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Phillips v. Ballard

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington

June 4, 2019

RODNEY BALLARD, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION & ORDER

          Robert E. Wier, United States District Judge

         Inmate Johnny Phillips brings original and “supplemented and amended” pro se civil rights complaints. DE 1 (Complaint), DE 9 (Supplemented and Amended Complaint). The Court screens this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2), 1915A. When testing the Complaints' sufficiency, the Court accepts as true all non-conclusory factual allegations and liberally construes legal claims in Plaintiff's favor. Davis v. Prison Health Servs., 679 F.3d 433, 437-38 (6th Cir. 2012). The Court dismisses any claim that is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such suits. Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010).[1]


         Phillips's original 43-page complaint sets forth an extensive history of 18 named Defendants' alleged retaliatory acts-between July 2011 and August 2016-and asserts failures to accommodate his limited mobility and his need for a Kosher diet. DE 1 (Complaint at 7-33). Phillips brings claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101 et seq. (“ADA”), and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000cc-2000cc-5 (“RLUIPA”). DE 1 at 2-3; 36-41. Phillips's 51-page “supplemented and amended” complaint, accompanied by 300 pages of exhibits, sets forth additional but distinct allegations of discrimination and retaliation from June 2015 through August 2017 and includes an additional 23-Defendant slate. DE 9 (Supplemented and Amended Complaint at 11-47).

         Phillips's allegations sweep broadly, but two facts provide the foundation for nearly all of his claims. First, Phillips states that throughout this period he has suffered from serious “orthopedic medical issues” that severely limit his ability to climb stairs or traverse hilly terrain. DE 1 at 10-11, 41. These conditions include, at least, Ankylosing Spondylitis, a form of inflammatory spinal arthritis. DE 9-3 (Exhibits at 77-81). Second, Phillips converted to Judaism shortly after his conviction. His adopted faith includes dietary restrictions. Central to the claims asserted throughout the filings is Phillips's desire to be housed at a prison facility that (1) has only one level-thus providing access to health care, the law library, and exercise facilities without the need to climb stairs-and (2) serves Kosher meals. DE 1 at 9, 11. Phillips alleges that only the Kentucky State Reformatory (“KSR”) in LaGrange, Kentucky satisfies both criteria.[2] Id. at 10.


         Phillips's factual allegations, construed and described here in his favor, are as follows: Phillips, in 2011, sought transfer to a prison that could accommodate both his medical and religious needs, but was instead transferred to the Little Sandy Correctional Complex (“LSCC”), a prison that does not serve Kosher meals. Once there, prison officials informed him that he would have to wait six months before he could apply for the Kosher Diet Program (“KDP”) operated by the Kentucky Department of Corrections (“KDOC”). Phillips changed his religious preference in February 2012, although it is unclear whether he separately and formally applied for the KDP at that time. Phillips immediately became the victim of harassment based upon his faith. When Phillips was unable to obtain Kosher food while he was confined in segregation from May to July 2012, on eleven days over that 2½-month period he chose not to consume non-Kosher food, instead receiving only liquids. During this period LSCC Warden Joseph Meko and LSCC Deputy Warden Paul Holbrook were verbally abusive towards him, referring to him as a “Jew” in a derisive manner. In August 2012, Phillips transferred to the Green River Correctional Complex (“GRCC”), another non-Kosher facility. DE 1 at 7-9.

         Upon his arrival at GRCC, the chaplain (“Mr. Risner”) told Phillips that KDOC policy did not require an inmate to wait six months before signing up for the KDP. He was then approved for a transfer to KSR in October 2012. However, GRCC Deputy Warden Ricky Williams changed the approval to send him to the Eastern Kentucky Correctional Complex (“EKCC”), a prison which serves Kosher food but has multiple levels, and hence did not accommodate his mobility limitations. DE 1 at 9-10.

         While at EKCC, Phillips asserts that medical staff promptly approved him for a bottom-bunk, first-floor housing limitation, but that an officer instead assigned him to the third floor. Six months later in March 2013, Phillips transferred back to GRCC. Deputy Warden Ricky Williams advised Phillips that he was removed from KDP at EKCC because he had missed several Kosher meals, a fact that Phillips attributed to his third-floor cell assignment. Williams again required Phillips to wait six months before re-applying to KDP because of his prior removal. Phillips applied for KDP in September 2013 and sought a transfer to KSR to accommodate both his dietary and medical restrictions; however, he was transferred to the Luther Luckett Correctional Complex (“LLCC”). DE 1 at 10-11.

