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Vangel v. Aul

United States District Court, District of Rhode Island

February 18, 2015

LINDA AUL, et al.,


John J. McConnell, Jr., United States District Judge.

Before this Court is a Complaint filed by plaintiff Robert Vangel, pro se, an inmate at the Adult Correctional Institutions (the "ACI") in Cranston, Rhode Island, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief and damages. This Court has screened the Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) and 28 U.S.C. § 1915 A and finds that it states a claim for which relief may be granted as to only one defendant, Ashbel T. Wall.

A. Background

The Complaint names 11 employees of the Rhode Island Department of Corrections as defendants: Linda Aul, chief investigator;[1] Rachael Kowalski, investigator; William Begones, investigator; Alfred P. Leach, deputy warden; Matthew Kettle, warden; Ashbel T. Wall, director; James Weeden, assistant director; Ken Findlay, program facilitator; Michael B. Grant, attorney; Susan Lankins, program service officer; and "Figueiredo, " investigator.

Mr. Vangel alleges that he is a "student and practicing member of the Nation of Gods and Earth (NOGE)" and that "NOGE members are commonly referred to as 'Five Percenters, ' 'Tire Five Percent' or 'The Five Percent Nation.'" (ECF No. 1 at 7). He asserts that the Defendants "have denied all plaintiffs in some fashion the right to practice his beliefs."[2] (Id.).

Mr. Vangel claims that by denying him the ability "to practice this God centered culture" (ECF No. 1 at 14), Defendants violated his rights under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. Mr. Vangel seeks a declaratory judgment, an injunction, and compensatory and punitive damages. (Id. at 15-16).

B. Screening under § 1915(e)(2) and § 1915A

In connection with proceedings hi forma pauperis, § 1915(e)(2) instructs the Court to dismiss a case at any time if the Court determines that the action, inter alia, "fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). Similarly, § 1915A directs courts to screen complaints filed by prisoners against "a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity" and dismiss the complaint, or any portion thereof, for the same reasons as those set forth in § 1915(e)(2). 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

The legal standard for dismissing a complaint for failure to state a claim pursuant to §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A is the same standard used when ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. Davis v. Prison Health Servs., 679 F.3d 433, 437 (6th Cir. 2012); Rondeau v. New Hampshire, 201 F.3d 428 (1st Cir. 1999) (Table). "To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). "Specific facts are not necessary; the statement need only 'give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests."' Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (quoting Twombly., 550 U.S. at 555). In making this determination, this Court accepts Mr. Vangel's well-pled allegations as true and "scrutinizes] the complaint in the light most favorable to [him]." Rogan v. Menino, 175 F.3d 75, 77 (1st Cir. 1999). Although this Court construes pleadings of a pro se plaintiff "liberally, " Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976), "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

C. Review of Claims

Here, Mr. Vangel's claims are reviewed to determine if they allege facts indicating that Defendants deprived him of a constitutional or federal statutory right.

A claim that the state has denied a prisoner his right to practice his religion may be a cognizable claim.[3] But the focus of this § 1915 review is whether Mr. Vangel has set forth sufficient factual matters as to each defendant he names, which, if accepted as true, would 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face."' Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570).

Mr. Vangel makes nothing but broad sweeping allegations about the "defendants" collectively and does not offer "sufficient factual matter" as to each of them to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Nothing in the Complaint puts the majority of the Defendants on sufficient notice of any claim made against them specifically.

However, Mr. Vangel does state allegations about the R.I. Department of Corrections policy that he alleges violates his right to practice a religion. The claims against Defendant Ashbel T, Wall, Director of the Department of Corrections in his official capacity, therefore are properly pled and are allowed to proceed. The pleadings as to all other named Defendants ...

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