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Hogan v. Idaho State Board of Correction

United States District Court, D. Idaho

May 15, 2018

JAMES HOGAN, Plaintiff,
v.
IDAHO STATE BOARD OF CORRECTIONS; DEBRA FIELD; DAVID MCCLUSKY; CINDY WILSON; IDAHO DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION; HENRY ATENCIO[1]; JEFF ZMUDA; SHANNON CLUNEY; HOWARD YORDY; GARRETT COBURN; JEFF KIRKMAN; DAN COPELAND; and JOSH TEWALT, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER (DKTS 22; 29; 31)

          Candy W. Dale U.S. Magistrate Judge

         Pending before the Court are three motions: Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. 22), and Plaintiff's motions to strike (Dkt. 29; Dkt. 31.) The motions are ripe for the Court's consideration. All parties have consented to the jurisdiction of a United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). (Dkt. 16.) In the interest of avoiding delay, and because the Court conclusively finds the decisional process would not be significantly aided by oral argument, the motions will be decided on the record and without oral argument. Dist. Idaho L. Rule 7.1(d). As discussed more fully below, the Court will deny Defendants' motion for summary judgment and will deny Plaintiff's motions to strike.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff James Hogan is a prisoner in the custody of the Idaho Department of Correction (IDOC), currently incarcerated at the Idaho State Correctional Institution (ISCI). Hogan alleges his religious beliefs, as a practicing Muslim, require him to wear a full-length beard and a kufi at all times. (Dkt. 3 at 5.) A kufi is a knit skullcap. Id.

         IDOC adopted a standard operating procedure (SPO) “to provide guidance and direction for recognized religious activities, and provide procedures for reviewing inmate requests for accommodations of religious activities not covered” by the SOP. Religious Activities Standard Operating Procedure, 403.02.01.001 et seq., Version 8 (May 1, 1996) (Religious Activities SOP). The Religious Activities SOP permits an inmate to keep a beard of up to one-inch if grown for religious purposes. SOP 403.02.02.001. IDOC has adopted also an SOP governing religious property. Religious Property Standard Operating Procedure, 320.02.01.001, et seq., Version 8 (Jan. 9, 2010) (Religious Property SOP). The Religious Property SOP permits an inmate to wear a head covering, such as a kufi, during religious ceremonies and while in his or her cell.

         The dispute in this case arose when Hogan requested permissions exceeding those set forth in the Religious Activities and Religious Property SOPs. Hogan asked to grow a fist-length beard of four inches, and permission to wear his kufi throughout the facility, at all times. IDOC staff denied these requests as inconsistent with the SOPs.

         PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On September 15, 2016, Hogan filed a pro se prisoner complaint against Defendants alleging a violation of his rights to exercise religious beliefs, as protected by the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc et seq.[2]

         In his Complaint, Hogan seeks declaratory relief that Defendants violated RLUIPA by denying his requests, and injunctive relief for himself and other similarly-situated prisoners permitting them to grow and keep a fist-length beard of four-inches, and permitting such inmates to wear a kufi throughout prison facilities at all times. Hogan also sought reasonable costs, attorney fees, and monetary damages.

         On December 9, 2016, the Court issued its Initial Review Order, finding Hogan stated plausible RLUIPA claims, but that he could not continue to pursue his claim for monetary damages because money damages not recoverable in RLUIPA actions. (Dkt. 8.) On November 13, 2017, Defendants filed the instant motion for summary judgment. (Dkt. 22.) On December 4, 2017, Hogan filed his response. (Dkt. 25.) Defendants filed a reply on December 22, 2017.[3] (Dkt. 27.) Hogan filed a sur-reply on January 8, 2018, (Dkt. 28) and an additional sur-reply on January 17, 2018. (Dkt. 30.)

