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Arendas v. Lewis

United States District Court, D. Colorado

November 29, 2016

PETER JOHN ARENDAS, Plaintiff,
v.
MESA COUNTY SHERIFF MATT LEWIS, SGT. ROUNDTREE, M.C.S.D., S/D CHAMBERS, M.C.S.D., S/D KEIFER, M.C.S.D., S/D ERKMAN, M.C.S.D., S/D HEMPHILL, M.C.S.D., SGT. TATE, M.C.S.D., SGT. HODSON, M.C.S.D., S/D #2469 aka JOHN OR JANE DOE, M.C.S.D., S/D WESTERMIRE, M.C.S.D., S/D WILTGEN, M.C.S.D., SGT. MONTEZ, M.C.S.D., A. MOSLEY, Utah D.O.C., R. CHRISTENSEN, Utah D.O.C., STATE OF UTAH, Operations Director of Utah State Prison, John or Jane Doe, and ROLLIN COOK, Utah Dept. Of Corrections Commissioner, Defendants.

          RECOMMENDATION REGARDING DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS TO DISMISS

          Gordon P. Gallagher, United States Magistrate Judge

         This matter comes before the Court on the following motion: Defendants (collectively), motion to dismiss (ECF # 72), [1] Plaintiff's responses (ECFs # 76, 79, & 81) (a number of other filings from Plaintiff could loosely be construed as responses and all have been considered by the Court) and Defendants' reply (ECF #90) This motion has been referred to this Magistrate Judge for recommendation. (ECF #86).[2] The Court has reviewed the pending motion, responses, reply and any attachments. The Court has also considered the entire case file, the applicable law, and is sufficiently advised in the premises. Oral argument is not necessary for resolution of these matters. This Magistrate Judge recommends that the motion to dismiss be GRANTED.

         Jurisdiction and Venue Jurisdiction and venue are established for the single claim which was drawn in this action.

         Pro se Proceedings

         Plaintiff now proceeds pro se. The court must construe the pleading(s) liberally because Mr. Arendas is not represented by an attorney. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972); Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir. 1991). However, the court should not be an advocate for a pro se litigant. Id. at 1110.

         Procedural Summary Plaintiff's amended complaint (ECF # 36) included several claims. Only claim one, and that only against limited Defendants (see stricken Defendants above) was ultimately drawn. The remaining claims were dismissed, claim two for being legally frivolous and claim three for being legally frivolous. The surviving claim one, titled “offending my religious practices” (ECF # 36, p. 11) was construed as a claim for alleged violations of Plaintiff's First Amendment right to freely exercise his religion under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (ECF #40, p.3). Upon further review, and keeping in mind the liberal construction requirements for a pro se pleading, the Court has determined to also view this as a claim under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA) 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000cc-1. Essentially, claim one will be reviewed as both a free exercise claim and as a RLUIPA claim.

         Factual Summary

         Plaintiff is an inmate in the Mesa County Detention Facility. Plaintiff is required to wear an identification wrist band and is not allowed to remove said wrist band. ECF #36, p.11, para. 1. The wrist band is not medically related. Id. Plaintiff has been required to wear the wrist band since 10/23/15. Id. Plaintiff has been sanctioned and/or lost privileges for removing the wrist band. Id. at pp. 11-12, paras. 2-4. The wearing of the wrist band violates Plaintiff's Roman Catholic observances in that he must pray without “have[ing] items affixed to [his] body that did not come out of [his] mothers (sic) womb.” Id. at pp. 11-12, paras. 1 & 5. Plaintiff seeks injunctory (sic) relief, the ability to remove the wrist band in his cell during religious observance (perhaps also while possessing an ID card) and $1, 000, 000.00 for pain, suffering and discrimination. Id. at p.23.

         Plaintiff's specific statements regarding the wristband in his amended complaint, as they relate to religion, are as follows:

My religious doctrine and practices I follow do not permit me to wear an unremovable item from my body that is not medically related. This also offends my prayer as a Roman Catholic. (ECF #36, p. 11, para. 1).
The jail policy [] violates my religious Roman Catholic observances. . . . The jail policy has no allowance for my Roman Catholic observance that I not have items affixed to my body that did not come out of my mothers womb. (ECF #36, p. 12, para. 5) (sic).
I am requesting injunctory relief and a court order permitting me to remove the I.D. wristband in my cell. The wrist band has adjustable notches to affix the set screw in a more loose fashion, so I can screw in a more loose fashion, so I can slide it off in my cell during religious observance daily. (ECF #36, p. 23) (sic).

         Standard of Review

         The Court may dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). To withstand a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain enough allegations of fact, which, taken as true, “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007); Khalik v. United Air Lines, 671 F.3d 1188, 1190 (10th Cir. 2012). Although allegations of fact are accepted as true, legal conclusions are not. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009). Mere “labels and conclusions” and “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action” will not suffice. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. ...


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