Pokrzywinski v. Davenport et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge Inge P Johnson on 9/17/12. (ASL)
2012 Sep-17 PM 03:46
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
WARDEN DAVENPORT, et al.,
) Case No. 4:11-cv-02562-IPJ-PWG
MEMORANDUM OF OPINION
The magistrate judge filed a report and recommendation on August 20, 2012,
recommending that Defendant Davenport’s motion for summary judgment be granted
and this cause be dismissed with prejudice. (Doc. 19.) Plaintiff filed objections on
August 31, 2012. (Doc. 20.)
In his objections, plaintiff reasserts his claim that Defendant Davenport had no
reasonable cause to extinguish the sacred fire on June 17, 2011. Administrative
Regulation 333 permits a “small fire” during a sweat lodge ceremony and requires
that the Chaplain and security personnel ensure that the fire “does not violate any fire
safety codes, is small, and safe.” (Doc. 16, Ex. A at 9 of 23.) Plaintiff does not
dispute that the flames of the sacred fire on June 17, 2011, were five or six feet high
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and that the fire was giving off heavy smoke. Instead, he claims only that the height
of the fire and any smoke coming from it were not reasonable grounds to extinguish
it since Administrative Regulation 333 does not address these matters specifically.
He further contends that the fire was manageable and posed no safety risk.
Plaintiff ignores the fact that even if the regulation does not speak to the height
of the fire or any resulting smoke, the regulation charges the Chaplain and security
personnel, including Warden Davenport, with the responsibility of making sure the
fire is “small, and safe.” (Doc. 16, Ex. A at 9 of 23.) There is no question that any
fire lit on institutional grounds presents a safety concern for inmates, staff, and the
institution as a whole if the fire becomes unmanageable. The evidence shows that as
a result of the fire height and amount of smoke, Davenport determined that a safety
hazard existed and immediately took action to eliminate the risk to inmates and staff.
The evidence shows that plaintiff merely disagrees with Davenport’s judgment on
whether the fire posed a danger. However, evaluation of penological objectives is
committed to the judgment of prison administrators “who are actually charged with
and trained in the running of the particular institution under examination.” Bell v.
Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 562 (1979). The evidence shows that Warden Davenport
observed a safety hazard and acted in a reasonable manner which was essential for
the safety and security of the prison.
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Plaintiff further alleges that he did not participate in rebuilding a second,
smaller fire with other inmates after Davenport extinguished the large fire and,
therefore, he was deprived of his right to exercise his religion. However, plaintiff
does not allege that Davenport prevented him in any way from participating in the
rebuilding of the second fire. Additionally, plaintiff makes only a conclusory
allegation that Davenport discriminated against the Turtle Clan when he extinguished
the fire. Plaintiff does not allege that other clans or religious groups built fires that
posed a safety hazard and Davenport permitted such fires.
Having carefully reviewed and considered de novo all the materials in the court
file, including the report and recommendation and the objections filed by the plaintiff,
the Court is of the opinion that the magistrate judge's report is due to be and is hereby
ADOPTED and his recommendation is ACCEPTED. The Court EXPRESSLY
FINDS that there are no genuine issues of material fact and that Defendant Davenport
is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Accordingly, Defendant Davenport’s
motion for summary judgment is due to be GRANTED and this action is due to be
DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE. A Final Judgment will be entered.
DONE this the 17th day of September 2012.
INGE PRYTZ JOHNSON
U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
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