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Arnold v. Washington

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

December 20, 2016

HEIDI WASHINGTON, et al., Defendants.




         Plaintiff Michael Arnold, [1] then a prisoner at the Central Michigan Correctional Facility (STF) in St. Louis, Michigan, [2] filed this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Daniel Heyns (Director of the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC)), Michael Martin (Special Activities Coordinator for MDOC), and Brad Purves (Food Service Director for MDOC), in their official capacities, [3] alleging that Defendants violated Plaintiff's rights under the First Amendment, the Fourteenth Amendment, and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-1 (RLUIPA), by implementing MDOC Policy Directive (PD) 05.03.150, under which MDOC replaced all previously offered religious menus with a vegan menu. (Docket no. 1.) Plaintiff, an Orthodox Jew, seeks a declaratory judgment finding that Defendants have violated the First Amendment and RLUIPA by “forcing the Plaintiff[] to eat a religious diet that does not comport with [his] beliefs.”[4] (Id. at 14-15.) Plaintiff does not seek monetary damages.

         Before the Court are Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File an Amended Complaint (docket no. 90, “Motion to Amend”), and Plaintiff's Motion for Reconsideration (docket no. 91) of the Court's previous denial of Plaintiff's Motion to Modify Scheduling Order.[5] Defendants filed a Response to Plaintiff's Motion to Amend (docket no. 93), and Plaintiff filed a Reply (docket no. 94). This matter has been referred to the undersigned for all pretrial matters. (Docket nos. 11, 29.) The undersigned has reviewed the pleadings and dispenses with a hearing pursuant to E.D. Mich. L.R. 7.1(f)(2).

         I. Background

         MDOC Policy Directive 05.03.150, which took effect on July 26, 2013, states in relevant part as follows:

The Department offers a vegan menu to meet the religious dietary needs of prisoners at the following facilities: Alger Correctional Facility, Baraga Correctional Facility, Carson City Correctional Facility, Central Michigan Correctional Facility, Chippewa Correctional Facility, Earnest C. Brooks Correctional Facility, Ionia Correctional Facility, Kinross Correctional Facility, Lakeland Correctional Facility, Macomb Correctional Facility, Muskegon Correctional Facility, Newberry Correctional Facility, Oaks Correctional Facility, Parnall Correctional Facility, St. Louis Correctional Facility, Women's Huron Valley Correctional Facility. The Vegan menu shall comply with Kosher and Halal religious tents. A prisoner who believes the Vegan menu does not meet his/her religious dietary needs may request an alternative menu. An alternative menu will be developed and provided only with approval of the Deputy Director and only if it is determined that the Vegan menu does not meet the religious dietary needs of the prisoner. All religious menus shall meet the minimum nutritional standards set forth in PD 04.07.100 “Offender Meals.” The Deputy Director or designee shall determine at which facilities religious meals will be offered.

         MDOC PD 05.03.150(OO).[6] When this vegan menu took effect, Prisoners who ate from the “main line” would continue to have a variety of foods available to them, including meat and dairy.

         In his Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that he is an Orthodox Jew and that his “religious beliefs do not command [him] to practice vegetarianism or to be a Vegan.” (Docket no. 1 at 8.) Specifically, he alleges that he is required to follow “the mitzvah (commandment) to eat meat and keep kosher;” that a Vegan diet is not a Kosher diet; that even if a Vegan diet could be Kosher, it “will not actually be kosher . . . because of how the MDOC washes its trays and utensils;” and that “MDOC could make Kosher meat products (and dairy products such as cheese) products [sic] available to Jewish prisoners for purchase, but it has chosen not to.” (Id. at 10, 13.) Plaintiff also filed a Motion for Temporary Restraining Order or for Preliminary Injunction. (Docket no. 3.)

         On December 4, 2013, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss. (Docket no. 14.) Plaintiff filed a Response (docket no. 15), and on March 4, 2014, the Court recommended dismissal of Plaintiff's claims with regard to MDOC's washing of trays and utensils and Plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment Claims; the Court further recommended that Plaintiff's Motion for TRO or Preliminary Injunction be denied. (Docket no. 16.) As for Plaintiff's RLUIPA and First Amendment claims that he is required to eat meat as part of his religious beliefs, the Court recommended that these claims survive Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. (Docket no. 16 at 9-10.)

         On June 24, 2014, District Judge Linda V. Parker denied Plaintiff's Motion for Preliminary Injunction and dismissed Plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment claims but allowed all of Plaintiff's First Amendment and RLUIPA claims, that is, the meat-consumption claims as well as the claims related to the washing of trays and utensils (referred to as “cross-contamination claims”), to survive.[7] (Docket no. 28.)

         Defendants filed their first Motion for Summary Judgment on March 25, 2014. (Docket no. 18.) On July 30, the Court recommended that the Motion be granted based on Plaintiff's failure to exhaust his administrative remedies. (Docket no. 31.) Plaintiff objected (docket no. 32), and Judge Parker denied the Motion based on Plaintiff's objection. (Docket no. 39.)

         The parties proceeded to file a number of discovery-related motions. (See docket nos. 43, 44, 47, 49, 55.) Plaintiff also filed two additional motions for TROs (docket nos. 33, 53), both of which were denied (see docket nos. 52, 61). Defendants then filed a second Motion to Dismiss based on Plaintiff's refusal to participate in two scheduled depositions (docket no. 58), which Judge Parker denied in an Opinion and Order entered July 13, 2015 (docket no. 61).

         The Court entered a Scheduling Order on August 4, 2015, setting deadlines for the filing of witness lists, discovery responses (November 20, 2015), discovery motions, and dispositive motions (December 18, 2015). (Docket no. 62). After taking Plaintiff's deposition on September 24, 2015 (see docket no. 64 at 6), Defendants filed their second Motion for Summary Judgment (docket no. 65), which the Court will address in a separately-issued Report and Recommendation.

         On January 8, 2016, attorneys Patricia L. Selby and Michael J. Steinberg of the American Civil Liberties Union (“ACLU”) filed appearances on behalf of Plaintiff, but they conditioned their appearances on an extension of time to conduct discovery and to properly respond to Defendants' most recent Motion for Summary Judgment.[8] (See docket no. 69 at 1.) Defendants opposed Plaintiff's request for an extension (docket no. 70), and the Court held a hearing on April 28, 2016. At the hearing, Ms. Selby and Mr. Steinberg indicated that, due to Plaintiff's transfer to a new facility, they would need to conduct additional discovery on the new facility. (Docket no. 75 at 2.) They requested an additional six months. (Id.) Counsel also indicated at that time that they were considering filing a motion to amend the Complaint to add new parties and possibly additional claims. (Id. at 3.) The Court granted additional time for discovery, but only until August 19, 2016 (four months rather than six). The Court specifically cautioned Plaintiff that discovery must be limited to the claims and named defendants currently included in this matter, and that discovery into additional defendants or claims would be outside the scope contemplated by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Id.) Plaintiff objected to the “truncated” discovery period and to the Court's limitation of discovery to the existing Defendants (docket no. 76 at 4), but Judge Parker overruled the Objection (docket no. 79.)

         Two months later, on June 29, 2016, Plaintiff filed a Stipulation of Substitution of Counsel, indicating that Ms. Selby was terminating herself from the case and would be replaced by Mr. Daniel Manville, who runs a legal clinic at the Michigan State University College of Law. (Docket no. 84.) On July 28, 2016, Plaintiff filed a Motion to Modify the Scheduling Order, requesting yet another extension of the deadline for discovery and dispositive motions, so that Mr. Manville's students could work on the case during the normal academic school year. ...

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