United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Frankfort
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
Gregory F. Van Tatenhove, Judge
matter is before the Court on the Recommended Disposition
filed by Magistrate Judge Hanly A. Ingram. [R. 72.] The
Defendants in this matter moved for summary judgment. [R.
39.] Consistent with local practice, Judge Ingram reviewed
the motion, recommending to the Court that the motion be
granted in part and denied in part. [R. 72.] Under Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 72(b)(2), a party has fourteen days
after service to register any objections to the Recommended
Disposition or else waive his rights to appeal. In order to
receive de novo review by this Court, any objection
to the recommended disposition must be specific. Mira v.
Marshall, 806 F.2d 636, 637 (6th Cir. 1986). A specific
objectionmust “explain and cite specific portions of
the report which [defendant] deem[s] problematic.”
Robert v. Tesson, 507 F.3d 981, 994 (6th Cir. 2007)
(internal quotations and citations omitted). A general
objection that fails to identify specific factual or legal
issues from the recommendation, however, is not permitted,
since it duplicates the Magistrate's efforts and wastes
judicial economy. Howard v. Sec'y of Health &
Human Servs., 932 F.2d 505, 509 (6th Cir. 1991).
parties filed objections. Defendants filed timely, specific
objections on July 26, 2019. [R. 76.] Mr. Cousins also filed
objections, some of which were out of time. [R. 80; R. 83.]
Accordingly, the Court has an obligation to conduct a de
novo review of the Magistrate Judge's findings.
See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(c). The Court has
satisfied that duty, reviewing the entire record, including
the pleadings, the parties' arguments, relevant case law
and statutory authority, as well as applicable procedural
rules. For the following reasons, all objections will be
OVERRULED, and Judge Ingram's
Recommendation will be ADOPTED.
Ingram's Recommended Disposition accurately sets forth
the factual and procedural background of the case. The Court
mentions only key facts to frame its discussion and analysis
and incorporates Judge Ingram's discussion of the record
in this Order. In 2017, Mr. Cousins was a pretrial detainee
at the Franklin County Regional Jail. [R. 1 at 1.] He alleges
that during his time there, he was not permitted kosher
meals, he was jumped by other inmates, he was punished more
harshly than other individuals, the Defendants and staff made
his time difficult, and that he experienced significant
weight loss. [R. 1-1 at 1; R. 9 at 1-2.] Mr. Cousins sued
Rick Rogers, jailer of the Franklin County Regional Jail;
Robert Abrams, captain of the jail; Garry Lucas, sergeant at
the jail; and Joshua Jones, sergeant at the jail. [R. 1 at
1-2.] In this complaint, he alleged violations of the First,
Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments, along with claims under
the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. [R.
1 at 4; R. 9 at 2.] Judge Ingram separated his claims into
two incidents: the jail's failure to provide him with
kosher meals and the jail's response to an altercation
that occurred between himself and another detainee. [R. 72 at
his booking at the Franklin County Regional Jail on June 7,
2017, Mr. Cousins told the officers that he was on a kosher
diet. [R. 39-19 at 1.] He also informed jail staff the next
morning of his dietary restrictions. [R. 39-4 at 3-4.] The
staff serving breakfast simply told him to eat what he could,
that a kosher meal would be provided for lunch. Id.
at 4. But at lunch, the officer told Mr. Cousins that he
needed to file a medical grievance in order to receive kosher
meals. Id. at 7. So, he filed a medical grievance,
but the nurse informed him that he needed to file a regular
grievance instead. [R. 39-4 at 7; R. 1-1 at 3.] He did this,
but claims he never received kosher accommodations. [R. 39-4
wrote to Defendant Sergeant Garry Lucas to request kosher
meals, as Sergeant Lucas ran the kitchen, but he was informed
that he would need to first “prove his faith.”
Id. at 10-11. Mr. Cousins retorted, “it's
impossible to prove that God exist[s], ” at which time
Mr. Cousins claimed that Sergeant Lucas essentially
“cussed [him] out.” Id. at 11. Sergeant
Lucas indicated he would speak to someone about the request
for kosher meals, but Mr. Cousins maintains that never
happened. Id. at 12.
