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Alamiin v. Morton

United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit

June 24, 2013

WAHIID MUJAHEED ALAMIIN, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
DEBBIE MORTON, Defendant-Appellee, and RICHARD TINKER, Chaplain; EDWIN CARNS; MELISSA HALVORSON; DAVID MILLER, LEO BROWN, Defendants.

(D.C. No. 5:08-CV-01371-F) (W.D. Okla.)

Before HARTZ, Circuit Judge, BRORBY, Senior Circuit Judge, and EBEL, Circuit Judge.

ORDER AND JUDGMENT[*]

WADE BRORBY, Senior Circuit Judge.

Wahiid Mujaheed AlAmiin, a Muslim prisoner in the custody of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections (ODOC), appeals the district court's judgment in favor of ODOC employee Debbie Morton on two claims under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000cc-1(a), 2000cc-2. Exercising jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291, we affirm.

Background

A. Legal Background

RLUIPA prohibits a government from "impos[ing] a substantial burden on the religious exercise" of a prisoner "unless the government demonstrates that imposition of the burden on that person . . . (1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest." 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-1(a). Accordingly, a prisoner bringing a RLUIPA claim "must demonstrate he wishes to engage in (1) a religious exercise (2) motivated by a sincerely held belief, which exercise (3) is subject to a substantial burden imposed by the government." Abdulhaseeb v. Calbone, 600 F.3d 1301, 1312 (10th Cir. 2010). Once the prisoner has satisfied this requirement, "the burden of proof shifts to the defendants to show the substantial burden results from a 'compelling governmental interest' and that the government has employed the 'least restrictive means' of accomplishing its interest." Id. at 1318.

B. Factual Background

Mr. AlAmiin is incarcerated at Lawton Correctional Facility (LCF), a private correctional facility that contracts with ODOC. Ms. Morton, as the ODOC Director's designee to the Administrative Review Authority, enforced ODOC policy in handling numerous grievances filed by Mr. AlAmiin.

This appeal concerns two requests arising from Mr. AlAmiin's practice of Islam. First, he requested a halal or a kosher diet, which was denied because ODOC did not provide a halal meal option and allowed only Jewish, Messianic Jewish, and House of Yahweh prisoners to request a kosher diet. Second, he requested the ability to possess prayer oil in his cell and on his person. This request was denied because ODOC policy limits prisoners' possession of religious perfumes and oils to a small vial to be kept and used only in the designated communal area for worship and storage. When Mr. AlAmiin sued, among other claims, he alleged that Ms. Morton's enforcement of ODOC's halal-meal and prayer-oil policies imposed a substantial burden on his religious exercise in violation of RLUIPA.

During the litigation, ODOC adopted a halal-meal option for Muslim inmates. In addition, pursuant to a settlement agreement between Mr. AlAmiin and other defendants in the litigation, the district court entered an injunction requiring that while he is housed at LCF, Mr. AlAmiin shall be served a halal diet that is prepared and served in conformance with ODOC's policy regarding kosher meal preparation and service. Ms. Morton contended that these developments mooted the halal-meal claim. In response, Mr. AlAmiin disputed the adequacy of the handling and preparation procedures set forth in the new halal-meal policy. The district court agreed with Ms. Morton and dismissed the halal-meal claim against her as moot. It also held that to the extent that Mr. AlAmiin claimed the new policy was insufficient, he would have to exhaust his administrative remedies before pursuing litigation.

The prayer-oil claim proceeded to summary judgment. The district court concluded that the undisputed facts established that ODOC's restriction on in-cell and personal possession of prayer oil served a compelling governmental interest in maintaining prison security and represented the least restrictive means of furthering that interest. Accordingly, the district court entered judgment for Ms. Morton on the prayer-oil claim.

Analysis

A. Halal-Meal ...


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