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Haight v. Thompson

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Paducah Division

June 2, 2015

RANDY HAIGHT, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
LaDONNA THOMPSON, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

GREG N. STIVERS, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment. (Pls.' Mot. for Summ. J., DN 84). For the reasons stated below, the Court DENIES the motion.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs are five death-row inmates housed at the maximum-security prison in the Kentucky State Penitentiary. Haight v. Thompson, 765 F.3d 554, 558, 560 (6th Cir. 2014). In their Complaint, Plaintiffs allege that the warden and staff of the Kentucky State Penitentiary denied them their First Amendment Free Exercise rights and violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 ("RLIUPA") by: (1) denying Plaintiffs pastoral visits; (2) denying Plaintiffs the use of a sweat lodge for required weekly religious ceremonies; (3) denying Plaintiffs traditional foods such as buffalo meat, fry bread, and corn pemmican for use during their proposed pow-wows; and (4) retaliation against Plaintiffs for filing grievances. (Compl., DN 1). Plaintiffs seek money damages of $10, 000, injunctive relief to permit pastoral visits, $5, 000 in punitive damages from each Defendant, and an order requiring Defendants to install a sweat lodge and otherwise comply with RLIUPA. (Compl. 16). Defendants are officials in the Kentucky Department of Corrections broadly or the Kentucky State Penitentiary specifically. (Compl. 1).

On April 26, 2012, Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment arguing failure to exhaust administrative remedies, res judicata, and qualified immunity. (Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J., DN 32). Defendants attached to their motion a portion of the Kentucky Corrections Policies and Procedures manual (DN 32-1), and the affidavits of Defendants LaDonna Thompson, James Erwin, Philip Parker, Ernest Williams, Alan Brown, Robert Roberts, and Al Parke (DN 32-2).

On March 15, 2013, the Court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants, finding that: (1) Plaintiffs' claim as to pastoral visitation was moot as to injunctive relief; (2) neither the Free Exercise Clause nor RLIUPA entitled Plaintiffs to money damages due to temporary suspension of pastoral visits; (3) neither the Free Exercise Clause not RLIUPA entitled Plaintiffs to money damages as to the sweat lodge claim; (4) the Kentucky State Penitentiary's decision denying Plaintiffs a sweat lodge was not a violation of Plaintiffs' Free Exercise rights or RLIUPA; (5) the Kentucky State Penitentiary's decision denying Plaintiffs additional traditional food (fry bread had already been provided to Plaintiffs) was not a violation of Plaintiffs' Free Exercise rights or RLIUPA; and (6) Plaintiffs failed to show that Defendants took adverse action against them as a result of their grievances. (Mem. Op., DN 46). The Court consequently dismissed the case with prejudice. (Order, DN 47).

Following the Court's denial of a motion to reconsider (Order, DN 52), on July 19, 2013, Plaintiffs filed a Notice of Appeal. (Notice of Appeal, DN 53). The Sixth Circuit considered three questions on appeal:

(1) Is there a triable issue of fact over whether RLUIPA gives the inmates a right to have access to a sweat lodge for faith-based ceremonies? (2) Is there a triable issue of fact over whether RLUIPA gives the inmates a right to buffalo meat and other traditional foods for a faith-based once-a-year powwow? (3) Does RLUIPA permit inmates to collect money damages from prison officials sued in their individual capacities? The answers... are yes, yes, and no.

Haight, 763 F.3d at 558-59. The Sixth Circuit vacated this Court's Memorandum Opinion and remanded the case as to the RLIUPA claims regarding the sweat lodge and traditional foods. Id. at 564, 567, 570.

On January 9, 2015, Plaintiffs filed a Motion for Summary Judgment as to the two remaining claims. (Pls.' Mot. for Summ. J.). On March 25, 2015, the Court ordered Defendants to show cause for their failure to respond to Plaintiffs' motion. (Show Cause Order, DN 86). On April 15, 2015, Defendants responded (Defs.' Resp. to Pls.' Mot. for Summ. J., DN 87 [hereinafter Resp.]), and on April 27, 2015, Plaintiffs replied in support of their motion (Pls.' Answer and Resp. in Supp. of Their Mot. for Summ. J., DN 88 [hereinafter Reply]). The motion is thus ripe for a ruling.

II. JURISDICTION

Plaintiffs allege claims arising under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a federal law. This Court has "original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the Court must determine whether there is any genuine issue of any material fact that would preclude entry of judgment for the moving party as a matter of law. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The moving party bears the initial burden of stating the basis for the motion and identifying evidence in the record that demonstrates an absence of a genuine issue of material fact. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). If the moving party satisfies its burden, the non-moving party must then produce ...


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