United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Asheville Division
ADAM W. HALL, Plaintiff,
THOMAS A. HAMILTON, Defendant.
D. WHITNEY CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
MATTER is before the Court on initial review of
pro se Plaintiff's Complaint, (Doc. No. 1).
Plaintiff has filed a motion to proceed in forma
pauperis. (Doc. No. 2).
se Plaintiff filed a civil rights suit pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983 while incarcerated at the Marion
Correctional Institution. He names as the sole Defendant
Assistant Unit Manager Thomas A. Hamilton.
construing the Complaint and accepting the allegations as
true, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Hamilton violated his
First Amendment rights by instructing staff to makes inmates
go to the showers clad only in boxers even though his
religion, Shin Muslim, requires him to be clothed above the
belt to below the ankles at all times. He alleges that he is
suffering spiritual and mental injury. He requests as relief
“[t]hat the NCDPS Policy be know that we can cover our
self rigth and my Truth Fund Acc be clear and $1, 000 be but
on it.” (Doc. No. 1 at 5).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Plaintiff is a prisoner proceeding in forma
pauperis, the Court must review the Complaint to
determine whether it is subject to dismissal on the grounds
that it is “(i) frivolous or malicious; (ii) fails to
state a claim on which relief may be granted; or (iii) seeks
monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such
relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). In its
frivolity review, a court must determine whether the
Complaint raises an indisputably meritless legal theory or is
founded upon clearly baseless factual contentions, such as
fantastic or delusional scenarios. Neitzke v.
Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327-28 (1989). A complaint
should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim
“unless ‘after accepting all well-pleaded
allegations in the plaintiff's complaint as true and
drawing all reasonable factual inferences from those facts in
the plaintiff's favor, it appears certain that the
plaintiff cannot prove any set of facts in support of his
claim entitling him to relief.'” Veney v.
Wyche, 293 F.3d 726, 730 (4th Cir. 2002)
(quoting Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231,
244 (4th Cir. 1999)).
pro se complaint must be construed liberally.
Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972); see
also Smith v. Smith, 589 F.3d 736, 738 (4th
Cir. 2009) (“Liberal construction of the pleadings is
particularly appropriate where … there is a pro
se complaint raising civil rights issues.”).
However, the liberal construction requirement will not permit
a district court to ignore a clear failure to allege facts in
his complaint which set forth a claim that is cognizable
under federal law. Weller v. Dep't of Soc.
Servs., 901 F.2d 387 (4th Cir. 1990). A
pro se complaint must still contain sufficient facts
“to raise a right to relief above the speculative
level” and “state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 570 (2007); see Ashcroft
v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009) (the Twombly
plausibility standard applies to all federal civil complaints
including those filed under § 1983). This
“plausibility standard requires a plaintiff to
demonstrate more than a sheer possibility that a defendant
has acted unlawfully.” Francis v. Giacomelli,
588 F.3d 186, 193 (4th Cir. 2009) (internal
quotation marks omitted). He must articulate facts that, when
accepted as true, demonstrate he has stated a claim entitling
him to relief.
First Amendment of the Constitution states that
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment
of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
U.S. Const. Amend I. The First Amendment applies to the
states through the Fourteenth Amendment. See Everson v.
Bd. of Educ., 330 U.S. 1, 15 (1947). For government
conduct to survive scrutiny under the Establishment Clause,
“(1) it must have a secular purpose; (2) its principal
or primary effect must neither advance nor inhibit religion;
and (3) it must not foster an excessive government
entanglement with religion.” Buxton v.
Kurtinitis, 862 F.3d 423, 432 (4th Cir. 2017)
(citing Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602, 612-13
(1971)); see also Madison v. Riter, 355 F.3d 310,
316 (4th Cir. 2003). To state a free exercise claim under the
First Amendment, a plaintiff must allege facts sufficient to
show that he held a sincere religious belief, and that the
official action or regulation substantially burdened his
exercise of that belief. Hernandez v. Comm'r,
490 U.S. 680, 699 (1989). A prison policy that substantially
burdens an inmate's ability to practice his religion
withstands a First Amendment challenge when it is
“reasonably related to legitimate penological
interests.” O'Lone v. Estate of Shabazz,
482 U.S. 342, 349 (1987) (quoting Turner v. Safley,
482 U.S. 78, 89 (1987)). In deciding whether a
defendant's actions can be sustained as reasonably
related to legitimate penological interests, the court must
consider the following four factors: (1) whether there is a
valid, rational connection between the regulation and the
legitimate penological interest; (2) whether there are
alternative means of exercising the right in question that
remain open to prisoners; (3) the impact accommodation of the
asserted constitutional right would have on guards and other
inmates and on the allocation of prison resources; and (4)
whether ready alternatives exist which accommodate the right
and satisfy the penological interest. See Turner,
482 U.S. at 89-90.
has adequately alleged that he has a sincerely held religious
belief that is being substantially burdened by
Defendant's actions and therefore his First Amendment
claim will be allowed to proceed.
First Amendment claim is sufficient to pass initial review.
The Clerk of Court will be instructed to commence the