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Heru v. State

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

June 19, 2019

STATE OF OHIO, et al., Defendants.

          Edmund A. Sargus, Jr. Chief Judge.



         This matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 29). For the reasons that follow, it is RECOMMENDED that the Motion be GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff is a state prisoner currently incarcerated at the London Correctional Institution. He is an adherent of the Moorish/Kemetic[1] religion and alleges multiple instances of alleged religious discrimination in violation for the First Amendment and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”) when he was a prisoner at Belmont Correctional Institution. The Court has previously summarized the background of this case:

Plaintiff, a prisoner at Belmont Correctional Institution (“BCI”), initiated this case in the Northern District of Ohio on February 6, 2017, by filing a Notice of Removal. (Doc. 1). In the Complaint, Plaintiff appeared to challenge a 2008 criminal conviction in the Tuscarawas County Court of Common Pleas and asserted claims for genocide, denationalization, unlawful arrest, arbitrary detention, false imprisonment, kidnaping, torture, and cruel and unusual punishment, and sought monetary damages. (See Doc. 5 at 1). Plaintiff filed a Motion for Leave to Proceed in Forma Pauperis on March 13, 2017 (Doc. 2), and an Amended Complaint on April 5, 2017 (Doc. 4). The Amended Complaint appeared to supplement, rather than to supersede, Plaintiff's Complaint. (See Doc. 5 at 1).
In a Memorandum Opinion and Order issued on June 2, 2017, District Judge Sarah Lioi observed that Plaintiff's Complaint and Amended Complaint are “largely incomprehensible, ” consisting “almost entirely of meaningless rhetoric, with random citation to various legal and non-legal sources.” (Doc. 5 at 2). Judge Lioi noted that Plaintiff claimed to have removed a closed criminal case from state to federal court to challenge his 2008 criminal conviction for drug trafficking, and added claims in the Amended Complaint pertaining to the practice of his religion at BCI. (Id. at 1-2). Plaintiff claimed that BCI Defendants interfered with the practice of his religion by prohibiting him from wearing a fez on certain occasions, denying him meals prepared in accordance with his religious beliefs, and failing to provide religious services for Moorish Kemetic practitioners. (Id. at 3).
Judge Lioi dismissed Plaintiff's claims related to his 2008 criminal conviction and his freedom of religion claim against all Defendants except the BCI Warden and Chaplain. (Id. at 8). Judge Lioi also found that the proper venue for the claims against the BCI Warden and Chaplain was in this Court. (Id. at 7). Consequently, Judge Lioi transferred those claims to this Court. (Id. at 8).

(Doc. 13 at 1-2).

         The remaining Defendants in this case are Mary Potter and Jeffrey Burger. At the time of the events underlying this case, Defendant Potter was the Deputy Warden of Special Services at Belmont Correctional Institution where she served as Chairperson of the Accommodation Review Committee, (Doc. 29-1, ¶ 4), and Defendant Burger was a Chaplain at Belmont Correctional Institution, (Doc. 29-2, ¶ 4). Three claims remain pending against Defendants Potter and Burger.[2] First, Plaintiff alleges that, on two occasions, correctional staff prevented him from wearing his fez (the “Religious Headwear Claim”). (Doc. 4 at 2-3). Second, Plaintiff alleges that he has been denied kosher meals “as an alternative to both regular meals served to the general population and the vegetarian meals served which both contain harmful Gmo's, [sic] Processed foods, and Preservatives” in violation of his religious beliefs (the “Denial of Kosher Meal Claim”). (Id. at 3). Third, he alleges, Belmont Correctional Institution “does not provide any Religious Services for Moorish/Kemetic practitioners” (the “Denial of Religious Services Claim”). (Id.). Plaintiff seeks $1, 000, 000 per violation and injunctive and declarative relief. (Id. at 3).

         Defendants filed their Motion for Summary Judgment on September 27, 2018 (Doc. 29). Plaintiff filed a response (Doc. 39), and Defendants filed a reply (Doc. 40). The Motion is now ripe for resolution.


         Summary judgment is appropriate when “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial “responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions” of the record that demonstrate “the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The burden then shifts to the nonmoving party to “set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986). “The evidence of the nonmovant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor.” Id. at 255 (citing Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 158-59 (1970)). A genuine issue of material fact exists if a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; see also Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986) (defining “genuine” as more than “some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts”). Consequently, the central issue is “whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251-52.


         A. Injunctive and ...

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