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Leggett v. Solomon

United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division

January 31, 2017




         The matter is before the court on defendants' motion for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) (DE 20). The issues raised have been fully briefed and are ripe for adjudication. For the following reasons, the court grants defendants' motion.


         On September 3, 2014, plaintiff, a state inmate, filed this civil rights action, pro se, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against the following defendants: George Solomon (“Solomon”), the Director of Adult Facilities for the Department of Public Safety (“DPS”); Jackie Parker (“Parker”), Chief of Food and Nutrition for DPS; Chaplain Marcus Hovis (“Hovis”), a clinical chaplain employed at Tabor Correctional Institution (“Tabor”); Sergeant Jolly (“Jolly”); and Sergeant Floyd (“Floyd”). In his complaint, plaintiff alleged that defendants Solomon, Parker, and Hovis violated his rights pursuant to the Religious Land Use of Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (“RLUIPA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000cc-1, et seq. and the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution in connection with a DPS policy which provided Muslim inmates on a regular diet, but not those on a special diet, a supplemental nutritional snack bag during the month of Ramadan in 2014. Plaintiff also sought to hold defendants Solomon, Parker, Hovis, and Jolly liable for beginning Ramadan a day late on June 29, 2014, and to hold defendants Solomon, Parker, Hovis, and Floyd liable for beginning a meal during Ramadan too early on June 16, 2014. Plaintiff sought both injunctive and monetary damages as relief.

         On April 15, 2015, the court conducted a frivolity review of plaintiff's complaint. In its order, the court dismissed without prejudice plaintiff's claims that defendants Jolly and Floyd interfered with plaintiff's fasting for Ramadan on June 16, 2014, and June 28, 2014, because plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies for these claims prior to filing the instant action on September 3, 2014. Because defendants Jolly and Floyd were named as defendants in connection with these claims only, defendants Jolly and Floyd were terminated as defendants in this action. The court, however, allowed plaintiff to proceed with the remainder of his action against defendants Solomon, Parker, and Hovis.

         Defendants Solomon, Parker, and Hovis subsequently filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that plaintiff is unable to establish a constitutional violation. Along with their motion, defendants filed a statement of material facts and an appendix to which they attached the following: an affidavit from defendant Hovis; an affidavit from non-party, Larry Thompson (“Thompson”), the Assistant Superintendent of Operations and Custody at Tabor; a 2014 memorandum from defendant Solomon regarding the observance of Ramadan; a 2013 memorandum from Chaplain Betty A. Brown regarding the inmates on medications and special diets desiring to fast for Ramadan; a 2014 Ramadan snack memorandum and emails; additional emails regarding Ramadan snack bags; administrative remedy filings; plaintiff's January 7, 2014, nutritional assessment; and plaintiff's July 2014, therapeutic diet records. The motion was fully briefed. Plaintiff was released from incarceration on September 11, 2016. See


         Except as where otherwise identified below, the undisputed facts are as follows. Plaintiff, a practicing Muslim, brought this action challenging a 2014 DPS's policy which permitted inmates participating in the regular diet to receive supplemental nutritional snack bags during Ramadan, but did not provide for any meal supplements to inmates, such as plaintiff, participating in the special diet. During the relevant time period, plaintiff was on a “bland” therapeutic diet for his Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (“GERD”) rendering him ineligible for the supplemental snack bag. (Thompson Aff. ¶ 11 and Ex. E). As part of the January 7, 2014, order prescribing the bland diet, Tabor medical staff recommended that plaintiff comply with his diet, avoid inappropriate snacking from the canteen, increase daily exercise, notify the medical department of any significant changes, avoid eating at least 3-4 hours before bedtime, and stay upright and avoid vigorous activity soon after eating. (Id. Ex. E). The bland diet originally was prescribed for a period of one year. (Id. ¶ 11 and Ex. E). However, plaintiff ultimately refused to continue the bland diet on August 14, 2014. (Id. ¶ 12 and Ex. E).

         On May 20, 2014, Solomon issued a memorandum which governed Muslim inmates' observance of Ramadan and permitted such inmates to consume meals either before dawn or after sunset during the fast. (Hovis Aff. ¶ 10 and Attach. 1). The May 20, 2014, memorandum specifically provided that the observance of Ramadan for the year 2014 began on Sunday, June 29, 2014, and ended on Monday, July 28, 2014. (Id. p. 1). The memorandum stated that “[e]very reasonable effort shall be made to assist Islamic Muslim Faith Practitioners in the observance of the Holy Days while still maintaining the safety, security, and operations of the facility.” (Id.) The memorandum further provided:

Every reasonable effort will be made within the facility to make the morning and evening meals available in a timely basis consistent with the facility's operation. Muslim offenders will receive a supplemental bag meal in addition to the Supper meal to ensure adequate calories are provided each day.
NOTE: Please reference the July 1, 2013 Divisional Memorandum entitled Muslim Inmates on Medications and Special Diets Desiring to Fast, on the prison webpage.
If an Islamic Muslim fast is broken due to illness, arduous work, travel, extreme discomfort and woman's menstrual cycle, Islamic law states the fast shall be resumed if broken


         The above-referenced 2013 Divisional ...

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