Appeal from an order of the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York, Foley, J., denying plaintiff's motion for summary judgment, granting defendants' cross-motion for summary judgment and dismissing plaintiff's § 1983 complaint. Affirmed in part; reversed in part.
Timbers, Pierce, and Pratt, Circuit Judges.
This is an appeal from an order of the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York, Foley, J., dated June 24, 1988, which denied the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment, granted defendants' cross-motion for summary judgment and dismissed the plaintiff's § 1983 complaint. We affirm so much of the district court's opinion as dismissed plaintiff's due process claims. We also affirm the denial of plaintiff's motion for summary judgment in all respects. However, because we do not believe that defendants met their burden of proving they were entitled to summary judgment on plaintiff's first amendment claim, we reverse and remand for further proceedings.
Appellant Jerry Young filed a pro se complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in federal district court on July 10, 1986, alleging that prison officials at the Auburn Correctional Facility had placed him in a "limited privilege program" without a hearing, in violation of his due process rights. Appellant also alleged that prison officials had prevented him from attending religious services or classes while he was confined under this program, and while he was confined shortly thereafter to disciplinary keeplock. Appellant sought declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as substantial monetary damages, in his complaint.*fn1 The matter was referred by the district judge to Magistrate DiBianco.
Young moved for summary judgment, and the defendants cross-moved for summary judgment. On May 6, 1988, the magistrate filed a Report and Recommendation in which he recommended that defendants' motion be granted and plaintiff's complaint be dismissed. The plaintiff filed timely objections to the magistrate's report, and following review, the district judge filed a Memorandum Order and Decision in which he adopted the magistrate's report and recommendation. The district judge found the plaintiff's objections to be "speculative and conclusory in nature," and ordered that plaintiff's complaint be dismissed. Accordingly, judgment was entered for the defendants.
The facts before the district court were undisputed. According to Kenneth E. Weaver, Chairman of Auburn's Program Committee, on or about July 17, 1984, appellant was placed in Auburn's "limited privilege program" after he refused several job assignments within the prison. Under the limited privilege program, a prisoner is confined to his cell twenty-three hours each day, and is not allowed to attend movies or special shows, or use the library. Commissary privileges are also limited in the program. A prisoner can, however, obtain release from the program at any time, provided he is not in disciplinary confinement, by choosing to accept a proffered work assignment. In this case, appellant was offered a position while in the limited privilege program, but he refused to take it.
Appellant remained in the limited privilege program from approximately July 17, 1984 until October 12, 1984. It is undisputed that throughout this time, appellant was denied access to religious services. On October 12, 1984, appellant's status changed as a result of various acts of unrelated misbehavior. Consequently, from October 12, 1984, until December 17, 1984, when he was transferred to Attica, Young remained in continuous disciplinary keeplock, rather than the limited privilege program. While appellant was in disciplinary keeplock, prison officials continued to deny him access to religious services.
A. Appellant's Placement in the Limited Privilege Program
As both the magistrate and district judge noted, appellant's § 1983 action is at least his second due process challenge to placement in Auburn's limited privilege program. See Young v. Henderson, 84-CV-1074 (N.D.N.Y. Oct. 24, 1984); see also Young v. Coughlin, et al., 86-CV-583 (N.D.N.Y. July 20, 1987) (same plaintiff subsequently raised due process claim for yet a third time, and was sanctioned for doing so). Quite apart from the fact that appellant's claim is without merit, appellant is precluded from relitigating his present due process claim against the prison officials under principles of collateral estoppel. See Parklane Hosiery Co. v. Shore, 439 U.S. 322, 326, 58 L. Ed. 2d 552, 99 S. Ct. 645 n.5 (1979). Accordingly, the district court did not err in dismissing Young's due process claim.
B. The Denial of Access to Religious Services
In his complaint, Young stated that he "is a Muslin and he was denied to attend and participate [sic] in the Muslim Ramadan Fast in the general population, etc." In his motion for summary judgment, he also stated that he was unable to attend religious services or classes during the period when he was confined to either the limited privilege program or punitive keeplock. Young later amplified this allegation in an affidavit stating as follows:
The plaintiff is a Muslim and his religion is Islam and I am a believer of the Holy Qur'an (the Holy Book) for all Muslims. The plaintiff argues that the month of Ramadan is a religious observance month for Muslims all over the world. The plaintiff argues that during the month of Ramadan, it is mandatory that all Muslims should (1) attend Juma services (Friday Religious Services) (2) attend Muslim study ...