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Carawan v. Solomon

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

March 18, 2019

WILLIAM C. CARAWAN, JR. Plaintiff,
v.
GEORGE SOLOMON, BRAD PERRITT, LARRY THOMPSON, MARCUS HOVIS, CORY COLLINS, CLAYTON BREWER, and GEORGE P. NOLAN, Defendants.

          ORDER

          LOUISE W FLANACAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the court on defendants' motion for summary judgment (DE 56), filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. The motion was fully briefed and thus the issues raised are ripe for decision. For the reasons stated below, the motion is granted in part and denied in part.

         STATEMENT OF THE CASE

         On September 7, 2016, plaintiff, a state inmate proceeding pro se, filed the instant civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000cc et seq., alleging defendants failed to accommodate his requests for congregational prayer and “Zakat” charity donation, which are mandated by his Islamic faith. Plaintiff named as defendants Brad Perritt (“Perritt”), the North Carolina Department of Public Safety (“DPS”) Superintendent; Larry Thompson (“Thompson”), DPS Assistant Superintendent; Marcus Hovis (“Hovis”), the Tabor Correctional Institution (“Tabor C.I.”) chaplain; George Solomon (“Solomon”), DPS Director of Prisons; Cory Collins (“Collins”), Tabor C.I. corrections officer; Clayton Brewer (“Brewer”), Tabor C.I. corrections officer; and George P. Nolan (“Nolan”), Tabor C.I. Correctional Captain. As relief, plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages, and an injunction mandating that DPS provide plaintiff access to regular congregational prayer and establish a formal Zakat charity donation system at Tabor C.I.

         On April 12, 2017, the court conducted its frivolity review of plaintiff's complaint and directed plaintiff to file particularized complaint on the correct form. Plaintiff timely complied by filing amended complaint on May 8, 2017. On May 16, 2017, plaintiff filed motion to appoint counsel. On May 24, 2017, the court conducted its frivolity review of plaintiff's amended complaint, allowed the matter to proceed, and denied plaintiff's motion to appoint counsel. Defendants thereafter filed answer to the amended complaint.

         On October 25, 2017, the court entered case management order, which provided February 28, 2018, deadline for completion of discovery. On November 28, 2017, the court granted defendants' request for extension of time to respond to plaintiff's discovery requests, extending such deadline to December 22, 2017. On May 4, 2018, plaintiff filed motion for protective order, requesting stay of all proceeding because defendants allegedly failed to respond to plaintiff's discovery requests. The court denied plaintiff's motion on June 5, 2018, because plaintiff filed it over two months after discovery closed.

         On June 28, 2018, defendants filed the instant motion for summary judgment, arguing the undisputed record evidence establishes defendants did not violate plaintiff's rights under RLUIPA or the First Amendment, and that they are entitled to qualified immunity. In support of the motion, defendants filed memorandum of law, statement of material facts, and appendix, which included affidavits of defendants Thompson and Hovis and defendants' responses to plaintiff's interrogatories. Defendant Thompson attached the following exhibits to his affidavit: 1) plaintiff's prison transfer history; 2) the administrative grievances plaintiff filed related to his requests for congregational prayer and establishment of Zakat charity fund; and 3) DPS's responses to the grievances. Defendant Hovis attached the following exhibits to his affidavit: 1) the DPS Religious Practices Resources Guide and Reference Manual (“DPS Religious Practices Manual”); 2) correspondence from DPS regional chaplain Susan Addams to plaintiff addressing plaintiff's requests for congregational prayer and establishment of Zakat charity fund; 3) pertinent excerpts from DPS Policy and Procedure Manual addressing religious services in DPS institutions; 4) the Tabor C.I. Chaplaincy Services/Religious Programs policy; and 5) the Tabor C.I. religious services calendar.

         Plaintiff timely filed response opposing defendants' motion and attached as exhibits his declaration and correspondence plaintiff mailed to defendants concerning deficiencies in their discovery responses.