         Hogan filed the instant motions to strike on January 8, 2018, and January 17, 2018, respectively. (Dkt. 29; Dkt. 31.) The Court notes, however, that Hogan's motions, although styled as motions “to strike” are not motions to strike in substance. Instead, the motions are additional sur-replies in opposition to Defendants' motion for summary judgment. In fact, the two motions are exact copies of one another, with the exception that the first motion (Dkt 29), is missing page 7. Plaintiff's first-filed sur-reply (Dkt. 28), is also an exact copy missing a page that should have appeared at page 7. However, Plaintiff's second-filed sur-reply, (Dkt. 30) includes the missing page 7. Therefore, the Court will consider the contents of Plaintiff's second-filed sur-reply (Dkt. 30) only and will deny the two motions to strike as moot.

         STANDARDS OF LAW

          1.Motion for Summary Judgment

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 directs a Court to “grant summary judgment if the movant shows 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). One of the principal purposes of summary judgment “is to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims….” Celotex Corp v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986). Summary judgment is the “principal tool[] by which factually insufficient claims or defenses [can] be isolated and prevented from going to trial with the attendant unwarranted consumption of public and private resources.” Id. at 327. “[T]he mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment…” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). Rather, if there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact, the motion is proper. Material facts are facts “that might affect the outcome of the suit.” Anderson at 247-48.

         “The moving party initially bears the burden of proving the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” In re Oracle Corp. Secs. Litig., 627 F.3d 376, 387 (9th Cir. 2010) (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323). “Where the moving party meets that burden, the burden then shifts to the non-moving party to designate specific facts demonstrating the existence of genuine issues for trial.” Id. The non-moving party must go beyond the pleadings and show through affidavits, interrogatories, depositions, or admissions on file that a genuine issue of material fact exists. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324. “If a party fails to properly support an assertion of fact or fails to properly address another party's assertion of fact as required by Rule 56(c), the court may … consider the fact undisputed for the purposes of the motion.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)(2).

         The party bearing the burden of proof at trial “must establish beyond controversy every essential element of its ... claim.” S. Cal. Gas Co. v. City of Santa Ana, 336 F.3d 885, 889 (9th Cir. 2003). A party who does not have the burden “may rely on a showing that a party who does have the trial burden cannot produce admissible evidence to carry its burden as to the fact.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(B) (advisory committee's note.) As a general rule, the “party opposing summary judgment must direct attention to specific triable facts” supportive of the claims that have been made. S. Cal. Gas Co., 336 F.3d at 889.[4] [T]here must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the [non-moving party]. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252.

         2. Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act

         RLUIPA applies to entities receiving federal funding or financial assistance, including prisons like ISCI. See Sossamon v. Texas, 131 S.Ct. 1651, 1655 (2011.) The statute provides prison inmates with protection from substantial burdens on religious exercise:

No government shall impose a substantial burden on the religious exercise of a person residing in or confined to an institution, … even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability, unless the government establishes that imposition of the burden on the person -
(1) is in the 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).

         A RLUIPA claim is analyzed under a burden shifting framework. The inmate bears the burden initially to show that the governmental action constitutes a substantial burden on the exercise of the inmate's sincerely held religious beliefs. Warsoldier v. Woodfort, 418 F.3d 989, 994 (9th Cir. 2005). A substantial burden is one that imposes “a significantly great restriction or onus upon such exercise.” San Jose Christian College v. City of Morgan Hill, 360 F.3d 1024, 1034 (9th Cir. 2004). If the plaintiff satisfies this burden, the government must “show that its action or policy (1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that interest.” Holt, 135 S.Ct. at 783.

         DISCUSSION

         The IDOC Defendants seek summary judgment on two grounds. First, Defendants contend Hogan cannot demonstrate that IDOC policies substantially burdened his religious practice based on the facts in the record. Defendants assert further that, even if the Court finds there are sufficient facts to support Hogan's RLUIPA claims, undisputed evidence in the record demonstrates the IDOC policies further compelling governmental interests by the least restrictive means. Second, Defendants contend Hogan failed to allege evidence of affirmative acts sufficient to establish RLUIPA claims ...


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