United States District Court, N.D. New York
ROOSEVELT ROSE, Plaintiff pro se.
F. MOORE, Asst. Attorney General for Defendants.
T. BAXTER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
matter has been referred to me for Report and Recommendation
by the Honorable Brenda K. Sannes, United States District
Judge, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Rules
N.D.N.Y. 72.3(c). In his civil rights complaint, plaintiff, a
practicing Muslim, alleges that defendants violated his First
Amendment right to practice his religion and his rights under
the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act,
(“RLUIPA”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-1(a) by
interfering with his observance of religious holidays in
2014, 2015, and 2016, while he was incarcerated at Franklin
Correctional Facility (“Franklin”). (Dkt. No. 1,
Compl. at CM/ECF pp. 5-9). Plaintiff seeks significant
monetary relief. (Compl. at CM/ECF p. 11).
before the court is the defendants' motion for summary
judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. (Dkt. No. 53).
Plaintiff has responded in opposition to the motion. (Dkt.
No. 59). Defendants replied, and plaintiff filed a surreply.
(Dkt. Nos. 61, 67). For the following reasons, this court
agrees with defendants and will recommend dismissal of the
Facts and Contentions
required under Local Rule 7.1, defendants have filed a
statement of material facts and notice to plaintiff of the
requirement to file a response in accordance with the local
rules. (Dkt. No. 53-10, “Def. Statement of Material
Facts”). Plaintiff filed a counter-statement of
material facts, but did not respond in the manner required by
Local Rule 7.1(a)(3). (Dkt. No. 59, “Pl.'s
Statement of Material Facts”). Therefore, the court may
accept the facts in defendants' statement as true to the
extent that they are supported by evidence in the record.
See Champion v. Artuz, 76 F.3d 483, 486 (2d Cir.
1996). However, in deference to plaintiff's pro se
status, this court has opted to review the entire summary
judgment record to determine the relevant facts.
was incarcerated at Franklin between January 17, 2014 and
October 31, 2016. (Dkt. No. 53-10, “Def. Statement of
Material Facts” ¶ 2). In his complaint, plaintiff
alleges that various officials violated his civil rights by
interfering with his celebration of the religious holidays of
Eid-Ul-Adha and Ramadan by imposing unnecessary and
discriminatory registration requirements. (Compl. at CM/ECF
p. 5-10). Plaintiff expanded on these allegations in a June
13, 2017 deposition. (Dkt. No. 53-1, at CM/ECF pp. 131-181,
Eid-Ul-Adha Festival in 2014
October 2014, the Muslim chaplain at Franklin retired, and
the facility had not yet hired his replacement. (Dep. at 32).
On October 10, 2014, defendant Smith, a Protestant chaplain
at Franklin, advised Muslim inmates, including plaintiff,
that they would need to sign a “Religious Meal
Form” in order to attend the Eid-Ul-Adha festival, to
be held on October 18, 2014. (Dep. at 27). Plaintiff was one
of several inmates who refused to sign the form. (Dkt. No.
53-8, “Smith Decl.” ¶¶ 2-3).
October 15, 2014, defendant Wilder, a Catholic chaplain at
Franklin who held the position of Facility Coordinating
Chaplain, met with plaintiff individually. (Dkt. No. 53-7,
“Wilder Decl.” ¶ 2). During this meeting,
defendant Wilder explained that DOCCS policy required that
any inmate who wished to participate in a religious meal was
required to sign the Religious Meal Form. (Id.)
Because the Eid-Ul-Adha festival included a meal component,
plaintiff was required to sign the form in order to attend.
(Wilder Decl. ¶ 2).
again refused to sign the Religious Meal Form, and provided
several reasons why he deemed the form incompatible with his
Muslim faith. (Dep. at 33, 45). He noted that one version of
the form referenced a “Kosher diet, ” and a
different version of the form referenced a “Cold
Alternative Diet.” (Dep. at 30, 80; Wilder Decl. Ex. F;
Dkt. No. 53-1, at 91). Neither of these diets was a mandatory
part of his Muslim faith. (Dep. at 80). In addition,
plaintiff argued that DOCCS did not provide any regular
“diet” for practicing Muslims, so there was no
need for him to sign the form for a single festival, where
much of the food was purchased with inmate funds. (Dep. at
46-48). At his deposition, plaintiff also insisted that DOCCS
already had a list of Muslim inmates who would attend, and
that the previous imam had not used the Religious Meal Form.
