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Leggett v. Solomon

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

September 24, 2019

ORLANDER D. LEGGETT, also known as Orlander Demetrius Leggett, Plaintiff,
v.
GEORGE SOLOMON, JANET BUNDY, JOHN STEEN, and MARY GREEN, Defendants.

          ORDER

          LOUISE W. FLANAGAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the court on defendants’ motion for summary judgment (DE 32) pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. Plaintiff did not respond to the motion. For the reasons that follow, the court grants the motion.

         STATEMENT OF THE CASE

         Plaintiff commenced this action by filing complaint on August 11, 2016, alleging claims for violations of his civil rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000cc et seq. Plaintiff alleges defendants George Solomon (“Solomon”), Janet Bundy (“Bundy”), John Steen (“Steen”), and Mary Green (“Green”) violated his rights under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and RLUIPA by requiring that he observe Ramadan and other Islamic holy days on the wrong dates. Plaintiff seeks compensatory damages and injunctive relief.

         On September 13, 2017, the court conducted its frivolity review of the complaint and allowed the action to proceed. On August 10, 2018, the court entered case management order governing discovery and pretrial dispositive motions practice. The parties completed discovery on or about December 17, 2018.

         On March 1, 2019, defendants filed the instant motion for summary judgment, arguing plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies as to one of his claims, that the RLUIPA claims are moot, and that the undisputed record evidence demonstrates defendants did not violate plaintiff’s rights to freely exercise his religion. In support, defendants rely upon a memorandum of law, statement of material facts, and the following: 1) affidavit from defendant Bundy; 2) May 1, 2016, memorandum from defendant Solomon (“Solomon Memorandum”); 3) May 15, 2016, memorandum from defendant Bundy (“Bundy Memorandum”); 4) plaintiff’s grievance records; and 5) records showing plaintiff’s release from custody.

         On March 4, 2019, pursuant to Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975), the court provided plaintiff notice of his right to respond to the instant motion. Plaintiff, however, failed to file response. On April 5, 2019, the court entered order directing plaintiff to show cause why this action should not be dismissed for failure to prosecute. Plaintiff responded to the show cause order, but did not file substantive response to defendants’ motion for summary judgment.

         STATEMENT OF THE FACTS

         In 2016, plaintiff was serving state term of imprisonment at the Carteret Correctional Institution (“Carteret C.I.”). (Bundy Aff. (DE 35-4) ¶¶ 5-7). Defendant Bundy is the correctional superintendent at the Carteret C.I. (Id. ¶ 3) . I n M a y 2016, defendant Bundy received memorandum from defendant Solomon, the former North Carolina Department of Public Safety (“DPS”) Director of Prisons. (Id. ¶ 7; Solomon Memorandum (DE 35-4) at 6).[1] The Solomon memorandum outlined DPS procedures for Muslim inmate observance of the 2016 Islamic holy month of Ramadan, Night of Power, and Eid al Fitr, and included the officials start and end dates for Ramadan recognized by DPS. (Bundy Aff. (DE 35-4) ¶ 7; Solomon Memorandum (DE 35-4) at 6). Defendants Bundy and Green, a DPS program supervisor, then prepared a memorandum for distribution to the Carteret C.I. inmate population outlining the procedures that would be in place for Ramadan. (Id. ¶ 8; Bundy Memorandum (DE 35-4) at 14).

         Plaintiff’s verified complaint alleges defendants did not permit him to properly observe Ramadan, the Night of Power, or Eid al Fitr. Specifically, plaintiff alleges the following:

A memorandum was posted “claiming” to be a [Department of Public Safety] memorandum, it was signed by [defendant] Bundy. This memorandum was full of incorrect dates concerning the Muslim month of Ramadan. . . .
I contacted [defendant] Steen [and] the programmer over all religious services, [defendant] Green to show them the correct dates on an Islamic Calender. Neither [defendant Steen or defendant Green] investigated nor did any research on the matter. Everyone I consulted said the memo stands and their hands were basically tied. I spoke with Sergeant Michael Goddette several times but he could not overrule anything set in motion.
On June 6, 2016, at sundown we were to start the month of Ramadan, according to the [Department of Public Safety] memorandum mentioned earlier. Ramadan actually started the prior evening. [June 6] was supposed to be our first day of fasting. So, on my first day of fasting I was given no pre-dawn meal, my first meal came that evening.
Due to the incorrect starting date, all of our other important dates were affected. The memorandum stated our “Laylul Qadr” or Night of Power was to occur on Friday, [July 1, 2016]. But the actual Night of Power was to fall on any of the odd nights of the last ten days of Ramadan. That is based on the Islamic calendar, so [in 2016] that should have been either: June 26, 28, 30, July 2, or 4.
According to the memorandum, our fast was to end on [July 4, 2016, ] but the month of Ramadan actually ended on [July 5, 2016, ] so we were forced to break our fast early or if we could afford it provide our own meals at the correct times. ...

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