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Troncoso v. Middlesex Sheriff's Office

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

April 13, 2018

MANUEL E. TRONCOSO
v.
MIDDLESEX SHERIFF'S OFFICE, et al.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          RICHARD G. STEARNS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         For the reasons stated below, the court will (1) grant the plaintiff's motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis; (2) direct the plaintiff to file an amended complaint; and (3) deny without prejudice the plaintiff's motion for appointment of counsel.

         BACKGROUND

         On January 19, 2018, pro se litigant Manuel Troncoso, who was incarcerated at the Middlesex Jail and County House of Correction (“MHOC”) at the time, filed a civil rights complaint in which he alleges that he was unlawfully prevented from observing his religious beliefs. Troncoso represents that he is Jewish. He claims that defendant Carole Cafferty, the superintendent of MHOC, and her administration refused to (1) provide him a copy of the Torah; (2) allow him to observe Shabbat according to Jewish law; (3) allow him to possess certain religious items; (4) allow him to celebrate Jewish holidays; and (5) provide an adequate religious meal. Troncoso states that he brings this action under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc (RLUIPA), and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb (RFRA).

         Troncoso makes three other brief claims regarding the conditions of his confinement at MHOC. Without identifying individual defendants, he alleges that for approximately one year (1) he has been denied access to law books and online legal research tools; (2) the temperature of his cell and unit has been kept below 55 degrees and he has not been provided with winter clothes; and (3) he has been in segregation without any opportunity for outdoor physical exercise.

         With his Complaint, Troncoso filed motions for leave to proceed in forma pauperis and for the appointment of counsel. On March 7, 2018, he filed a notice of change of address in which in informs the court that he is now confined at MCI Cedar Junction.

         DISCUSSION

         I. Motion for Leave to Proceed in Forma Pauperis

         Upon review of Troncoso's motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis, the court concludes that he is without income or assets to prepay the filing fee. Accordingly, the court will grant the motion. Because Troncoso has essentially been without funds for six months, no initial partial filing fee is assessed. The $350 filing fee for this case shall be paid pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2).

         II. Review of the Complaint

         Summonses have not issued pending the court's preliminary review of the Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A. These statutes authorize a federal court to dismiss an in forma pauperis or prisoner complaint sua sponte if the claims therein are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seek monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B), 1915A(b). In conducting this review, the court liberally construes the Complaint because the Troncoso is proceeding pro se. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972). The court concludes that Troncoso has failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. If he wishes to pursue this action, he must file an amended complaint.

         A. RLUIPA and RFRA

         RLUIPA provides, in relevant part:

         No government shall impose or implement a land use regulation in a manner that imposes a substantial burden on the religious exercise of a person, including a religious assembly or institution, unless the government demonstrates that ...


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