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Dowdy-El v. Caruso

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

July 2, 2015

ERIC DOWDY-EL, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
PATRICIA L. CARUSO, et al., Defendants.

ORDER DENYING “CLASS MEMBER MOTION FOR ENFORCEMENT OF SPECIFIC ACT OF JUDGMENT THAT REQUIRES MDOC TO PERMIT MUSLIMS SPECIAL RELIGIOUS MEALS DURING EID-UL-FITR and EID–UL-ADHA FEASTS” (Doc. 204)

AVERN COHN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

I. Introduction

Plaintiffs, Muslim inmates housed by the Michigan Department of Corrections (“MDOC”), sued challenging the defendant prison officials’ alleged failure to accommodate their requests to observe three distinct Islamic religious practices:

(1) attending Jum’ah prayer services;

(2) receiving a halal diet; and

(3) participating in the Eid ul-Fitr and Eid ul-Adha Feasts (the “Eid feasts”)

The Court approved a settlement agreement between the parties that, among other things, required the MDOC to provide a halal meal. (Doc. 129). The Court also entered a separate judgment that allows plaintiffs to participate in the Eid feasts. (Doc. 85).

Before the Court is a motion by Lamont Heard, a class member, styled “Class Member Motion for Enforcement of Specific Act of Judgment That Requires Mdoc to Permit Muslims Special Religious Meals During Eid-Ul-Fitr and Eid–Ul-Adha Feasts.” Heard, apparently on behalf of the class, asks that Muslims be permitted to have multi- course meals at the Eid feasts, including having prisoners bring in their own food items to the feasts. He says that this is necessary because Islamic organizations have been unable or unwilling to donate food for the Eid feasts. The MDOC has filed a detailed response (Doc. 207), in which it fully explains that the relief sought in the motion is inappropriate as it would require the MDOC to treat Muslim prisoners differently than other prisoners in violation of the 14th Amendment and is also contrary to current prisoner policy directives. For the reasons that follow, the motion will be denied.

II. Background

Nearly a year ago, on July 17, 2014, Heard, on behalf of the class, filed a similar motion seeking enforcement of the judgment as to the Eid feasts, contending that the MDOC was not complying with the judgment and settlement agreement because it is refusing to allow all Muslims to participate in the Eid feasts but rather requires that a Muslim participate in Ramadan in order to be eligible to participate in the Eid feasts. Heard also contended that they were being disadvantaged in terms of being allowed to have food brought in for the feasts. (Doc. 168).

This Court conducted a telephone hearing on September 23, 2014, to address Heard’s motion. Following the hearing, the MDOC submitted a letter to the Court and plaintiffs’ counsel dated October 15, 2014 (Doc. 178). In the letter, the MDOC confirmed that prisoners do not have to participate in Ramadan to attend the Eid Feasts and that requests to participate in the Eid Feasts would be processed in the same manner as requests to participate in Ramadan. Second, the MDOC agreed to allow outside organizations to donate food for the Eid Feasts under the same terms that other religious groups donate food.

Following submission of the letter, on October 22, 2014, the Court issued an order denying Heard’s motion as moot, stating that “[t]he Court is satisfied based on counsel’s statements that the class members’ concerns have been addressed.” (Doc. 181).

Subsequently, on January 22, 2015, the MDOC revised Policy Directive (PD) 05.03.150 “Religious Beliefs and Practices of Michigan” to include the terms set forth in the October 15, 2014 letter. The specific changes are set forth in paragraphs UU through XX.

On June 4, 2015, Heard filed the instant motion purportedly on behalf of all of the class members (Doc. 204). As stated above, Heard argues that Muslims should be allowed to have multi-course meals at the Eid Feasts, including having prisoners bring their personal food items to the feast. He also says that because Islamic organizations do not trust the MDOC they therefore will not donate food for ...


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