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Buchanan v. Burbury

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

January 7, 2020

Charles Buchanan, Plaintiff,
v.
Warren Burbury, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Jeffrey J. Helmick, United States District Judge

         I. Introduction and Background

         In 2005, Charles Buchanan, an inmate at North Central Correctional Institution in Marion, Ohio (“NCCI”), filed a lawsuit alleging various NCCI officials were violating his constitutional rights by refusing to accommodate his religious beliefs and practices as a member of the Yahweh's New Covenant Assembly. (Doc. No. 1). Among these practices was Buchanan's “belief that he must conform to Jewish law and eat only kosher food.” (Id. at 2). Judge David A. Katz entering a preliminary injunction requiring the Defendants to accommodate Buchanan's religious beliefs. (Doc. No. 30). The matter was subsequently settled and the litigation dismissed without prejudice on September 25, 2008. (Doc. No. 52).

         On May 2, 2019, three inmates - Michael D. Fogt, Christopher Bruggeman, and Daniel W. Lytle - incarcerated at Pickaway Correctional Institution, where Buchanan currently is incarcerated, filed a motion seeking to intervene in this case, to substitute the appropriate officials at NCCI as Defendants, to initiate contempt proceedings against Defendants, and for the appointment of counsel. (Doc. No. 53). Fogt, Bruggeman, and Lytle (“Intervenors”) claim to be members of the Yahweh's New Covenant Assembly and assert Defendants are violating the settlement agreement which Buchanan and Defendants previously entered into. (Id. at 2-3). I was assigned to the case, as Judge Katz passed away in 2016.

         The State of Ohio, as an interested party, filed a response in opposition to the motion to intervene. (Doc. No. 57). The state argues the motion to intervene is improper under Rule 24, that I should decline to exercise jurisdiction over the Intervenors' claim, and that the claims are barred by Eleventh Amendment Immunity. (Id.).

         Intervenors filed a brief in reply. They argue they should be allowed to intervene pursuant to Rule 24, that I must exercise jurisdiction because they have asserted Defendants breached the settlement agreement, and that the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”) and the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution gives Intervenors a statutory right to intervene in the litigation. (Doc. No. 59).

         For the reasons stated below, I deny the motion to intervene.

         II. Standard

         Rule 24 governs the circumstances under which a person can intervene in litigation involving other parties. A court must allow a person to intervene when the person is “given an unconditional right to intervene by a federal statute, ” or “claims an interest relating to the property or transaction that is the subject of the action, and is so situated that disposing of the action may as a practical matter impair or impede the movant's ability to protect its interest, unless existing parties adequately represent that interest.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 24(a)(1)-(2).

         A court may permit a person to intervene when the person is “given a conditional right to intervene by a federal statute, ” or the person “has a claim or defense that shares with the main action a common question of law or fact.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 24(b)(1)-(2).

         III. Analysis

         A. Statutory Intervention

         Intervenors first argue that the RLUIPA gives them a right to intervene. (Doc. No. 53 at 4-5). This argument falls short, as Intervenors fail to identify any provision in the RLUIPA which provides an unconditional or conditional right to intervene. See 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc, et seq.; cf. E.E.O.C. v. GMRI, Inc., 221 F.R.D. 562, 563 (D. Kan. 2004) (“Section 706(f)(1) [of the Equal Employment Opportunities Act] provides that ‘[t]he person or persons aggrieved shall have the right to intervene in a civil action brought by the Commission.' ”) (emphasis in original).

         B. ...


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