United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division
LARRY K. GREEN, a/k/a SAID ABDULLAH HAKIM, Plaintiff,
THEODIS BECK, et al., Defendants.
JAMES C. DEVER, III, Chief District Judge.
On January 6, 2010, Larry K. Green, also known as Said Abdullah Hakim ("Hakim" or "plaintiff'), a former state inmate, filed this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("section 1983"). Compl. [D.E. 1]. Hakim proceeds prose and in forma pauperis [D.E. 2]. Sandra F. Thomas ("Thomas" or "defendant") is the sole remaining defendant, and Hakim's sole remaining claim "against Thomas [is] that she violated Green's First Amendment rights by maliciously refusing to process his properly supported request for a name change." Green v. Beck, 539 F.Appx. 78, 81 (4th Cir. 2013) (per curiam) (unpublished).
On June 9, 2014, the court denied Thomas's motion for summary judgment and plaintiffs motions for a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction, granted in part defendant's motion for a protective order, and ordered a period of discovery with "a severe limitation on the proper scope of discovery" and set a final motions deadline and date for a bench trial [D.E. 113]. On June 25, 2014, Hakim moved for reconsideration of the court's order [D.E. 117]. On August 18, 2014, Hakim filed a "motion to secure attendance" [D.E. 118]. On August 21, 2014, Thomas moved for summary judgment [D.E. 119]. Pursuant to Roseboro v. Garrison , 528 F.2d 309, 310 (4th Cir. 1975) (per curiam), the clerk notified Hakim about the motion for summary judgment, the consequences of failing to respond, and a response deadline of September 12, 2014 [D.E. 121]. On September 8, 2014, defendant moved to continue the bench trial [D.E. 123]. On September 15, 2014, Hakim responded in opposition to defendant's motion for summary judgment [D.E. 124], which defendant moved to strike [D.E. 125]. As explained below, the court denies Hakim's motions for reconsideration and to secure witnesses, grants Thomas's second motion for summary judgment, denies as moot Thomas's motion to continue, and denies in part Thomas's motion to strike.
The court has described the factual and procedural background of this case in detail in prior orders, see, e.g., [D.E. 113] 1-2, 4-5, and will not repeat itself. Briefly, in 2005, Hakim legally changed his name from Larry K. Green to Said Abdullah Hakim, and requested prison officials-including defendant Thomas - to recognize his name change on his prison identification card when he began his most recent term of incarceration in 2008. Am. Compl. [D.E. 31] 7-8; see Mem. Supp. Def.'s Mot. Summ. J., Ex. B [D.E. 120-3] 2 (grievance). On July 16, 2008, a prison administrative office (Combined Records) wrote to Hakim explaining that it had added "[t]he name Said Abdullah Hakim... in our cross-reference file, " but would not "incur the expense of changing names throughout the records of an individual." Pl.'s Resp. Opp'n Def.'s Mot. Summ. J., Ex. B [D.E. 124-1] 6 (7/16/08 letter from Combined Records to Hakim). On September 22, 2008, Hakim wrote to Thomas to request the recognition of his name change as a result of a grievance response by a prison program director which informed Hakim that prison policy required him to submit his request through the warden (Thomas). Thomas, however, was unaware of this policy and believed that Hakim was required to submit his request to Combined Records in order to effectuate a name change. See Kornegay Aff. [D.E. 70-1] ¶ ¶ 6-7 & Ex. A (explaining procedure for obtaining name change on identification card through facility warden); Mem. Supp. Def.'s Mot. Summ. J., Ex. A [D.E. 120-2] 3 (response to interrogatory); Ex. B [D.E. 120-3] 3 (grievance response); Ex. C [D.E. 120-4] (9/22/08 letter from Hakim to Thomas); Thomas Aff. [D.E. 119-1] ¶¶ 4, 6-7. Moreover, although Hakim's grievance was specific in its request for a new prison identification card, Hakim's letter to Thomas was not as clear, and Thomas did not typically review grievances. Compare Mem. Supp. Def.'s Mot. Summ. J., Ex. B. [D.E. 120-3] 2 (grievance requesting to "change Larry K Green to Said Abdullah Hakim on my inmate ID card") with Ex. C [D.E. 120-4] (letter "in response to grievance" with "copies of the proper credentials to verify... [m]y name is legally Said Abdullah Hakim" and requesting correction of unrelated information and transfer "to either Harnett or Eastern"); see Mem. Supp. Def.'s Mot. Summ. J. [D.E. 120] 3. Nevertheless, Thomas responded to Hakim's letter and instructed him that he needed to send these documents directly to Combined Records for them to approve' his name change." Thomas Aff. ¶ 5; cf. Pl.'s Resp. Opp'n Def.'s Mot. Summ. J., Ex. G [D.E. 124-1] 12 (10/3/08 information form from Thomas to Hakim concerning procedure for requesting transfer).