         Upon his October 2013 arrival at LLCC, Phillips immediately pursued a transfer. However, he was transferred to Northpoint Training Center (“NTC”), another prison without Kosher meals. Deputy Warden Brad Adams advised Phillips to be patient and that NTC was developing the capacity to serve Kosher meals. The program was not in place before Phillips was transferred to LLCC a year later in October 2014. Phillips completed a legal aide training program at LLCC and returned to NTC the following month. Upon his arrival, Adams advised that the development of a Kosher meals program at NTC had been abandoned because the new dining hall, rebuilt after an inmate riot, was too small to accommodate it. DE 1 at 11-13.

         In July 2015, Phillips was transferred to KSR. Phillips requested that he promptly begin receiving Kosher meals, but a chaplain advised him that there was a waiting list and to be patient. During this period, several officers at KSR and members of the kitchen staff cautioned Phillips that he faced disciplinary sanctions if he continued to try to obtain Kosher food before he was approved to receive it. These include two Aramark Food Services employees, Matt Jergen and Chad Hart, and KSR Warden Aaron Smith, Deputy Warden James Coyne, Deputy Warden Anna Valentine, Administrative Supervisor Phillip Campbell, Captain Mike Williams, Grievance Coordinators Brian Ward and Theresa Turner. DE 9 at 12. After four months without approval, on December 4, 2015, Phillips filed an inmate grievance regarding this conduct and the delay in receiving Kosher meals. DE 9-5 at 7. Three days later Phillips was transferred to NTC and was told that the reason for the transfer was his failure to participate in KDP.[3] Phillips alleges, however, that Brad Adams advised him that his KDP application was in the Kentucky Online Management System (“KOMS”), a KDOC computer program, before his transfer to KSR, and that he should be returned to that prison. However, on December 10, 2015, he was instead transferred from NTC to LSCC. DE 1 at 13-15, DE 9 at 12-13.

         LSCC Officer Lorie Conlie advised that the prior transfers were apparently based on incorrect or incomplete information and that she would investigate further. Conlie did not follow up with Plaintiff, provide further information, or take action. When Phillips pressed for a response about his prior transfers, Officer Malcome Smith displayed hostility toward him. Phillips filed a grievance regarding perceived retaliation by LSCC officers in January 2016, but officer Brittany Sturgill rejected that grievance as related to a non-grievable transfer decision.[4] DE 1 at 15-17; DE 9 at 12.

         After his transfer to LSCC, Phillips sought correspondence and e-mails between KDOC administrators through Kentucky's Open Records Act. He states that in March 2016 KSR records specialist Jodi Williams responded that she was providing documents in response to his request, but Phillips alleges that he never received them. DE 1 at 17, 28-29; DE 9-3 at 42-47. At the same time, unnamed LSCC officers began harassing Phillips, through several cell searches, strip searches, and property confiscation-including legal documents related to a federal habeas corpus proceeding pending in this District.[5] DE 1 at 18-19.

         Alex Ford, the LSCC law library supervisor, refused Phillips permission to conduct legal research using LEXIS (a computer-assisted legal research platform) in February 2016. In March 2016, James Sweat, the KDOC Director of Inmate Population in Frankfort, Kentucky, approved Phillips's transfer request but would only permit a transfer to EKCC (not to KSR). Phillips filed a grievance regarding Sweat's decision, but Sturgill rejected it as a non-grievable classification decision. DE 1 at 19-20; DE 9-3 at 1-2.

         In June 2016, LSCC officer Alex Ford and Deputy Warden Holbrook rejected Phillips's request to conduct legal research for a supplemental pro se appellate brief. Ford and Holbrook directed other officers to steal or tamper with his incoming and outgoing legal mail because he was helping another inmate with his legal work. Phillips filed a grievance regarding these matters, but it was denied at the institutional level, and the Commissioner never responded to his appeal. DE 1 at 20, 29-31; DE 9 at 19-21.

         Phillips also filed a separate grievance in July 2016 challenging the sufficiency of LSCC's law library. Phillips complained that there was only one computer for research-with a limited LEXIS subscription-and that staff members were not adequately trained in legal matters to determine when inmates should be entitled to free “legal copies” under KDOC policies. Correctional Unit Administrator (“CUA”) Sturgill rejected a grievance regarding these matters as non-grievable. In a related grievance, Phillips asserts that Warden Hart made several false statements about library resources in her response denying the grievance, and that the appeal of that rejection was not processed. Phillips broadly contends that whenever an inmate seeks to challenge his conviction or conditions of confinement in a court of law, KDOC transfers them to LSCC or GRCC, both of which have inadequate law libraries. DE 1 at 20-21, 29-31; DE 9 at 19-21; DE 9-3 at 3-7, 56-60.

