United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Northern Division
ORDER ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
J. QUIST UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
a civil rights action brought by a state prisoner, Milton
Rickman, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Rickman is suing former
Special Activities Coordinator Michael Martin, current
Special Activities Coordinator David Leach, and Chippewa
Correctional Facility Chaplain David Rink. The parties filed
cross-motions for summary judgment. (ECF Nos. 48 & 51.)
Magistrate Judge Timothy Greeley issued a Report and
Recommendation (R & R) (ECF No. 59), to which Rickman
objected. (ECF No. 60.)
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(b), a party "may
serve and file specific written objections" to the R
& R, and the Court is to consider any proper objection.
Local Rule 72.3(b) likewise requires that written objections
"shall specifically identify the portions" of the R
& R to which a party objects. Under 28 U.S.C. §
636(b), upon receiving objections to a report and
recommendation, the district judge "shall make a de novo
determination of those portions of the report or specified
proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is
made." After conducting a de novo review of the R &
R, Rickman's objections, and the pertinent portions of
the record, the Court concludes that the R & R should be
& R recommends the following:
• Rickman's motion for summary judgment be denied.
• Defendants' motion for summary judgment be granted
in part and denied in part.
• To the extent Rickman seeks monetary damages against
Defendants in their official capacities, the claims should be
• Rink is entitled to qualified immunity, so
Rickman's claims against Rink in his personal-capacity
should be dismissed.
• To the extent Rickman seeks monetary damages for his
RLUTPA claims, the claims should be dismissed.
• Rickman's equal protection claims against Martin
and Leach should be dismissed.
• To the extent Rickman seeks prospective relief in any
of his claims against Martin, those claims are moot.
made four objections. First, that the magistrate judge erred
in finding that there was a genuine issue of material fact
about whether Rickman holds a sincerely held religious
belief. Rickman fails to distinguish the reality that
"the sincerity of one's religious beliefs is
decidedly a question of fact" and, therefore,
inappropriate for the Court to decide on summary judgment.
Hall v. Martin, No. 1:10-CV-1221, 2015 WL 1191886,
at *5 (W.D. Mich. Mar. 11, 2015) (citing United States v.
Seeger, 380 U.S. 163, 185, 85 S.Ct. 850, 863 (1965)).
The cases Rickman cites do not say otherwise and do not help
his argument. In fact, one of his cases supports the R &
R. In Shaheed-Muhammad v. Dipaolo, 393 F.Supp.2d 80,
90 (D. Mass. 2005), the court stated, "I question any
court's ability to determine the sincerity of a plaintiff
s beliefs on a cold record." The court accordingly
denied the defendants summary judgment on the question of the
sincerity of the plaintiffs religious belief. Accordingly,
Rickman's first objection will be overruled.
Rickman argues that the magistrate judge erred in finding
that it was unclear whether Rickman's religious belief
was substantially burdened. MDOC policy requires that when an
inmate of an unrecognized religion wants to possess a
religious item, the inmate must submit a written request to
the warden. The magistrate judge found that it was unclear
whether Rickman had done so. Rickman objects and cites to a
proposal he sent to the warden. However, his proposal makes
no mention of a kufi cap or Star of David pendant, let alone
a specific request for the items. Instead, the proposal
broadly describes the Hebrew Israelite religion. (ECF No.
60-1 at PageID.487.) Accordingly, Rickman's second
objection will be overruled.
Rickman argues that the magistrate judge erred in concluding
that Rink is entitled to qualified immunity on the personal
capacity claim for damages. The magistrate judge found that
it was not clearly established that a Hebrew Israelite inmate
has a right to possess a kufi cap, Star of David pendant, or
any other religious material. The Court disagrees with the R
& R that the right must be clearly established as to
Hebrew Israelites specifically. Rather, the question is
whether the right to possess religious material generally is
clearly established. That being said, the Court is unaware of
such a clearly established right in the Sixth Circuit.
Davila v. Marshall,649 Fed.Appx. 977, 982 (11th
Cir. 2016) ("Davila has not pointed to any other
precedent that clearly established that prison officials were
required to hand over his Spanish language bible without
delay, or that they were compelled to provide him his other
four bead necklaces."); Entler v. Knox, No.
C12-0962RSL, 2013 WL 5406213, at *5 (W.D. Wash. Sept. 26,
2013) (finding that defendants could not reasonably have
known that a torn t-shirt was a religious item, and therefore
were entitled to qualified immunity); see also Harvey v.
Adams Cnty. Sheriffs Office, No. CIVA 05CV01090 BNBCM,
2008 WL 2396761, at *11 (D. Colo. June 4, 2008) (not reaching
the issue of whether the denial of religious materials
violated a clearly established right); Ward v.
Walsh,1 F.3d 873, 880 (9th Cir. 1993) (holding that
prison officials had no obligation to provide a rabbi to
plaintiff); but see Presley v. Edwards, No.
2:04-CV-729WKW, 2008 WL 495875, at *6 (M.D. Ala. Feb. 20,
2008) (holding that "[b]ecause the law was clearly
established that an inmate cannot be arbitrarily denied
access to his religious items ...