         STATEMENT OF THE FACTS

         The court recounts the facts in the light most favorable to plaintiff. On August 18, 2016, DPS transferred plaintiff from Lanesboro Correctional Institution to Tabor C.I. (Thompson Aff. (DE 59-1) ¶ 5). Plaintiff then contacted Tabor C.I. staff and other DPS officials and requested permission to engage in congregational prayer and to pay the Zakat charity, as required by his Islamic faith. (Am. Compl. (DE 17) § V). Plaintiff alleges defendants prevented him “from performing all congregational prayers other than the Friday [Jumu'ah] prayers [and] from paying the Zakat . . . .” (Id.) Plaintiff also alleges, “[w]e as Muslims are commanded by our religious texts to perform salat (prayer) congregationally if there are enough people [and] we are commanded to pay the Zakat if it is within our means.” (Id.) In his declaration, plaintiff testified that “it [is] within my beliefs as a Muslim that if there are more than [one] Muslim[s] within an area when the salat (prayer) time comes in . . . that it is obligatory for it to be done in a congregation” and that his fath requires payment of the Zakat if it is “within his means.” (Pl.'s Decl. (DE 61-2) ¶¶ 8-9).

         The DPS Religious Practices Manual recognizes Islam as an approved religion, and contains a section describing the five pillars of Islam. (Hovis Aff., Ex. A (DE 59-2)). The manual provides that one of the five pillars is prayer and that “[f]ive daily prayers . . . are recommended to be done in congregations, but may be done individually in cells, dormitories, or an available clean area which does not negatively affect the security or management of the institution.” (Id. at 7).[1] The Tabor C.I. Chaplaincy Services/Religious Programs policy also addresses congregational prayer:

1. Inmates are allowed to study, pray, conduct devotions, and share their faith with one another in their living areas, as is appropriate.
2. No inmate shall organize or conduct group meetings for the purpose of sponsoring a religious activity in their housing unit. These are unauthorized and are not in accordance with established religious policies at [Tabor C.I.]

(Id., Ex. D § .1404, D).

         While the foregoing policy nominally permits inmates to pray “with one another in their living areas, ” defendant Thompson testified that “any gathering of a number of inmates” seeking to engage in congregational or group prayer must be monitored and supervised by trained correctional officers, qualified religious volunteers, or a qualified inmate faith helper. (Thompson Aff. (DE 59-1) ¶ 10). The Tabor C.I. religious services calendar provides that the only organized (and presumably supervised) congregational services offered to Muslims is the Friday Jumu'ah prayers, and a Wednesday “Taleem” educational service. (Hovis Aff., Ex. E (DE 59-2)).

         After his transfer to Tabor C.I. plaintiff informally requested permission to engage in congregational prayer on numerous occasions. (Am. Compl. (DE 17) at 11-12). Defendants Hovis (the Tabor C.I. chaplain), Brewer, and Nolan denied plaintiff's requests. (Id.) Defendant Brewer, a corrections officer, informed plaintiff that “policy allows Muslims to pray in [their] cells and . . . that only inmates assigned to the cell are supposed to enter a cell.” (Id. at 12). Plaintiff also filed and exhausted at least one grievance concerning defendants' refusal to permit congregational prayer. (Thompson Aff., Ex. C (DE 59-1) at 15-16). Defendants' response to plaintiff's grievance stated that he is allowed to participate in the Friday Jumu'ah congregational prayer, and that the DPS Religious Practices Manual provides that while congregational prayer is preferred, it is not required by the Islamic faith, and therefore plaintiff can pray the remaining daily prayers in his cell. (Id.)

         The DPS Religious Practices Manual provides that Zakat is also one of the five pillars of Islam, and defines it as “[m]oney collected for charity and propagation of the faith.” (Hovis. Aff., Ex. A (DE 59-2) at 7, 10). The policy further states that “[e]ach facility may permit a local Zakat using the trust fund accounting system.” (Id. at 10). During the relevant time period, Tabor C.I. did not offer a formal Zakat charitable giving system but allowed Muslim inmates to donate funds from their trust fund accounts to a local Islamic mosque or other approved charity. (Thompson Aff. (DE 59-1) ¶ 15; Hovis Aff. (DE 59-2) ¶ 9).[2] Plaintiff, however, cannot afford to send money to a local Mosque or Islamic charity due to the administrative charges associated with purchasing a money order. (Pl.'s Decl. (DE 61-2) ¶ 11). If the Zakat system were established at Tabor C.I., plaintiff could purchase a Zakat ticket from the canteen with the limited funds in his account to satisfy the charitable giving pillar. (Id.)

         DISCUSSION

         A. ...


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