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Rahman v. Grafton Correctional Institution

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

January 8, 2018




          William H. Baughman, Jr.Judge


         Before me on referral[1] is the matter of Manni Muhammad Rahman's pro se complaint against all correctional officers employed with the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (“DRC”) at the Grafton Correctional Institution (“GCI”) alleging that they violated his First Amendment Rights to exercise his religion.[2] Judge Boyko initially dismissed several parties and claims in his Order permitting only Rahman's First Amendment claims against Officers Grima, Holzhauer, and Pletcher to proceed.[3] Defendants have filed a motion for summary judgment.[4] Rahman has not filed an opposition. For the following reasons I will recommend that the motion be granted.


         Judge Boyko set out the following facts in his Memorandum Opinion and Order dated July 23, 2015:

         On November 5, 2014, the Plaintiff was sent from religious services by the "Imom" [sic] to eat early before evening prayer. He was stopped by Officer Holzhauer, who asked what P.O.D. he was from. The Plaintiff explained that the Imam sent the Muslims to eat dinner before prayer, as he does every Wednesday.

         Officer Holzhauer allegedly responded:

“It's Not My Fault You Picked The Wrong Religion. Your Imom [sic] Kamal, OR Whatever He Is Don't Run NOTHING WE DO! Tell Him the Next TimeYou See Him, That I Said DON'T Be Sending His Jailhouse Muslims Over Here.”

         Officer Holzhauer then sent the Plaintiff back to his housing unit.

The Plaintiff reported this incident to Sergeant Pletcher, who saw it "as FUNNY." He tried to report it to Lt. Lottman, who did not think it happened. Also, he reported it to Deputy Warden Hills, who told the Plaintiff he was going to do something about it.
On November 7, 2014, the Plaintiff was sitting in the chow hall for about five minutes when Officer Holzhauer approached him and told him to throw away his food. When the Plaintiff asked why, Officer Holzhauer told him that Officer Lottman saw him going through the line twice. The Plaintiff denied this and told Officer Holzhauer he is a Muslim and is not allowed to steal. Officer Holzhauer, however, became angry, asked the Plaintiff whether he was calling them liars and then took the Plaintiff to the front of the chow hall and made him throw away his food. The Plaintiff was then cuffed and sent for disciplinary action. Officer Holzhauer stated as the Plaintiff was being taken away, "ONE Jailhouse Muslim To Go!"[5]
On November 28, 2014, while he was housed in segregation, he asked Officer Grima to escort him to religious services. Officer Grima and Sergeant Pletcher refused this request because the Plaintiff did not have a pass, even though both know knew Deputy Warden Hill and Mr. Weishar "let it be known to the officers" that inmates are allowed to go to religious services without a pass. For instance, the Plaintiff alleges he was permitted to go to religious services without a pass the night before. When the Plaintiff tried to explain this to Sergeant Pletcher and told the Sergeant he had right to go to religious services on his "Religious Right (Day), " Sergeant Pletcher allegedly responded that he didn't care what anybody said or what the day was called and stated, "you AIN'T Going!" The Plaintiff was then taken to segregation for twenty-two days.
One of the officers working in segregation was Officer Krupa, who began telling jokes to try and make other officers laugh. In so doing, Officer Krupa made fun of the Plaintiff's religion by asserting that the reason the Plaintiff could not get along with GCI staff was because "Muslims Say That ALL White People Are The White Devils" while making devil signs with his hands.[6]


         A. Standard of review

         1. Summary judgment

         The court should grant summary judgment if satisfied “that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.”[7] The moving party bears the burden of showing the absence of any such “genuine issue”:

[A] party seeking summary judgment always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of ‘the pleadings, depositions answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with affidavits, if any, ' which it believes demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.[8]

         A fact is “material” only if its resolution will affect the outcome of the lawsuit.[9] Determination of whether a factual issue is “genuine” requires consideration of the applicable evidentiary standards.[10] The court will view the summary judgment motion “in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion.”[11]

         The court should not grant summary judgment if a party who bears the burden of proof at trial does not establish an essential element of his case.[12] Accordingly, “[t]he mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the plaintiff's position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the plaintiff.”[13] Moreover, if the evidence presented is “merely colorable” and not “significantly probative, ” the court may decide the legal issue and grant summary judgment.[14]

         In most civil cases involving summary judgment, the court must decide “whether reasonable jurors could find by a preponderance of the evidence that the [non-moving party] is entitled to a verdict.”[15] But if the non-moving party faces a heightened burden of proof, such as clear and convincing evidence, it must show that it can produce evidence which, if believed, will meet the higher standard.[16]

         Once the moving party has satisfied its burden of proof, the burden then shifts to the nonmover.[17] The nonmoving party may not simply rely on its pleadings, but must “produce evidence that results in a conflict of material fact to be solved by a jury.”[18] The text of Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e) states:

When a motion for summary judgment is made and supported as provided in this rule, an adverse party may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of his pleading, but his response, by affidavits or as otherwise provided in this rule, must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.

         “In other words, the movant can challenge the opposing party to ‘put up or shut up' on a critical issue.”[19]

         Though parties must produce evidence in support of and in opposition to a motion for summary judgment, not all types of evidence are permissible. The Sixth Circuit has concurred that “‘it is well settled that only admissible evidence may be considered by the trial court in ruling on a motion for ...

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