumed facts that had not been pleaded).

         II. The Complaint

         Plaintiff, a civil detainee at SORTS, brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of his first amendment right to freedom of religion; his fourteenth amendment right to equal protection under the law; and violations of the Religious Land Use and Incarcerated Persons Act (RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc et seq. Plaintiff names as defendants all members of the “spiritual committee” and the “Green Belt Committee” - but Plaintiff does not clarify what these committees are. ECF No. 1 at 2 ¶ 7. Specifically, Plaintiff names: (1) Richard Wiskus, (2) Chuck Lotz, (3) Jeanie Semor, (4) Hannah Newmier, [1] (5) Dr. Kimberly Buy, (6) all members of the Green Belt Committee, and (7) John Doe.[2] Plaintiff specifies that he is suing John Doe in both his individual and official capacities, but he does specify in what capacities the other Defendants are being sued.

         Plaintiff states that he is pretrial detainee in the custody of the Missouri Department of Mental Health pursuant to the Missouri Sexually Violent Predator Act, Mo. Rev. Stat. § 632.480 et seq. Plaintiff describes himself as a “sincere practitioner of the Wiccan religion” and he alleges that he is being denied thirty-three (33) necessary items or accommodations for the practice of his religion. ECF No. 1 at 3. These items/accommodations include: (1) wands; (2) wooden athames;[3] (3) “idols/status”;[4] (4) robes; (5) chalices; (6) books; (7) religious ceremonies on the day of holidays; (8) nighttime accommodations for full moon and sabbat ceremonies; (9) non-sexual nude images; (10) open flame fires; (11) three hours of time on sabbats (holy days); (12) wine for consumption on sabbats; (13) dream catchers; (14) rugs; (15) bracelets with charms; (16) rings with religious symbols and stones; (17) tattoos; (18) smudging personal religious items;[5] (19) access to news programs and shows that inform about politics and social issues; (20) tea light candles for personal inside use; (21) food on the Sabbath; (22) alter cloths; (23) alters; (24) foreign languages; (25) religious oils; (26) face painting; (27) pentacle plates;[6](28) pipes; (29) musical “interments;”[7] (30) Ouija boards or spirit boards; (31) time outside daily; (32) a room for personal religious practice; and (33) food donations to the Wiccan religious feast. ECF No. 1 at 3-6.

         For relief, Plaintiff seeks an order from the Court requiring “the state to come into compliance” with his constitutional and RLUIPA rights, and for $1 in punitive damages.

         III. Discussion

         A. Legal Standards: Free Exercise of Religion and RLUIPA rights for a civil detainee

         Plaintiff, a civil detainee, alleges violations of his rights under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and his rights under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA). The Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution determines the rights of individuals who have been involuntary committed to a facility. Youngberg v. Romeo, 457 U.S. 307, 312-15 (1982). Although residents at state institutions do have constitutionally protected interests, these rights must be balanced against the reasons put forth by the State for restricting their liberties. Id. at 321. As inmates clearly retain their First Amendment right to free exercise of religion in prison, O'Lone v. Estate of Shabazz, 482 U.S. 342, 348 (1987), civil detainees retain such rights as well.

         According to the Supreme Court, a prison regulation infringing on an inmate's constitutional rights is valid so long as it is reasonably related to a legitimate penological interest. Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78, 89 (1987). Although the Eighth Circuit has not addressed the applicability of this standard in the civil detainee context, other courts have applied the Turner analysis[8] in considering constitutional claims by civilly-committed sexually violent predators. See, e.g., Phillips v. Palmer, No. 13-CV-4066-DEO, 2013 WL 5771026, at *3 (N.D. Iowa Oct. 23, 2013) (collecting cases).

No government shall impose a substantial burden on the religious exercise of a person residing in or confined to an institution, as defined in section 1997 of this title, 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 ...

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