Thomas never received "any indication that the name change was effectuated and therefore, ... could not, at the facility level, change [plaintift]'s name." Mem. Supp. Def.'s Mot. Summ. J., Ex. A [D.E. 120-2] 3-4 (response to interrogatory); Thomas Aff. ¶ 8. Hakim has never explained whether he further pursued the issue with Combined Records, Thomas, or any other warden or prison official upon his transfers to other prison facilities. Cf. Pl.'s Resp. Opp'n Def.'s Mot. Summ. J. 2 (citing Kornegay Aff. [D.E. 70-1] ¶ 9).
In any event, Cynthia Bostic, Assistant Director of Support Services for the Department of Public Safety-Division of Prisons, "directed that [Hakim] receive a new inmate identification card with both his commitment name, Larry K. Green, and his current legal name, Said Abdullah Hakim." Bostic Aff. [D.E. 119-2] ¶¶ 2-3. Moreover, Hakim has received a new inmate identification card. Id., Ex. [D.E. 119-3] (copy of prison identification card showing both names); cf. Pl.'s Resp. Opp'n Def.'s Mot. Summ. J. 1 (acknowledging that "DPS stealthily & all of a sudden added Said Abdullah Hakim' to plaintiffs inmate ID card").
First, the court addresses Hakim's motion for reconsideration. "[A] district court retains the power to reconsider and modify its interlocutory judgments, including partial summary judgments, at any time prior to final judgment when such is warranted." Am. Canoe Ass'n v. Murphy Farms, Inc. , 326 F.3d 505, 514-15 (4th Cir. 2003); see Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(b). "Motions for reconsideration of interlocutory orders are not subject to the strict standards applicable to motions for reconsideration of a final judgment, " but are "committed to the discretion of the district court." Am. Canoe Ass'n , 326 F.3d at 514-15.
As with every other filing Hakim has made in this action, Hakim's motion is rambling and appears wholly unrelated to the remaining claim in this case. Hakim's motion largely focuses on allegations of purported constitutional deprivations occurring well after the commencement of this action that bear no connection to Thomas. See Mot. Reconsider [D.E. 117] 1-6. Moreover, to the extent Hakim seeks reconsideration of the court's determination on his discovery requests, Mot. Reconsider 8, the court thoroughly analyzed Hakim's requests under the governing standard. See [D.E. 113] 7-8. Thus, Hakim has not presented any argument warranting reconsideration. To the extent Hakim requests a jury trial, Mot. Reconsider 8, his request is untimely. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 38(b). Accordingly, the motion lacks merit and is denied.
Summary judgment is appropriate when, after reviewing the entire record, no genuine issue of material fact exists, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby. Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett , 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986). Once the moving party has met its burden, the nonmoving party may not rest on the allegations or denials in its pleading, Anderson , 477 U.S. at 248-49, but "must come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp. , 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (emphasis and quotation omitted). A trial court reviewing a motion for summary judgment should determine whether a genuine issue of material fact exists for trial. Anderson , 477 U.S. at 249. In doing so, the court must view the evidence and the inferences drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Scott v. Harris , 550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007).
Thomas moves to strike Hakim's response in opposition as untimely and outside the scope of this litigation. Mot. Strike [D.E. 125] 1-2. Although Thomas correctly asserts that the court set a deadline of September 4, 2014, for responding to any dispositive motion, [D.E. 113] 9, the clerk's Roseboro notice to Hakim set a response deadline of September 12, 2014, [D.E. 121] 1. Hakim mailed his response on September 11, 2014 [D.E. 124]. Thus, to the extent defendant seeks to strike Hakim's response as untimely, the court denies the motion. To the extent defendant seeks to strike any new claims contained in Hakim's response, the court grants the motion.
Next, the court addresses Hakim's remaining claim.
"[T]he first amendment protects an inmate's right to legal recognition of an adopted religious name." Barrett v. Virginia , 689 F.2d 498, 503 (4th Cir. 1982). As a result, an inmate's First Amendment free exercise rights are violated if he is "forced to acknowledge his religiously offensive name" as a precondition of receiving benefits or ...