The opinion of the court was delivered by: Arcara, District Judge.
The above-referenced case was referred to Magistrate Judge
Carol E. Heckman pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B), on May 22,
1998. On March 21, 2000, Magistrate Judge Heckman filed a Report
and Recommendation, recommending that plaintiff's motion for
summary judgment should be denied and defendants' motion for
summary judgment should be granted.
The Court has carefully reviewed the Report and Recommendation,
the record in this case, and the pleadings and materials
submitted by the parties. No objections having been timely filed,
it is hereby
ORDERED, that pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), and for the
reasons set forth in Magistrate Judge Heckman's Report and
Recommendation, Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment is denied
and defendants' motion for summary judgment is granted. The Clerk
of Court is hereby ordered to enter judgment in favor of
defendants and to take all steps necessary to close the case.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
This case was referred to the undersigned by the Hon. Richard
J. Arcara, to hear and report, in accordance with
28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). All parties have moved for summary judgment
pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For
the following reasons, plaintiffs' motion should be denied, and
defendants' motion should be granted.
The following facts are not disputed.*fn1 Plaintiffs commenced
this action on December 6, 1993. At the time, the plaintiffs were
inmates in the custody of the New York State Department of
Correctional Services ("DOCS"), and members of the Nation of
Islam ("NOI"). Defendant Warithu-Deen Umar is DOCS' Ministerial
Program Coordinator. Defendant Abdul Najeeuallah is a Muslin
Chaplin (or "Imam") employed by DOCS. Defendant J.L. Mowery is a
Rabbi employed by DOCS.
Plaintiffs seek injunctive relief and damages under
42 U.S.C. § 1983 based on alleged violations of their constitutional
rights to free exercise of their religious beliefs. Specifically,
in their Second Amended Complaint*fn2 plaintiffs claim that they
have been denied access to DOCS' kosher food program for
observance of NOI dietary laws, access to a classroom (or
"mosque") for Islamic classes, and inclusion of NOI materials in
prison radio and video religious programming. In the prayer for
relief, plaintiffs seek an order directing defendants to provide
these (and other) services, directing DOCS to hire an NOI member
(specifically, plaintiff Andre D. Muhammad) as and inmate clerk
to conduct NOI affairs, and awarding plaintiff Andre D. Muhammad
$250,000 in compensatory damages. See Second Amended Complaint,
Item 26, pp 8-9; see also Muhammad v. Coughlin, 1998 WL 950984
(W.D.N.Y. November 13, 1998).
On January 5, 1995, subsequent to the commencement of this
action, a Stipulation and Order was entered by Hon. Loretta A.
Preska, United States District Judge for the Southern District of
New York, in the case of Muhammad v. Coughlin, No. 91-CIV-6333
(S.D.N.Y. 1995) (attached as Ex. B to Item 63), settling a class
action suit brought by NOI inmates which addressed claims similar
to those brought by the plaintiffs in this case. The Stipulation
and Order identifies the class as "all persons who have been,
are, or will be incarcerated in a correctional facility
administered by the State of New York or its agencies or
instrumentalities, and who are or become members of the Nation of
Islam faith . . .," and provides that "[a]ll of the terms of
[the] Stipulation and Order, and all references to the
plaintiffs, shall apply to all members of the plaintiff class
unless otherwise stated" (id., ¶ 1(A)(c)).
On October 15, 1999, plaintiff Andre D. Muhammad moved for
summary judgment on the ground "that plaintiff and class will
succeed on the merits" (Item 57, Muhammad Affirmation, p. 2). On
December 28, 1999, defendants filed a cross-motion for summary
judgment (Item 60), based on the following grounds:
1. Plaintiffs' claims in this case are precluded by
the terms of Judge Preska's settlement order in the
Southern District litigation.
2. Failure to demonstrate a constitutional violation
based on DOCS' policy of denying NOI followers the
same kosher diet provided to Jewish inmates.
3. Lack of protected liberty interest in a particular
4. Lack of personal involvement by the remaining
defendants (Umar, Najeeuallah, and Mowery).
Each of these grounds is discussed in turn below.
1. Preclusive Effect of Southern District Settlement.