Cousins filed another grievance on June 23, 2017. [R. 39-20.]
He was then informed by Defendant Sergeant Joshua Jones and
Defendant Captain Robert Adams that he needed verification of
his eligibility for kosher meals by a religious authority.
[R. 39-4 at 15- 16.] Sergeant Jones permitted Mr. Cousins use
of the phone, as well as paper and envelopes, to contact such
religious authority. Id. at 18. He attempted to
contact synagogues in the area, but he did not receive a
response. Id. at 18-20. Meanwhile, he ate as best he
could, representing to the Court that he ate meat on only two
occasions. Id. at 6. He also spoke to the medical
staff about his diet and weight loss, even asking them to
place him on a vegan diet. Id. at 37-39.
thereafter, on August 6, 2017, Mr. Cousins and a fellow
detainee, Stephen Wendling, were involved in an altercation.
[R. 39-4 at 23.] Apparently, Mr. Wendling confronted Mr.
Cousins and another inmate about trying to steal his
possessions. Id. at 24. Mr. Cousins alleges that he
fought back, but only after he was punched twice.
Id. at 25. Mr. Wendling and the other inmate are
both white, while Mr. Cousins is black. Id. at 26.
He claimed his finger was broken during the fight and he was
denied hospital treatment, but x-rays taken a week later
indicated that nothing was broken. Id. at 26, 36.
Cousins was placed “in the hole” for ninety days
as punishment for the altercation. Id. at 28.
Captain Abrams allegedly told Mr. Cousins he was never
letting him out of the hole. Id. at 28-29. Mr.
Wendling also received ninety days of disciplinary
confinement for the altercation [R. 39-27; R. 39-28], though
Mr. Cousins initially thought Mr. Wendling was there for only
twenty days [R. 39-4 at 35].
his lockdown, Mr. Cousins attended a church service, where he
was confronted by Captain Abrams. [R. 39-4 at 29-33.] At this
point, Captain Abrams denied being racist and told Mr.
Cousins that his filed grievances were fruitless.
Id. So, on September 7, 2017, Mr. Cousins submitted
another grievance alleging that he was “being racially
hated on in this jail.” [R. 39-29.] In the grievance,
Mr. Cousins alleged mistreatment by Captain Abrams, that he
had not received his mail, and that his calls were being cut.
Id. The grievance was denied for failure to allege a
time and date of the occurrence. Id.
Ingram first recommended the Court dismiss Mr. Cousins's
claims pursuant to the Religious Land Use and
Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA). [R. 72 at 7.]
Specifically, RLUIPA does not permit monetary damages against
state prison officials, and because Mr. Cousins only seeks
monetary relief, he cannot succeed under RLUIPA. See
Haight v. Thompson, 763 F.3d 554, 560 (6th Cir. 2014).
Next, before considering the constitutional claims, Judge
Ingram noted that the complaint did not indicate whether Mr.
Cousins intended to sue the defendants in their official or
individual capacities. [R. 72 at 9.] Using the “course
of proceedings” test, Judge Ingram found that Mr.
Cousins intended to sue the Defendants in both their official
and individual capacities. Id. at 9-12.
Judge Ingram determined that a genuine issue of material fact
existed for Mr. Cousins's Free Exercise Claim, thus
precluding summary judgment in favor of Captain Abrams and
Sergeants Jones and Lucas in their individual capacities.
Id. at 12-17. Specifically, these Defendants were
unable to provide evidence as to why they had denied Mr.
Cousins's requests for kosher meals, leaving unanswered
whether their denial was based on a legitimate penological
interest or whether it was based on an arbitrary or
impermissible reason. Id. at 16-17. Judge Ingram
found that Captain Abrams, Sergeant Lucas, and Sergeant Jones
were also not entitled to qualified immunity because they
knew their denial of Mr. Cousins's request must be
supported by a legitimate penological interest. Id.
