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Toney v. Harrod

United States District Court, D. Kansas

February 11, 2019

MICHAEL M. TONEY, Plaintiff,
v.
GORDON HARROD, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          ERIC F. MELGREN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Michael Toney, an inmate incarcerated at the El Dorado Correctional Facility (“EDCF”) in El Dorado, Kansas, filed suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against several EDCF officials, alleging a variety of constitutional violations. Two of the defendants-Warden James Heimgartner and Lieutenant Jess Quidichay, Jr.-filed a Motion to Dismiss. For the reasons explained below, Defendants Heimgartner and Quidichay, Jr's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Third Amended Complaint (Doc. 85) is granted in part and denied in part.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background[1]

         In August 2015, Toney filed suit against several EDCF employees, as well as medical personnel employed by Corizon Health Services, Inc. (“Corizon”)-a private company providing healthcare to EDCF inmates. Toney's original Complaint alleged extensive constitutional and statutory violations related to his incarceration. Toney's Third Amended Complaint distills his claims into three counts. In Count 1, Toney alleges an Eighth Amendment violation for failing to provide adequate medical treatment.[2] In Count 2, Toney alleges a First Amendment violation for failing to provide Toney meals in a way that would accommodate his religious beliefs. In Count 3, Toney alleges an Eighth Amendment violation for excessive use of force. Toney's First Amendment claim is the only Count applicable to Heimgartner and Quidichay.

         A. Toney's Free Exercise Claim

         Toney is a practicing Muslim. Accordingly, every year during the month of Ramadan he fasts from dawn to sunset. During the month of Ramadan, EDCF serves Muslim inmates two large meals per day, an early breakfast and a late dinner; for years it was EDCF's practice to serve breakfast to Muslim inmates before non-Muslim inmates. However, that practice changed on the first day of Ramadan in 2015 for all the inmates in administrative segregation, which is where Toney was held at all times relevant to this case. On June 18, 2015, Toney did not receive his morning meal until after he had started his religious fast. When Toney complained to the EDCF officer serving breakfast, the officer informed Toney that he was instructed by his superiors to serve Muslims breakfast before “sunrise.”

         On June 20, 2015, Toney sent an informal complaint to Defendant Quidichay, via a “Form-9.”[3] In his complaint, Toney explained that his religious beliefs obligate him to begin fasting at dawn, approximately one and a half hours before sunrise. Toney requested that he and all Muslim inmates in administrative segregation be served breakfast before the other inmates, as had been the practice for years and was still the practice for Muslim inmates in general population. Quidichay responded in writing on June 29, 2015, stating: “Procedure dictates that you receive your meal prior to sunrise or before daylight.” Toney never received a copy of this procedure. On June 30, 2015, Toney submitted an informal complaint to Aramark, EDCF's food contractor, stating that Muslims in segregation were not being adequately accommodated. Aramark's head supervisor responded that “we go down when count clears and DOC lets us go.” Toney alleges that the counting process is ultimately within the purview of the Captain's office.

         Toney states it was apparent he would receive no relief informally, so he filed an official grievance to Unit Team Martin on July 11, 2015. Unit Team Martin responded in writing almost two weeks later, in which he made the following statement: “It has been determined and agreed upon by Administration, that it is not necessary to serve Ramadan meals first . . . . Ramadan meals can be and are served in conjunction with all other meals, which are delivered to the unit and processed for serving and consumption well before sunrise. . . . It has been determined by the Chaplain and Administration that the current manner of serving Ramadan meals is appropriate and is well within your religious guidelines.” In all, Toney alleges that during the month of Ramadan his morning meals were served after dawn on all but three to five days. Furthermore, Toney alleges that he abstained from eating his morning meal every day it was delivered after dawn.

         After Ramadan had concluded in 2015, Toney appealed Unit Team Martin's disposition to Heimgartner, who responded that based on his review no further action was necessary. Months later, Toney raised this issue again with Heimgartner, this time informally and in-person. Toney alleges that Heimgartner was dismissive of his informal complaint. Although Toney makes the general comment that “[t]here was no change in Ramadan procedures, ” nowhere does Toney allege in his Third Amended Complaint, or in any of his preceding Complaints, that he was denied a timely meal during Ramadan any year after 2015.

         B. Procedural History

         Proceeding pro se, Toney initiated this lawsuit by filing his original complaint in August 2015. In February 2016, Toney asked the Court for leave to file a supplemental complaint. The Court, treating Toney's request as a motion to amend the original complaint, granted the motion. In December 2016, Toney again asked the Court for leave to file a supplemental complaint. The Court ordered Toney to condense his original complaint (Doc. 1), his amended complaint (Doc. 12), and his proposed supplemental complaint (Doc. 37) “into a single document that sets forth all of the defendants and claims.” Toney then filed his Second Amended Complaint (Doc. 42).

