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Devore v. Mohr

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division, Dayton

July 29, 2019

JAMES P. DEVORE, Plaintiff,
v.
GARY C. MOHR, et al., Defendants.

          Edmund A. Sargus, Chief Judge

         REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION[1] THAT (1) PRO SE PLAINTIFF'S CLAIMS FOR INJUNCTIVE RELIEF BE DISMISSED AS MOOT; (2) SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DOC. 17) BE GRANTED IN FAVOR OF DEFENDANTS; AND (3) PLAINTIFF'S REMAINING CLAIMS AGAINST DEFENDANT IMAM SUNNI ISLAM BE DISMISSED; AND (4) THIS CASE BE TERIMINATED ON THE DOCKET.

          MICHAEL J. NEWMAN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This is a civil case in which pro se Plaintiff, James P. Devore, a former inmate at Belmont Correctional Institute (“BeCI”) asserts, inter alia, civil rights claims under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc, et. seq., and the Federal Statute 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Doc. 3. His claims arise from alleged conduct by a number of officials and employees at BeCI prior to and during Ramadan 2017, while Devore, a Muslim who practices the Islamic faith, was incarcerated there. Id. at 58-63. Devore named as Defendants Gary C. Mohr (“Mohr”), director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (“ODRC”); Michael Davis (“Davis”), religious services Administrator of ODRC; Clark Scott (“Scott”), former Deputy Warden at BeCI; Mary Potter (“Potter”), current Deputy Warden at BeCI; Jeffrey Burger (“Burger”), Chaplain at BeCI; and Imam Sunni Islam, Muslim Service Provider at BeCI.

         Mohr, Davis, Scott, Potter, and Burger (collectively, “Defendants”) filed a motion for summary judgment (doc. 17), to which Plaintiff filed a memorandum in opposition (doc. 18), and Defendants filed a reply (doc. 20). The motion is now ripe for decision. Given his pro se status, all of Plaintiff's pleadings have been liberally construed in his favor. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976).

         I.

         A motion for summary judgment should be granted if the evidence submitted to the Court demonstrates there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56; see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). “Summary judgment is appropriate ‘if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show 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.'” Keweenaw Bay Indian Comm. v. Rising, 477 F.3d 881, 886 (6th Cir. 2007) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)). “Weighing of the evidence or making credibility determinations are prohibited at summary judgment -- rather, all facts must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party.” Id.

         Once “a motion for summary judgment is properly made and supported, an opposing party may not rely merely on allegations or denials in its own pleading[.]” Viergutz v. Lucent Techs., Inc., 375 Fed.Appx. 482, 485 (6th Cir. 2010) (citation omitted). Instead, the party opposing summary judgment has a shifting burden and “must -- by affidavits or as otherwise provided in this rule -- set out specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial.” Id. (citation omitted). Failure “to properly address another party's assertion of fact as required by Rule 56(c)” could result in the Court “consider[ing] the fact undisputed for purposes of the motion.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)(2).

         Finally, “there is no duty imposed upon the trial court to ‘search the entire record to establish that it is bereft of a genuine issue of material fact.'” Guarino v. Brookfield Twp. Trs., 980 F.2d 399, 404 (6th Cir. 1992) (citations omitted). Instead, “[i]t is the attorneys, not the judges, who have interviewed the witnesses and handled the physical exhibits; it is the attorneys, not the judges, who have been present at the depositions; and it is the attorneys, not the judges, who have a professional and financial stake in case outcome.” Id. at 406. In other words, “the free-ranging search for supporting facts is a task for which attorneys in the case are equipped and for which courts generally are not.” Id.

         II.

         Observants of the Muslim faith participating in Ramadan -- a Muslim holiday, which lasts about thirty days -- fast from sun up to sun down. PageID 58. To accommodate this religious practice, ODRC policy provides that participating inmates shall receive two meals a day -- apart from the rest of the prison population -- to be eaten before the day's fast begins and after the daily fast ends. Id.

         Plaintiff received the Ramadan meal accommodations for “many years” during his incarceration. Id. It is ODRC policy that the “Imam providing religious services for the institution” has sole discretion in determining membership of the Islamic faith and, in turn, determining who is eligible to receive the meal accommodations, i.e., who is on the “Ramadan list.” PageID 60. In 2017, Imam Sunni Islam removed Plaintiff from the Ramadan list, rendering him ineligible to receive meal accommodations. PageID 59. As a result, during Ramadan of 2017, Plaintiff was forced to choose between “adequate nutrition” or “violat[ing] a central tenet [sic] of faith.” PageID 60. Ultimately, during Ramadan that year, he ate “from only the selections that he purchased” and lived on “chips, ramen soups, cookies and what he had on hand.” PageID 166. This caused him to feel weak, anxious, and prevented him from “achieving [] peace and focus, ” a chief aim of Ramadan. PageID 60.

         Prior to and during Ramadan, Plaintiff filed grievances seeking reinstatement to the Ramadan list. Specifically, Plaintiff filed an Informal Complaint Resolution with Defendant Scott, who responded that the complaint “will be answered by [Defendant Potter].” PageID 63-64. Potter denied Plaintiff's grievance, finding that “the staff action was a valid exercise of [Imam Sunni's] discretion.” PageID 78. Devore further alleges that he was subsequently excluded from two other Muslim holidays after he filed the first grievance. PageID 20. By Ramadan in 2018, Devore was reinstated by Imam Sunni Islam as a member of the Islamic faith and was permitted to receive meal accommodations. PageID 163.

         Plaintiff was subsequently released from BeCI on May 2, 2019.[2] Offender Search, Ohio Dep't of Rehab. & Corr. record available at https://appgateway.drc.ohio.gov/OffenderSearch/Search/Details/A643481, (last visited Jul. 29, 2019). Because Plaintiff's release prevents this Court from being able to grant the injunctive relief he seeks, Fredette v. Hemingway, 65 Fed.Appx. 929, 931 (6th Cir. 2003), he was ordered to show cause on or before June 11, 2019 as to why his claims for injunctive relief should not be dismissed as moot. Doc. 23. Plaintiff failed to do so.

         III.

         A. Claims for Injunctive Relief under § 1983 and RLUIPA

         Plaintiff filed claims for injunctive relief under § 1983 and RLUIPA.[3] PageID 55. For the reasons set forth in the aforementioned Show Cause Order, all of Plaintiff's claims for injunctive relief should be dismissed as moot.[4]Id. The only claims that should remain pending before this Court are Plaintiff's ยง 1983 claims for monetary damages against Defendants in their individual ...


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