(Dep. at 30-32).
contend that the Religious Meal Form was used for all faith
groups, and that any inmate who refused to sign the form was
prohibited from attending religious events that included a
meal, regardless of their particular religious affiliation.
(Wilder Decl. ¶ 4). This contention is consistent with
the language of the form itself. Despite some potentially
confusing references to Kosher meals and the Cold Alternative
Diet, the forms submitted with the record herein are not
limited to specific religious affiliations. For example, both
Religious Meal Forms state that “You are requesting
permission to participate in a religious meal for your
registered religion of record.” (Dkt. No. 53-1, at
CM/ECF pp. 58, 91). At the bottom of the form, the inmate is
instructed to confirm that “I have read and understand
the requirements for participation in the Religious Diet/Menu
program. I would like to participate as indicated by checking
the appropriate line below.” (Id.) The first
option allows registration for either the Kosher Diet or the
Cold Alternative Diet, depending on the form. (Id.)
The second option, on both versions of the form, is for
ALL other Department approved religious diets/menus that are
available for my religion of record. I have notified the
Coordinating Chaplain or their designee of my desire to
participate in accordance with local facility policies. Since
I have requested this menu/diet, if I fail to comply with the
terms, I may be subject to removal.
(Id.) (emphasis in original).
plaintiff's refusal to sign the Religious Meal Form,
defendant Wilder decided that plaintiff could not attend the
Eid-Ul-Adha festival. (Wilder Decl. ¶¶ 2-3). On the
day of the festival, plaintiff attempted to attend, but was
refused entry because he had not signed the Religious Meal
Form. (Dkt. No. 53-2 at CM/ECF p. 9, “LaClair Decl.,
” Ex A; Dep. at 31).
end of 2014, defendant Qusay Qubaisy, an Imam, became the
Muslim Chaplain at Franklin. (Dkt. No. 53-4, “Qubaisy
Decl.” ¶ 1). He held that position until November
10, 2016, when he was reassigned to a different facility.
(Id.) In 2015, the Muslim holy month of Ramadan
commenced on June 18, 2015. (Dkt. No. 53-1, at CM/ECF p. 5,
Qubaisy Decl., Ex. A). Beginning on or about January 2015,
defendant Qubaisy made regular announcements at Franklin that
all Muslim inmates interested in participating in Ramadan
activities had to sign up by May 4, 2015. (Quabaisy Decl.
¶ 4). This announcement was consistent with a DOCCS
policy requiring 45 days notice to allow for adequate
preparation of group religious activities, as outlined in a
January 14, 2015 memorandum that was allegedly posted in each
housing unit at Franklin. (LaClair Decl. ¶ 12).
Plaintiff denies that the memorandum was ever posted in his
housing unit, but does not dispute that he was aware of
defendant Qubaisy's announcement. (Dkt. No. 59,
“Pl.'s Statement of Material Facts” ¶
15, 2015, plaintiff submitted a letter to defendant Qubaisy,
asking to be placed on the list of Ramadan participants.
(Qubaisy Decl. ¶ 4; Dep. at 70). That same day,
defendant Wilder denied plaintiff's request to
participate in Ramadan, because he had missed the May 4, 2015
registration deadline. (Dep. at 70; Dkt. No. 53-1 at CM/ECF
March 26, 2016, plaintiff signed a Religious Meal Form, and
initialed the section confirming his request to participate
in “All other Department approved religious diets/menus
that are available for my religion of record.” (Dkt.
No. 1-1, at CM/ECF p. 41; Dkt No. 53-1. at CM/ECF p. 58).
This same section warns that an inmate who fails to comply
with the applicable requirements may be removed from
participation. (Id.) Plaintiff also made a timely
request to participate in Ramadan activities.
2016, the holy month of Ramadan began on June 6. (Dkt. No.