         In August 2016, inmate food trays in the dining hall were covered with ants. Officers and food-service staff refused to do anything about it. Phillips filed a grievance regarding this incident, but Sturgill rejected the grievance as untimely because Phillips had written the wrong date for the event on the grievance form. Phillips re-submitted the grievance, but Sturgill, claiming that it requested inappropriate relief, rejected the submission. Sturgill later told him that Holbrook directed her to reject all of his grievances about this event. DE 1 at 22-24.

         On August 8, 2016, LSCC Officer Riggs informed Phillips that, although he was previously approved for a transfer to KSR, LSCC Warden Holbrook, with the assistance of Amanda Scott and Jennifer Tracy at KDOC's central office in Frankfort, amended the transfer so that Phillips would be transferred to GRCC. Phillips claims that the transfer was part of a retaliatory conspiracy, for prior Phillips grievances, involving KDOC officials Paul Holbrook, Brittany Sturgill, Lorie Conley, Beth Harper, David Riggs, Malcome Smith, Alex Ford, Donna Hester Reed, Joseph Meko, Lt. Mabry, Dave Thomas, Sgt. Howard, Tammy Martin, Amanda Scott, and Jennifer Tracy. DE 1 at 24, 31-32; DE 9 at 13-14; DE 9-3 at 24-35, 48-50.

         Upon his arrival at GRCC in August 2016, CUA Falicia Howard called nurse Angela Lyle on the phone and discussed Phillips's private medical information while trying to have Phillips's bottom bunk restriction removed from KOMS. Howard then threatened him with unidentified retaliation when he complained. Phillips indicates that nurse Lyle removed his bottom bunk restriction, and officer Howard assigned him to a top bunk. DE 9 at 15, 16.

         In September 2016, HSA Ron Carey discussed Phillips's private medical information in a written response to Phillips's grievance about Howard's conduct. Carey also “threatened [Phillips] with retaliation” during a conversation later that same month. DE 9 at 15-16. Officer David Higgs responded to a grievance about this matter, which Phillips asserts was not proper handling of the grievance because it named Higgs. Warden DeEdra Hart denied that grievance in October 2016. DE 9 at 16-17.

         After his arrival at GRCC, on August 11, 2016, Chaplain William Kizziar refused to permit Phillips to re-apply for the KDP until he had been at the prison for six months. Phillips filed a grievance, which he alleges Warden DeEdra Hart directed staff to deny as a nongrievable classification decision.[6] DE 1 at 24-25; DE 9 at 17-18; DE 9-4 at 1-4.

         From August 11 to 31, 2016, Darrell Wheeler and another officer denied Phillips access to legal aides and research computers to work on his then-pending federal habeas corpus petition and the civil rights claims he asserts here. Wheeler stated that the existing resources at GRCC were consistent with KDOC policy. Phillips contends that Warden Hart lied in her response to his grievance. DE 9 at 18-19.

         On November 18, 2016, Wheeler refused to permit any GRCC staff to notarize two inmates' affidavits that Phillips intended to submit in support of a civil complaint, and confiscated the affidavits and parts of the complaint. Wheeler refused to process the grievance Phillips filed about these events. DE 9 at 24-27.

         GRCC officer Francis Edwards began to harass Phillips in December 2016, conducting several “shake down” searches each week and telling him that things would go easier for him if he would stop helping other inmates with grievances and legal work. On December 8, 2016, Edwards yelled at him when he offered to help another inmate file a grievance against her. DE 9 at 27-28. Officer Mark Jackson was present at the time, and fired Phillips from his prison job as a janitor. On December 14, 2016, Phillips also filed an inmate grievance against Warden Hart for her alleged failure to take his verbal complaints seriously. DE 9 at 28.

         On February 28, 2017, Phillips requested a transfer to KSR based on his belief that the entire staff at GRCC were retaliating against him. While Classification Treatment Officer Grant Penrod approved a transfer, GRCC administrative officials requested that Phillips be transferred to Kentucky State Penitentiary (“KSP”), a maximum-security prison. The transfer to KSP was approved on March 3, 2017. However, Phillips alleges that because of his medical conditions, officials at KSP stopped the relocation before the transfer. DE 9 at 29.