Judge Ingram determined that Jailer Rick Rogers could not be
held liable for any violation of the Free Exercise Clause in
his individual capacity, as the theory of respondeat
superior does not apply to these claims.
Id. at 18. Further, Judge Ingram recommended the
Court grant summary judgment as to the Defendants in their
official capacities. Id. at 18-21. Official-capacity
claims are treated as suits against the state, and to
succeed, Mr. Cousins must demonstrate that a municipal policy
or custom was responsible for any alleged violations of his
constitutional rights. Id. at 18-19; Monell v.
Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 690-91 (1978).
Mr. Cousins, however, was unable to present any evidence for
this, and Judge Ingram found the official defendants are
entitled to summary judgment for his Free Exercise Claim. [R.
72 at 18- 20.]
Judge Ingram addressed Mr. Cousins's retaliation claims.
Id. at 21-24. Based on his complaint, Judge Ingram
construed this claim as being made only against Sergeant
Lucas and Captain Abrams in both official and individual
capacities. Id. at 21. However, Judge Ingram
recommended only permitting the retaliatory claim against
Captain Abrams individual to continue, finding Mr. Cousins
failed to establish the required evidence against Sergeant
Lucas or against Captain Abrams in his official capacity.
Id. at 21-24.
Mr. Cousins's claims regarding the jail's failure to
provide kosher meals, harassment by Captain Abrams and
Sergeant Jones, placement in the same dorm as Mr. Wendling,
and the jail's failure to provide adequate medical care
following his altercation, Judge Ingram construed these as
claims for violations of his Fourteenth Amendment rights,
rather than his Eighth Amendment rights. Id. at 24.
Though his complaint asserted Eighth Amendment claims, as a
pretrial detainee, the Fourteenth Amendment applies to his
claims of deliberate indifference, not the Eighth. See
Roberts v. City of Troy, 773 F.2d 720, 723 (6th Cir.
1985) (“However, the eighth amendment rights of
prisoners are analogized to those of detainees under the
fourteenth amendment, to avoid the anomaly of extending
greater constitutional protection to a convict than to one
awaiting trial.”). After thoroughly analyzing these
claims, the Magistrate Judge recommended granting summary
judgment for the Defendants on Mr. Cousins's Fourteenth
Amendment Claims. [R. 72 at 24-28.]
Ingram also found that Mr. Cousins's Due Process claim
concerning the handling of filed grievances did not state a
constitutional violation. Id. at 28. And finally,
Judge Ingram determined that Mr. Cousins's Equal
Protection claim based on Mr. Wendling's punishment for
the altercation would warrant summary judgment against him,
as he had failed to demonstrate the Defendants acted with
discriminatory intent or purpose. Id. at 28-29. In
summary, Judge Ingram recommended denying Defendants'
Motion for Summary Judgment as to Mr. Cousins's First
Amendment Free Exercise Claim against Captain Abrams,
Sergeant Jones, and Sergeant Lucas in their individual
capacities, as well as to his retaliation claim against
Captain Abrams in his individual capacity. Id. at
30. However, Judge Ingram recommended granting the
Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment as to all other
claims. Id. at 30-31.
Judge Ingram construed Mr. Cousins's pro se
motion “for reason to set jury trial or ask the judge
to grant case in favor of the plaintiff” [R. 64] as a
motion for summary judgment [R. 72 at 29-30]. In response,
Defendants filed a motion to strike this pleading [R. 65] and
Judge Ingram agreed, finding Mr. Cousins's motion to be
untimely, as it was filed more than three months after the
deadline to file dispositive motions [R. 72 at 29-30].
Because neither party objected to these recommendations, the
Court is not required to “review . . . a
magistrate's factual or legal conclusions, under a de
novo or any other standard . . . .” Thomas v.
Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 150 (1985). Parties who fail to
object to a Magistrate's Report and Recommendation are
also barred from appealing a district court's order
adopting that Report and Recommendation. United States v.