1-1, at CM/ECF p. 49; Dkt. No. 53-1, at CM/ECF p. 66).
Plaintiff attended group activities for the first ten days of
Ramadan, but testified that some other inmates did not take
the holy month seriously, and they distracted from what was
“supposed to be a religious atmosphere.” (Dep. at
116). He chose to stay in his housing unit, and he did not
participate in the Ramadan meals on several days.
(Id.) Instead, plaintiff fasted on his own, and
prepared his own meals. (Dep. at 116-17). After plaintiff
missed the group meal on June 16, 2016, he was called to
defendant Wilder's office for counseling. (Dep. at 117).
Defendant Wilder reminded plaintiff of his obligation to
attend and the potential consequences of not attending the
meals. (Wilder Decl. at 7). He was also advised that if he
missed a religious meal “through no fault of [his] own,
” he should “submit a written notice to the Food
Service Administrator and the Coordinating Chaplain
immediately outlining the reason the meal(s) was
missed.” (Dkt. No. 53-7, at CM/ECF p. 37, Wilder Decl.,
Ex. G). Plaintiff refused to sign the form acknowledging that
he had received this counseling. (Dep. at 118).
also missed Ramadan meals held between June 19 and 22, 2016.
(Dep. at 116). Each missed meal subjected plaintiff to an
increasing scale of penalties, which ultimately resulted in
“removal” from religious meals for sixty days as
of June 28, 2016. (Dkt. No. 53-7, at CM/ECF p. 39; Wilder
Decl., Ex. H). Defendant Wilder prepared a memorandum
advising plaintiff of this removal, which also advised that
“[t]his does not remove you from participation in
Ramadan, but excludes you from receiving the Ramadan
Meal.” (Id.) This removal prevented plaintiff
from receiving Ramadan meals for the remainder of the holy
month. He was permitted to reapply for permission on August
26, 2016, but did not do so. (Dep. at 123). He was
subsequently transferred to other DOCCS facilities, before
being released from DOCCS custody on January 9, 2018. (Dkt.
Nos. 46, 52, 68).
judgment is appropriate where there exists no genuine issue
of material fact and, based on the undisputed facts, the
moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56; Salahuddin v. Goord, 467 F.3d 263,
272-73 (2d Cir. 2006). “Only disputes over
[“material”] facts that might affect the outcome
of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude
the entry of summary judgment.” Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). It must be apparent
that no rational finder of fact could find in favor of the
non-moving party for a court to grant a motion for summary
judgment. Gallo v. Prudential Residential Servs., 22
F.3d 1219, 1224 (2d Cir. 1994).
moving party has the burden to show the absence of disputed
material facts by informing the court of portions of
pleadings, depositions, and affidavits which support the
motion. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323
(1986). If the moving party satisfies its burden, the
nonmoving party must move forward with specific facts showing
that there is a genuine issue for trial. Salahuddin v.
Goord, 467 F.3d at 273. In that context, the nonmoving
party must do more than “simply show that there is some
metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.”
Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio
Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). However, in determining
whether there is a genuine issue of material fact, a court
must resolve all ambiguities, and draw all inferences,
against the movant. See United States v. Diebold,
Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962); Salahuddin v.
Goord, 467 F.3d at 272.
Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies
The Prison Litigation Reform Act, (PLRA), 42 U.S.C.
§1997e(a), requires an inmate to exhaust all available
administrative remedies prior to bringing a federal civil
rights action. The exhaustion requirement applies to all
inmate suits about prison life, whether they involve general
circumstances or particular episodes, and regardless of the
subject matter of the claim. See Giano v. Goord, 380
F.3d 670, 675-76 (2d Cir. 2004) (citing Porter v.
Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 532 (2002). Inmates must exhaust
their administrative remedies even if they are seeking only
money damages that are not available in prison administrative
proceedings. Id. at 675.
failure to exhaust is an affirmative defense that must be
raised by the defendants. Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S.
199, 216 (2007); Johnson v. Testman, 380 F.3d 691,
695 (2d Cir. 2004). As an affirmative defense, it is the
defendants' burden to establish that plaintiff failed to
meet the exhaustion requirements. See ...