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Hughes v. Heimgartner

United States District Court, D. Kansas

March 23, 2015

CHARLEY HUGHES, Plaintiff,
v.
JAMES HEIMGARTNER, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

JULIE A. ROBINSON, District Judge.

Pro se Plaintiff Charley Hughes, an inmate incarcerated at El Dorado Correctional Facility ("EDCF") in El Dorado, Kansas, brings suit in forma pauperis under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against EDCF Warden James Heimgartner and former EDCF Chaplain Thomas Phelan. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants failed to provide him with a religious celebratory meal in violation of his rights under the Equal Protection Clause, the Free Exercise Clause, and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act ("RLUIPA"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000cc-1, et seq.

This matter comes before the Court on Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 23). The motion is fully briefed and the Court is prepared to rule. For the reasons stated in detail below, the Court denies Defendants' summary judgment motion. However, Plaintiff's claims against Defendant Phelan in his individual capacity are dismissed without prejudice for lack of personal jurisdiction. In addition, Plaintiff's RLUIPA claim against Defendant Heimgartner in his individual capacity is dismissed with prejudice pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915.

I. Background

A. Uncontroverted Facts

Plaintiff is an EDCF inmate who, because of disciplinary infractions involving violent behavior, has been confined to a living unit segregated from the general prison population. In March 2010, he filed a religious affiliation form with EDCF indicating that he is a follower of Islam.

Eid ul Fitr is one of two major religious observances in Islam. It marks the completion of the month of Ramadan, during which Muslims fast from dawn to dusk. Eid ul Fitr is typically celebrated with a sweet breakfast, prayer, and then a feast. The Eid ul Fitr celebration occurs once a year.

In July 2012, Defendant Phelan sent an email to EDCF staff outlining that year's procedures for accommodating observers of the Ramadan fast. The email indicated that on the day of Eid ul Fitr, Ramadan observers in the general prison population would attend a feast in the prison's Spiritual Life Center. Inmates attending the feast would enjoy sweet food items like doughnuts, grapes, orange juice, and strawberry and chocolate milk, all provided by the Kansas Department of Corrections' ("KDOC") contract food vendor. Inmates would be subject to a pat-down search at the conclusion of the feast to prevent food items from leaving the Spiritual Life Center. Muslim inmates housed in "segregation, " however, would not be permitted to attend the feast at all and could not have the special food items served at the feast delivered to them. That directive was consistent with the policy set forth in EDCF General Order 23-103, providing that "[b]anquets and refreshment events shall only be open to those inmates... who are housed in the facility general population units. No meals shall be approved for delivery to inmates on segregation or RDU intake status."[1]

Plaintiff contacted the EDCF Chaplain Department in May 2012, requesting permission to receive the Eid ul Fitr meal that Muslim inmates in the general prison population receive. That request was denied, and Plaintiff filed a grievance with his unit team manager on the basis that failure to partake in a special Eid ul Fitr meal would impose a substantial burden on Plaintiff's religious exercise. The team manager responded that "[t]his is policy and has been for several years. When you get to population you may participate in this event."[2]

Plaintiff appealed the team manager's decision, arguing that the meal restriction would "render [his] celebration of a mandatory holiday impossible."[3] Plaintiff also stated that "Jews while in segregation are able to receive the Passover meals but the Muslims are told we have to be in population to receive our Halal meal for Eid [ul] Fitr."[4] Notwithstanding those assertions-the truth of which are uncontroverted on summary judgment[5]-the team manager's decision was summarily upheld on appeal by Defendant Heimgartner and, ultimately, KDOC Director of Religious Programs Gloria Geither. Eid ul Fitr passed and Plaintiff did not receive the Eid ul Fitr meal.