         In early 2017, Phillips had several video conference sessions with a female psychologist at another KDOC facility. GRCC Deputy Warden Ron Beck allegedly required officers to monitor the conversations, first by keeping the door to the video conference room open and then by having an officer remain in the conference room, both over the objections of the treating psychologist. Phillips states that Beck refused to process the grievance he filed regarding the matter. DE 9 at 30-31.

         On March 27, 2017, Kizziar, Wheeler, and Beck refused to provide Phillips with free “legal copies” of the grievances he had filed because they asserted that he was not facing a deadline to file them. Phillips indicates he was still able to make copies surreptitiously without paying for them. DE 9 at 31.

         On March 28, 2017, Phillips placed a complaint raising the claims asserted in this action in the prison's mail drop box. He contends that Wheeler told him that it would never be filed, and that GRCC staff removed and discarded it. The same day Darrell Wheeler communicated to Phillips a threat made by Warden Hart, Ron Beck, Mike Robinson and Darime Ellis to transfer him to EKCC. Phillips was transferred to EKCC, a prison that serves Kosher meals but has multiple levels with stairs, on March 29. On March 31, 2017, Phillips was transferred from EKCC to KSR after he filed a grievance regarding his EKCC placement. DE 9 at 24, 31-33.

         Although Phillips's mobility limitations had previously resulted in bottom floor and bottom bunk limitations, he alleges that a captain at KSR countermanded that approach and assigned him to a cell that required him to climb steps. Phillips fell down some stairs on April 2, 2017, because water had drained onto the steps and the stairs had no handrails.[7] Phillips indicates that Dr. Elton Amos, on April 17, 2017, and other unidentified medical staff refused to treat his injuries. Phillips's grievances regarding his fall and the refusal to provide medical care for his injuries were denied as non-grievable or were never responded to. DE 9 at 34.

         By April 2017, Phillips signed up for KDP at KSR and was again placed on a waiting list. On April 6, 2017, Aramark Kitchen Supervisor Chad Hart yelled at him in the dining hall when he was checking to see if his name had been added to the Kosher list. Phillips's grievance regarding Hart's conduct was rejected for having too many pages on April 17, 2017. Aramark Supervisor Jergen and officer Phillip Campbell advised Phillips that fasting, and hence missing Kosher meals provided to him, would violate KDP rules and could result in his removal from the program. DE 9 at 36, 41-42.

         On April 29, 2017, as Phillips approached the area where Kosher food is served in the dining hall, Sergeant Steven Crawford directed him to return to the regular chow line. Phillips alleges that Crawford spoke to him in a hostile and aggressive manner, and then elbowed him in the ribs as he was checking the names on a clipboard. Crawford then forced Phillips up against the wall and handcuffed him in an excessively forceful manner. Later that day a KSR lieutenant reviewed surveillance video of the interaction and, after speaking with Crawford, charged Phillips with engaging in a non-violent demonstration and placed him in the segregation unit. Phillips alleges that Crawford directed that he be placed in a cell flooded with urine and fecal matter, and had several broken windows. He contends that temperatures over the next three days were around 45 degrees.[8] Phillips states that he vomited from the conditions, and “gritted” his teeth so hard at night that some of them later had to be removed. He alleges that KDOC had previously “condemned” this wing of the segregation unit, but that it was still used by KSR staff to punish inmates. Phillips was released from segregation on May 4, 2017. DE 9 at 37-40.

         When Phillips went to retrieve his personal effects from the property room, he found that a full cup of coffee had been poured on his legal paperwork, much of his personal property was missing or had been badly damaged. Several unidentified officers joked about it when he complained. Phillips filed a grievance on May 11, 2017, about Crawford's actions, the conditions in segregation, and his personal property, but asserts that KSR staff destroyed documents regarding these events and denied his grievance as non-grievable. DE 9 at 40-41.

         On May 21, 2017, Phillips indicates that he observed maggots on the serving line for Kosher foods. Phillips states that he tried to file a grievance when staff and officers refused his request to take action, but that prison officials refused to process it. Phillips further states that during this period KSR Administrator Campbell and Aramark supervisor Jergen continued to refuse his request to fast without jeopardizing his KDP participation. DE 9 at 42.

