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Jefferson v. Wall

United States District Court, D. Rhode Island

September 28, 2018

ASHBEL T. WALL, Director of Rhode Island Department of Corrections; CORY CLOUD, Grievance Coordinator at Rhode Island's Adult Correctional Institution; MATTHEW KETTLE, Associate Director/ Warden of the Adult Correctional Institution's Maximum Security Building; LT. AMARAL, Correctional Officer at the Adult Correctional Institution; DR. JENNIFER CLARKE, Medical Program Director at the Adult Correctional Institution; DOCTORS AMANDA NOSKA, MICHAEL POSHKUS, and CHRISTOPHER SALAS, Members of Rhode Island Department Of Corrections Hepatitis C Committee, Defendants.



         Before the Court are the parties' cross motions for summary judgment. (ECF Nos. 77, 85.) In Jefferson v. Raimondo, C.A. No. 17-439 (D.R.I. August 15, 2017) (“Jefferson I”), a subsequent action brought by plaintiff Leonard Jefferson, the Court adopted a Report and Recommendation (“R. & R.”) dismissing many of the Plaintiff's claims pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (Mem. & Order Adopting R. & R., ECF No. 27). The dismissed counts included the Plaintiff's claim that the Department of Corrections (“DOC”) policy prohibiting him from wearing his kufi during the 2017 Ramadan fast-breaking meals violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”) and the First Amendment. (See generally id.) As stated in the adopted R. & R., “there is little discernable distinction” between the First Amendment claim here and the allegations in Jefferson I. (Id. at 36 n. 13.) The Jefferson I ruling thus guides the Court's analysis.

         After a close review of the record and the parties' arguments, the Court denies Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (ECF No. 77) and grants Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 85).

         I. Background

         A. The Present Action[1]

         Plaintiff self identifies as Muslim. (Pl.'s SUF ¶ 1.) Plaintiff was transferred to the Adult Correctional Institution (“ACI”) on November 5, 2013. (Id. at ¶ 2.) On June 6, 2016, Plaintiff entered the ACI's dining room to receive his Ramadan fast-breaking meal. (Id. at ¶ 7.) After entering the dining room, Plaintiff put his kufi[2] on his head, but Defendant Lt. Amaral told Plaintiff to remove it. (Id. at ¶ 8.) It is undisputed that the DOC Policy effective at that time “[did] not provide for an inmate to wear religious headwear at all times and places within the DOC's secure facilities.” (Defs.' SUF ¶ 6.) Although there was an exception to this policy for religious services, Defendants contend that the Ramadan fast-breaking meals were not in fact religious services. (Pl.'s SUF ¶ 7.) Therefore, Plaintiff was not allowed to wear his kufi at any of the thirty fast-breaking meals during Ramadan in 2016. (Id. at ¶ 11.)

         Based on these events, Plaintiff brought this action against Defendants on December 12, 2016. (See generally Compl., ECF No. 1.) His First Amended Complaint alleges, among other things, that by not allowing Plaintiff to wear his kufi at all times and all places the DOC policy violates RULIPA and the First and Fourteenth Amendments[3] to the United States Constitution. (See Pl.'s Am. Compl. 13, ECF No. 42.) In November 2017, however, DOC implemented a new Standard Operating Procedure (“SOP”) concerning kufis and yarmulkes. (Defs.' SUF ¶ 10.) This SOP permits inmates to wear such head coverings anywhere in secure facilities, except correctional industries, subject to applicable search procedures. (Id.)

         B. The Jefferson I Action

         On September 25, 2017, Plaintiff filed another complaint against multiple parties, including Defendants Amaral, Wall and Kettle. (See generally Complaint, Jefferson I, C.A. No. 17-439, ECF No. 1.) In Jefferson I, Plaintiff alleged that after attempting to seek permission to wear his kufi during Ramadan 2017, “Defendants offered Plaintiff the option of eating his fast-breaking meals in his cell where, per RIDOC policy, he was permitted to wear his kufi . . . .” (Id. at ¶ 217.) Defendants again contended that the fast-breaking meals were not “by definition in policy a religious service.” (Id. at ¶ 219.) Count VII of Plaintiff's Complaint asked the Court to declare that the DOC's kufi prohibition was a violation of the Free Exercise clause of the First Amendment. (See id. at ¶¶ 412-422.) Plaintiff's Jefferson I Complaint expressly acknowledged the instant action, stating that Wall “addresses the 2016 denial of permission to wear his kufi in the dining room during the fast-breaking meals of Ramadan in 2016.” (Id. at ¶ 211.)

         II. Discussion

         A party seeking summary judgment must establish that “no genuine issue as to any material fact” exists and that the party “is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Material facts have “the potential of determining the outcome of the litigation.” Maymí v. P.R. Ports Auth., 515 F.3d 20, 25 (1st Cir. 2008). On a motion for summary judgment, “the court's task is not ‘to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial.'” Noonan v. Staples, Inc., 556 F.3d 20, 25 (1st Cir. 2009) (quoting Asociación de Periodistas de P.R. v. Mueller, 529 F.3d 52, 55 (1st Cir. 2008)). Cross-motions for summary judgment do not alter this calculus. Adria Grp. v. Ferre Dev., Inc., 241 F.3d 103, 107 (1st Cir. 2001). Rather, the Court simply must “determine whether either of the parties deserves judgment as a matter of law on the facts that are not disputed.” Id.

         A. Count I

         1. RLUIPA

         Plaintiff concedes that his claims under RLUIPA are now moot as the DOC's newly adopted 2017 SOP provides “Muslim inmates can wear an approved type of kufi anywhere in DOC facilities subject, of course, to normal search and security procedures.” (Pl.'s Obj. 10; Defs.' Mem. Sum. J., 6.) Therefore, Defendants' motion ...

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