B. Procedural History

Having exhausted the administrative remedies available to him, Plaintiff brought this action against Defendants Heimgartner and Phelan under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He filed his original Complaint (Doc. 1) on December 10, 2012, asserting RLUIPA, free exercise, due process, and equal protection claims against Defendants in both their individual and official capacities. Because Plaintiff is a prisoner, Judge Crow screened the Complaint under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A.[6] Judge Crow found several deficiencies in the Complaint and ordered Plaintiff to show cause why his equal protection claim, his RLUIPA claim for monetary damages, and his free exercise claim for monetary damages should not be dismissed. Plaintiff then requested leave to amend his complaint, which Judge Crow granted.[7]

Plaintiff filed his First Amended Complaint (Doc. 9) on November 6, 2013, stating additional facts and again asserting RLUIPA, free exercise, due process, and equal protection claims against Defendants, again in both their individual and official capacities. The Amended Complaint requested punitive damages as well as injunctive relief requiring EDCF to "start giving Muslim [i]nmates in segregation the same meals Muslims in population receive during the Eid-ul-Fitr Feast."[8] Plaintiff did not request compensatory damages.[9]

Judge Crow screened the Amended Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915 and 1915A, and again found deficiencies.[10] This time, Judge Crow dismissed Plaintiff's due process claim and all claims for punitive damages for failure to allege facts in support of those claims. Plaintiff has not requested leave to amend his complaint a second time. Thus, the only claims now remaining before the Court are Plaintiff's claims for prospective injunctive relief under RLUIPA, the Free Exercise Clause, and the Equal Protection Clause. Plaintiff asserts those claims against Defendants Heimgartner and Phelan in their individual and official capacities.

II. Lack of Personal Jurisdiction over Defendant Phelan in his Individual Capacity and Additional § 1915 Screening

Before addressing the parties' contentions on summary judgment, the Court addresses the following preliminary matters.

A. Failure to Effect Service on Defendant Phelan in his Individual Capacity

First, the record indicates that Plaintiff has not effected service on Defendant Phelan in his individual capacity. Though Plaintiff accomplished service on Defendant Phelan in his official capacity by serving the Kansas Attorney General, service forms for Defendant Phelan in his individual capacity were returned unexecuted because, apparently, Defendant Phelan no longer works for EDCF. Defendants assert in their motion for summary judgment that the Court lacks personal jurisdiction over Defendant Phelan in his individual capacity, as he was not properly served with a complaint. Plaintiff has not responded to this issue.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 4 provides in relevant part as follows:

(m) Time Limit for Service. If service of the summons and complaint is not made upon a defendant within 120 days after the filing of the complaint, the court, upon motion or on its own initiative after notice to the plaintiff, shall dismiss the action without prejudice as to that defendant or direct that service be effected within a specified time; provided that if the plaintiff shows good cause for the failure, the court shall extend the time for service for an appropriate period.[11]

Personal jurisdiction does not attach unless defendants are served with a complaint in accordance with the manner prescribed by Fed.R.Civ.P. 4.[12] "Neither actual notice nor simply naming the person in the caption of the complaint" will subject a defendant to the district court's jurisdiction "if service was not made in substantial compliance" with Fed.R.Civ.P. 4.[13]

To date, more than 120 days have passed since Plaintiff filed his Amended Complaint with the Court, and Plaintiff, as noted, has not responded to Defendants' argument regarding his failure to effect service. Accordingly, the Court dismisses the action without prejudice as to Defendant Phelan in his individual capacity; the Court exercises jurisdiction over Defendant Phelan in his official capacity only.

B. RLUIPA Claim Against Defendant Heimgartner in his Individual Capacity

28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) provides that "the court shall dismiss [a] case [proceeding in forma pauperis ] at any time if the court determines that... the action or appeal (i) is frivolous or malicious; (ii) fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or (iii) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief."[14]

Pursuant to § 1915(e)(2)(B), the Court finds that Plaintiff fails to state a claim for relief under RLUIPA against Defendant Heimgartner in his individual capacity. The Tenth Circuit's decision in Stewart v. Beach[15] joined several other circuits in holding that RLUIPA does not provide a cause of action against defendants in their individual capacities.[16] That decision is binding on this Court, and Plaintiff's RLUIPA claim against Defendant Heimgartner in his individual capacity is therefore dismissed with ...


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