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Davis v. Heyns

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

February 28, 2017

RONALD L. DAVIS, Plaintiff,
v.
DANIEL H. HEYNS, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          JANET T. NEFF United States District Judge

         This is a prisoner civil rights action filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 involving Plaintiff's Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), First Amendment, Equal Protection Clause, and various state law claims alleging failure by Defendants to accede to his religious dietary requests while incarcerated (Dkt 1). Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment (Dkt 50). The matter was referred to the Magistrate Judge, who issued a Report and Recommendation (R&R), recommending Defendants' motion be granted (Dkt 56). The matter is presently before the Court on Plaintiff's objections to the Report and Recommendation (Dkt 57). In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3), the Court has performed de novo consideration of those portions of the Report and Recommendation to which objections have been made. The Court denies the objections and issues this Opinion and Order.

         Plaintiff presents fifteen objections to the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation. The Court will consider each of Plaintiff's objections, in turn, and in the order and format presented by Plaintiff.

         I. OBJECTIONS

         A. RLUIPA

         Plaintiff's First Objection.

         Plaintiff argues that the Magistrate Judge's RLUIPA conclusion is contrary to law (Pl. Obj., Dkt 57 at PageID.536). Plaintiff's basis for this argument is that Defendants' “evidence and/or facts . . . should not have been given more weight then [sic] the Plaintiffs [sic] verified complaint inwhich [sic] according to Federal Rules and Civil Procedures Rule 8(b)(6) should be considered as undisputed facts because the Defendants never denied any of the allegations with in [sic] the complaint” (id.).

         Plaintiff's objection fails because the premise is inaccurate. According to 42 U.S.C. § 1997(e), “any defendant may waive the right to reply to any action brought by a prisoner confined in jail, prison, or other correctional facility, ” and “such waiver shall not constitute an admission of the allegations contained in the complaint under section 1983 of this title or any other Federal law.” 42 U.S.C. § 1997(e)(g)(1). A court may require a defendant to reply to a complaint. 42 U.S.C. § 1997(e)(g)(2). However, the Magistrate Judge did not require Defendants to file a response to Plaintiff's complaint in this case (Dkt 15 at PageID.130). Defendants waived the right to reply to Plaintiff's complaint when replies were not filed by Defendants. Under 42 U.S.C. § 1997(e)(g)(1), Defendants' waiver is not deemed an admission of Plaintiff's allegations within the complaint. Therefore, the Magistrate Judge's analysis was not contrary to law when she considered both Defendants' and Plaintiff's evidence and facts. Plaintiff's objection is denied.

         Plaintiff's Second Objection.

         Next, Plaintiff argues that the Magistrate Judge erred when she did not “accept[] Plaintiff's undisputed allegations that he is commanded by Allah and the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) to eat meat and that if he does not adhere to this command that it takes him out of the fold of Islam for being disobedient” (Pl. Obj., Dkt 57 at PageID.538). Plaintiff's basis for this argument is again, that Defendants failed to file a response to Plaintiff's complaint and affidavit and that Defendants therefore admitted Plaintiff's allegations contained therein (id.).

         Plaintiff's second objection fails for the same reasons stated supra. Plaintiff's objection is denied.

         Plaintiff's Third Objection.

         Plaintiff argues that the Magistrate Judge erred when she determined that a Halal meal does not require specific menu items of Plaintiff's choice (Pl. Obj., Dkt 57 at PageID.539). Plaintiff's basis for this argument is that the Magistrate Judge relied on case law instead of Plaintiff's complaint, affidavit, and deposition (id.).

         Plaintiff's objection fails because the premise is inaccurate. Plaintiff's complaint (Dkt 1), affidavit (Dkt 52), and deposition (Dkt 51-3) are largely based on interpretations of the Quran. The United States Supreme Court has held that “courts are not arbiters of scriptural interpretation.” Thomas v. Rev. Bd. of Indiana Empl. Sec. Div., 450 U.S. 707, 716 (1981). Judicial review considers “the facts as found and conclusions are drawn.” Id. The Magistrate Judge determined that Defendants offered Plaintiff a vegan meal option (Dkt 56 at PageID.528). The Magistrate Judge concluded that Defendants' vegan meal option is, in fact, Halal, even though it does not contain Plaintiff's specific menu items (id.). The Magistrate Judge's conclusions are based on law (Dkt 56 at PageID.528). The Sixth Circuit has “explicitly held that vegetarian meals are, in fact, Halal.” Robinson v. Jackson, 615 F. App'x 310, 313 (6th Cir., June 15, 2015). Additionally, the Sixth Circuit also determined that if a prisoner “is not being denied Halal meals, ” then the prisoner “fails to state a claim as a matter of law under RLUIPA.” Id. at 314. Therefore, Plaintiff has not demonstrated any error in the Magistrate Judge's legal analysis or conclusion. Plaintiff's objection is denied.

         Plaintiff's Fourth Objection.

         Plaintiff argues that the Magistrate Judge erred when she concluded that Defendants' decision “to accommodate the religious dietary needs of thousands of prisoners by providing a vegan menu option satisfies RLUIPA” (Pl. Obj., Dkt 57 at PageID.539-540). Plaintiff's basis for this argument is that “Defendants have not presented this argument nor is it supported by any evidence on [sic]the recorded [sic]” (id. at PageID.539).

         Plaintiff's objection fails because the premise is inaccurate. In Defendants' brief in support of their motion for summary judgment, Defendants stated that the “MDOC provides Davis with nutritionally sound meals that do not require him to eat food that is haram” (Def. Br., Dkt 51 at PageID.433). Defendants also stated that the “MDOC provides Davis with a meal that does not violate the tenants [sic] of his religion” (id. at PageID.435). Finally, Defendants stated that the MDOC's “religious meal is not a substantial burden on Davis' religion” (id. at PageID.433). Defendants cite 18 U.S.C. § 3626(a)(2), which provides that “the court shall give substantial weight to any adverse impact on public safety or the operation of a criminal justice system . . . ” (id. at PageID.435). Defendants identified the “increased costs associated with providing Halal meat system-wide, ” which would force the MDOC “to expend incredibly scarce resources to provide meals” with Halal meat (Def. Br., Dkt 51 at PageID.435). The Magistrate Judge considered the record before granting summary judgment on Plaintiff's RLUIPA claims. Defendants' argument was preserved for review, and Plaintiff has not demonstrated any error in the Magistrate Judge's analysis. Plaintiff's objection is denied.

         B. ...


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