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Neil Johnson v. Warden Killian

May 16, 2012

NEIL JOHNSON, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
WARDEN KILLIAN, RABBI LASKIN, CHAPLAIN, D. WYNKOOP, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from a judgment of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (Naomi Reice Buchwald, Judge) entered August 26, 2010, which dismissed plaintiff- appellant's claims that defendants-appellees had violated his rights under the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb-1, based on a finding that plaintiff- appellant had failed to exhaust his administrative remedies concerning his congregational prayer policy claim.

Per curiam.

10-4651-pr

Johnson v. Killian

(Submitted: April 26, 2012

Before: CALABRESI, CABRANES, and CHIN, Circuit Judges.

Because we find that plaintiff-appellant did indeed exhaust his administrative remedies, we vacate the judgment of the District Court and remand for further proceedings.

The question before us is whether the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (Naomi Reice Buchwald, Judge) properly granted summary judgment to defendants- appellees Warden Killian, Rabbi Laskin, and Case Manager Wynkoop*fn1 (jointly, "defendants") based on its finding that plaintiff-appellant Neil Johnson failed to exhaust his administrative remedies through the Bureau of Prisons ("BOP") as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (the "PLRA"), 42 U.S.C. § 1997e.

Johnson, pro se and incarcerated, appeals the final judgment of the District Court entered August 26, 2010, granting summary judgment in favor of defendants on Johnson's claims under Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), for violation of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act ("RFRA"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb-1. Because we find that Johnson did indeed exhaust his administrative remedies, we vacate the judgment of the District Court and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

We review de novo an order of a district court granting or denying summary judgment. See, e.g., Durakovic v. Building Serv. 32 BJ Pension Fund, 609 F.3d 133, 137 (2d Cir. 2010). Summary judgment is warranted only upon a showing "that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). In determining whether there are genuine issues of material fact, "we are required to resolve all ambiguities and draw all permissible factual inferences in favor of the party against whom summary judgment is sought." Terry v. Ashcroft, 336 F.3d 128, 137 (2d Cir. 2003) (internal quotation marks omitted).

However, "conclusory statements or mere allegations [are] not sufficient to defeat a summary judgment motion." Davis v. New York, 316 F.3d 93, 100 (2d Cir. 2002). Summary judgment is appropriate "[w]here the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).

BACKGROUND

Johnson, a follower of Islam, was incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution in Otisville, New York ("FCI Otisville") from at least 2005 to August 2007. During that period, FCI Otisville had two wardens--Warden Menifee until early 2007 and Warden Killian starting in April 2007.

Beginning in 2005, there was a policy at FCI Otisville that restricted Muslim inmates' ability to perform regular congregational prayers. Specifically, Johnson's religious beliefs require participation in congregational prayer five times a day. Under the FCI Otisville policy, however, the prison chapel was available only once a day and no ...


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