         Phillips alleges that on June 12, 2017, he went to the KSR legal office to retrieve and view audio and video recordings in preparation for upcoming status and evidentiary hearings in his federal habeas action.[9] However, several compact discs of photographs and audio recordings were missing and have not been found. See DE 9-5 at 54-55 (substantiating logs). Phillips states that he attempted to file grievances regarding the missing materials on July 3, 2017, but was refused the necessary forms by a grievance aide. Phillips alleges that this refusal was based upon direction from KDOC Commissioner James Erwin, KDOC Ombudsman John Dunn, KSR Warden Aaron Smith and Deputy Warden Anna Valentine to refuse to provide any inmate with a grievance form as part of a department-wide program to prevent inmates from exhausting administrative remedies. DE 9 at 42-45.

         On July 21, 2017, Phillips was removed from the KDP for missing Kosher meals, something he states occurred because he was visiting with family and because he could not eat for 24 hours after the dentist installed two fillings in his teeth. Phillips contends that his removal constituted retaliation for filing inmate grievances. DE 9 at 45-46.

         Finally, Phillips states that in August 2017 during a telephone conversation attorney Ousley told him that he had made several requests to prison staff to meet with Phillips to prepare for an upcoming hearing, but that he had received no response. Additionally, Ousley had sent Phillips copies of documents filed in his habeas proceedings but Phillips states that he did not receive any of them. Phillips filed a grievance shortly after this conversation, and states that he began receiving mail from Ousley, but that it had already been opened outside of his presence before he received it. DE 9 at 46-47.


         The Court has conducted an extensive review of all of Phillips's filings, and concludes that some of the defendants must be served with process to address the claims asserted. However, as explained more fully below, some of the defendants will be dismissed because the pleaded allegations do not state a claim against them or the claims are fatally flawed.

         Preliminarily, the Court addresses Phillips's inclusion, in his July 2017 Complaint, of extensive allegations dating back to 2011. RLUIPA claims are generally governed by the four-year limitations period found in 28 U.S.C. § 1658(a). Al-Amin v. Shear, 325 Fed.Appx. 190, 193 (4th Cir. 2009). Because the RLUIPA limitations period is the longest relevant statutory period, [10] the deadline for potentially actionable events is July 2013. The cut-off for Phillips's other claims was (approximately) July 2016, twelve months prior to Phillips's July 2017 original complaint. Claims under Section 1983, the ADA, and the Rehabilitation Act are governed by a one-year statute of limitations. Collard v. Ky. Bd. of Nursing, 896 F.2d 179, 183 (6th Cir. 1990) (Section 1983 claims); Southerland v. Hardaway Mgmt. Co., 41 F.3d 250, 253-54 (6th Cir. 1994) (Rehabilitation Act claims); Alja-Iz v. Ramsey, No. 3: 14-CV-618-DJH, 2017 WL 6485803, at *7 (W.D. Ky. Sept. 13, 2017) (ADA claims). Tort claims arising under Kentucky law for negligence and failure to train or supervise also implicate a one-year limitations period. Ky. Rev. Stat. § 413.140(1)(a); Mulaosmanovic v. Warren County, Kentucky, No. 1: 17-CV-169-GNS, 2018 WL 1309992, at *2 (W.D. Ky. Mar. 13, 2018). The limitations period is extended, or “tolled, ” for § 1983 claims to account for the time the inmate must spend diligently exhausting his administrative remedies before filing suit. 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a); Brown v. Morgan, 209 F.3d 595, 596 (6th Cir. 2000).

         Thus, Phillips's claims regarding pre-July 2013 events are time-barred under all theories. See, e.g., DE 1, at ¶¶ 24-36. Further, allegations regarding 2013 through 2016 (including a generous allowance for diligent exhaustion) are only actionable under RLUIPA, which does not authorize claims for money damages. Haight v. Thompson, 763 F.3d 554, 568-69 (6th Cir. 2014). Accordingly, for pre-2016 allegations the Court considers only claims for injunctive relief and declines to direct service as to any of Plaintiff's secular theories during this period. See, e.g., DE 1 at ¶ 38 (Campbell-forced stair climbing).

