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Klein v. Bowen

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

July 23, 2019

THOMAS KLEIN, Plaintiff,
v.
RICHARD A. BOWEN, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OF OPINION AND ORDER [RESOLVING ECF NO. 3]

          BENITA Y. PEARSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Pro se Plaintiff Thomas Klein, a prisoner in the Ohio State Penitentiary, filed suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Ohio State Penitentiary Warden Richard A. Bowen, Deputy Warden Palmer, Mail Room Supervisor Lt. Bowen, and Chaplain Rader. For the reasons that follow, the Court dismisses Plaintiff's claims against all Defendants.

         I. Background[1]

         Plaintiff is an inmate incarcerated at the Ohio State Penitentiary. ECF No. 1 at PageID #: 2. He alleges that he desired to obtain a “Black Sun Necklace with Runes.” Id. at PageID #: 3; ECF No. 1-9. Plaintiff claims the necklace is a religious pendant representative of his status as a member of the Odinism faith. ECF No. 1 at PageID #: 3-4. Plaintiff alleges he was not sure of the “exact rules” pertaining to obtaining permission for a religious pendant. Id. at PageID #: 3. He first wrote to Lt. Bowen to ask whether his ordering the pendant he desired “was going to be a problem.” Id. at PageID #: 5. Lt. Bowen told Plaintiff that he should kite his unit manager or the prison chaplain. ECF No. 1-6 at PageID #: 21. Plaintiff complied, kiting Chaplain Rader. ECF No. 1 at PageID #: 5. In response, Chaplain Rader directed Plaintiff to submit a request for religious accommodation form. Id.

         Plaintiff completed and submitted a request for religious accommodation form. Id. Before he received a response to his request, he ordered the pendant, assuming that there was no legitimate reason to deny his request. Id. at PageID #: 5-6. Chaplain Rader, however, denied Plaintiff's religious accommodation request, finding that Plaintiff “did not articulate the connection of the Black Sun to his faith” and did not follow the prison's procedure for requesting religious accommodations. Id. at PageID #: 6; ECF Nos. 1-2, 1-3. At Chaplain Rader's direction, Lt. Bowen confiscated the pendant as contraband. ECF No. 1 at PageID #: 6.

         In response, Plaintiff initiated the grievance process by filing an informal complaint resolution form with Deputy Warden Palmer. Id. Palmer and Warden Bowen upheld Chaplain Rader's decision. Id. Plaintiff then sent an informal complaint to Lt. Bowen. ECF No. 1-12. In response, Plaintiff received a Notice of an Unauthorized Item Received, informing him that the item was seized as nuisance contraband. ECF No. 1-10. Plaintiff again wrote to Lt. Bowen, who notified Plaintiff that he should write to Chaplain Rader. ECF No. 1-13.

         Plaintiff subsequently filed two Notification of Grievance forms. ECF Nos. 1-15, 1-16. The grievances were denied on the grounds that Plaintiff violated ODRC policy by ordering his necklace prior to obtaining approval for his request for a religious accommodation and Plaintiff failed to “articulate the connection of the black sun to [his] faith.” ECF Nos. 3-3, 3-4.

         Plaintiff appealed the denial of his grievances. ECF No. 6 at PageID #: 134. Plaintiff received a response from the Religious Services Administrator, providing that “[I]t seems that this is a matter of proper procedure related to the expectation of the institution regarding receipt of the item into the facility. Please discuss the appropriate process for approval and for the potential obtaining the item with your institution chaplain and/or unit staff.” ECF No. 6-1.

         Plaintiff was subsequently informed:

In accordance with 61-PRP-01(c)(3) Items may only be ordered from current DRC approved vendor catalog. A religious accommodation allows you to order from additional vendors. In accordance with 72 Reg 02 please follow the procedures and make the request [for a religious accommodation] using DRC 4326 prior to completing the requested activity.

ECF No. 6-2.

         Plaintiff has not alleged that he re-submitted a request for a religious accommodation using DRC 4326, as instructed. Instead, he contends that he need not comply with the prison's religious accommodation procedure. ECF No. 6 at PageID #: 135.

         II. Standard of Review

         Pro se pleadings are liberally construed by the Court. Boag v. MacDougall, 454 U.S. 364, 365 (1982) (per curiam); Haines v. Kerner,404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). Nonetheless, the district 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. Neitzke v. Williams,490 U.S. 319 (1989); Lawler v. Marshall,898 F.2d 1196 (6th Cir. 1990); Sistrunk v. City of Strongsville,99 F.3d 194, 197 (6th Cir. 1996). An action has no arguable basis in law when a defendant is immune from suit or when a plaintiff claims a violation of a legal interest which clearly does not exist. Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327. An action has no arguable ...


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