         Toney's Second Amended Complaint raised a wide array of claims against several defendants, including a First Amendment claim against Defendants Heimgartner and Quidichay. Toney's Second Amended Complaint requested monetary damages and several forms of injunctive relief. Heimgartner, Quidichay, and three other defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss Toney's Second Amended Complaint. On October 20, 2017, the Court granted in part and denied in part the motion.[4] Specific to Heimgartner, the Court dismissed all claims for monetary damages. Heimgartner's motion did not request dismissal of Toney's claims for injunctive relief, and the Court made no ruling on those claims. Specific to Quidichay, the Court held that Toney “sufficiently stated a First Amendment violation against Quidichay for interfering with Toney's Ramadan meals and that claim survives the motion to dismiss.”[5] All other claims for monetary damages against Quidichay were dismissed. Quidichay also never requested dismissal of Toney's claims for injunctive relief, and the Court accordingly did not rule on those claims.

         On November 16, 2017, Toney, appearing before the Magistrate Judge, made an oral motion to appoint counsel. The Magistrate Judge granted the motion and appointed Toney counsel on December 21, 2017. On March 2, 2018, Toney, through his newly appointed counsel, filed a Motion to Amend his Second Amended Complaint. Toney sought permission to condense his claims, to add a state law medical malpractice claim against Defendants Gordon Harrod and Travis Nickelson, and to bring Corizon, which had previously been dismissed from the case, back into the lawsuit. The Magistrate Judge granted Toney's request to add a medical malpractice claim, denied Toney's request to bring Corizon back into the lawsuit, and ordered Toney to file his Third Amended Complaint.

         Toney filed his Third Amended Complaint, in which he condensed his allegations into the three claims now before the Court. In contrast to his Second Amended Complaint, Toney did not specifically request any injunctive relief in his Third Amended Complaint. Instead, Toney only requested “a judgment in excess of $75, 000, plus his costs, attorney fees, and any further relief this Court would deem just or equitable.”

         Defendants Heimgartner and Quidichay then filed this Motion to Dismiss. Heimgartner relies exclusively on the arguments he put forth in his Motion to Dismiss Toney's Second Amended Complaint, as well as the Court's Memorandum and Order granting in part and denying in part that Motion. Quidichay argues, for the first time, that he is entitled to qualified immunity on Toney's First Amendment claim, and he seeks dismissal on that basis.

         II. Legal Standard

         Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), a party may move for dismissal of “a claim for relief in any pleading” that fails “to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Upon such motion, the Court must decide “whether the complaint contains ‘enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.' ”[6] “[T]he mere metaphysical possibility that some plaintiff could prove some set of facts in support of the pleaded claims is insufficient;” rather, the pleading “must give the court reason to believe that this plaintiff has a reasonable likelihood of mustering factual support for these claims.”[7] The Court does not “weigh potential evidence that the parties might present at trial, ” but assesses whether the complaint “alone is legally sufficient to state a claim for which relief may be granted.”[8] In determining whether a claim is facially plausible, the Court must draw on its judicial experience and common sense.[9] All well-pleaded facts are assumed to be true and are construed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party.[10] “Although plaintiff need not allege every element of [its] action in specific detail, [it] cannot rely on conclusory allegations.”[11]

         III. Analysis

         A. Defendant Heimgartner

         Heimgartner requests dismissal of all Toney's claims for monetary damages. Heimgartner relies exclusively on the arguments he raised in his Motion to Dismiss Toney's Second Amended Complaint, and on the Court's order granting dismissal of all such claims.[12] Toney, in response, makes the unusual argument that Heimgartner's Motion “should be denied because it has already been granted.” Toney argues that because the Court dismissed all his claims for monetary damages against Heimgartner, the issue has been fully settled, and the law of the case doctrine forbids reconsideration of this issue.[13] Toney's reliance on this doctrine, however, is odd for at least two reasons. First, Heimgartner is not seeking reconsideration of issues already resolved. To the contrary, Heimgartner is asking for consistency with regards to the Court's prior ruling. And second, Toney evidently agrees with Heimgartner's principal point, which is that Toney has no remaining claims against Heimgartner for monetary damages. The Court fails to see how arguing that Heimgartner's Motion “should be denied because it has already been granted” serves any purpose. Rather, it strikes the Court as being needlessly argumentative.

         Furthermore, although Toney takes exception to Heimgartner rehashing issues the parties and the Court have already covered, the Court considers Heimgartner's decision to reassert his prior defenses to be entirely reasonable. Toney's Third Amended Complaint, which supersedes all his prior complaints, [14] brings largely the same allegations against Heimgartner that were contained in his Second Amended Complaint. The only request for relief Toney makes in his Third Amended Complaint is “for a judgment in excess of $75, 000, plus his costs, attorney fees, and any further relief this Court would deem just or equitable.”[15] Upon review of the Third Amended Complaint, it certainly appears that Toney is still seeking monetary damages. That said, the shortcomings in Toney's Second Amended Complaint apply equally to his most recent Complaint. So, to the extent that Toney's Third Amended Complaint can be construed as bringing claims for monetary damages against Heimgartner, the Court grants Heimgartner's Motion to Dismiss for the same reasons the Court dismissed all such claims in Toney's Second Amended Complaint.[16]

         B. ...


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