         Further, an “official capacity” claim against a state officer is, as a matter of law, a claim directly against the employing state agency. Lambert v. Hartman, 517 F.3d 433, 439-40 (6th Cir. 2008); Alkire v. Irving, 330 F.3d 802, 810 (6th Cir. 2003) (“While personal-capacity suits seek to impose personal liability upon a government official for actions he takes under color of state law, individuals sued in their official capacities stand in the shoes of the entity they represent.” (internal quotation marks omitted)). Phillips's official capacity claims are therefore civil rights claims against KDOC. However, KDOC is not subject to suit under § 1983, both because a state agency is not a “person” subject to liability under Section 1983, and because the “Eleventh Amendment bars § 1983 suits against a state, its agencies, and its officials sued in their official capacities for damages.” Cady v. Arenac Cty., 574 F.3d 334, 342 (6th Cir. 2009); see Will v. Mich. Dept. of State Police, 109 S.Ct. 2304, 2312 (1989) (“[N]either a State nor its officials acting in their official capacities are “persons” under § 1983.”); See v. Collins, 1990 WL 120959, at *2 (6th Cir. 1990) (“[T]his suit seeking only monetary damages against the [Kentucky] Department of Corrections is barred as this defendant is not a ‘person' within the meaning of § 1983.”). The Court therefore dismisses all § 1983 official capacity claims.


         In Count I, Phillips contends that certain defendants interfered with his ability to maintain a Kosher diet in violation of his First Amendment right to the free exercise of his religion and as protected by RLUIPA, [11] as follows:

A. Beginning on October 22, 2013, NTC Supervisor (now Warden) Adams allegedly lied to Phillips about Kosher implementation at NTC, DE 1 at ¶ 40, and, on November 26, 2014, denied Phillips a KDP application. Id. at ¶ 43.
B. From July to December 2015, staff at KSR failed to ensure that he received Kosher meals promptly after he arrived at KSR and threatened him with disciplinary action if he continued to try to obtain Kosher food at the dining hall before he was on the list to receive Kosher meals. Phillips's original complaint alleged that he had spoken with Warden Aaron Smith, and Capt. Mike Williams, about this issue, DE 1 at ¶ 47, 98; his second complaint expanded that list to include Deputy Warden Anna Valentine, Supervisor Phillip Campbell, and Aramark employees Chad Hart and Matt Jergen.[12]DE 9 at ¶ 31; see also DE 9-5 at 7-24 (related grievance). Defendant Sturgill denied Phillips's grievance about these issues, allegedly at Defendant Holbrook's behest. DE 9 at ¶ 33.
C. After arriving at LSCC in December 2015, Defendant Conley purportedly gave Phillips the “run-around” regarding KDP participation. DE 1 at ¶ 50. Defendant Malcolm Smith, Conley's supervisor, allegedly became hostile and refused any remedy when Phillips approached him about the issue. Id. at ¶ 50-51. Sturgill denied Phillips's grievance on January 7, 2016. Id. at ¶ 51.
D. In August 2016, LSCC Deputy Warden Holbrook, Amanda Scott and Jennifer Tracey altered his previously-approved transfer to KSR and instead sent him to GRCC, which does not have a Kosher meals program. DE 1 at 24, 38.[13]
E. In August 2016, GRCC Warden DeEdra Hart and Chaplain Kizziar would not permit him to re-apply for the KDP for six months. DE 1 at 24, 38; DE 9 at 17-18.
F. All of the aforementioned conduct was undertaken pursuant to a policy or custom of KDOC and/or former KDOC Commissioner Rodney Ballard. DE 1 at 38.
G. In April 2017, Aramark employee Chad Hart yelled at him in the dining hall, and Aramark employee Matt Jergen and KSR Supervisor Phillip Campbell advised him that fasting could result in his removal from the KDP. DE 9 at 36-37.

         These alleged events occurred within the four-year RLUIPA limitations period under 28 U.S.C. § 1658(a). Under RLUIPA, a governmental action or rule that imposes a “substantial burden” upon an inmate's exercise of his or her religious beliefs must be justifiable as both undertaken in furtherance of a “compelling government interest” and as the “least restrictive means” of furthering that interest. 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-1(a)(1)-(2); Holt v. Hobbs, 135 S.Ct. 853, 863-65 (2015). While some of the transfers and delays about which Phillips complains may be justifiable or otherwise lawful, the record is not sufficiently developed to permit such a conclusion under the standards applicable at this juncture.

         However, whether or not the alleged conduct is potentially RLUIPA violative, the statutory text justifies screening for two additional proposed defendant categories. “[E]very circuit that has addressed” whether “RLUIPA allows individual-capacity suits against state officials . . . has held that it does not.” Washington v. Gonyea, 731 F.3d 143, 145 (2d Cir. 2013) (collecting cases). RLUIPA bars only government burdening of religious exercise. See 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-1(a). Because Congress enacted the legislation under its spending power, imposition of individual liability is authorized “only on those parties actually receiving” government funds. Washington, 731 F.3d at 145. Individual employees are not “recipients of federal funding” and thus are not subject to RLUIPA liability. Id. (citations and ...

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