Boyd v. Commissioner Indiana Department of Correction et al
OPINION AND ORDER: DENYING 108 RULE 56 MOTION to Strike Portions of Plaintiff's Declaration and Declaration of Kevin Underwood by Defendant Chaplain Ungrodt; DENYING 100 Plaintiff's Request for Oral Argument on Defendant's 94 Mo tion for Summary Judgment by Plaintiff Shavon Tyvell Boyd; and DENYING IN PART 94 MOTION for Summary Judgment by Defendant Chaplain Ungrodt, denying it with respect to Mr. Boyd's First Amendment Claims, granting it with respect to Mr. Boyd's RLUIPA claims. Signed by Judge Robert L Miller, Jr on 5/10/2017. (Copy mailed to pro se party)(lhc)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
SOUTH BEND DIVISION
SHAVON TYVELL BOYD,
DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, )
CAUSE NO. 3:15-CV-082 RLM
OPINION AND ORDER
Shavon Tyvell Boyd, a pro se prisoner, was granted leave to proceed against
Chaplain Richard Ungrodt under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized
Persons Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-1(a), and the First Amendment for denying him
the right to pray in the chapel and celebrate Chanukah in 2014 at the Westville
Correctional Facility. Chaplain Ungrodt has filed a motion for summary judgment
(ECF 94), in which he asserts that Mr. Boyd’s RLUIPA claims are moot and his
First Amendment claims should be dismissed as a matter of law. Chaplain
Ungrodt also contends that, to the extent that he violated Mr. Boyd’s rights, he is
entitled to qualified immunity.
As a preliminary matter, two additional motions are before the court.
Chaplain Ungrodt filed a motion to strike, and Mr. Boyd submitted a motion for
I. Motion to Strike
Chaplain Ungrodt moves to strike portions of Mr. Boyd’s declaration (¶¶ 911, 13, 15, 16, 24-25, 27, 30-31, 33-35, 42, 48) and Kelvin Underwood’s
declaration on the basis that they contain matters that are inadmissible and
unsubstantiated.“An affidavit or declaration used to support or oppose a motion
must be made on personal knowledge, set out facts that would be admissible in
evidence, and show that the affiant or declarant is competent to testify on the
matters stated.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(4).
The court denies Chaplain Ungrodt’s motion to strike these declarations on
the basis that they contain inadmissible and unsubstantiated evidence. Motions
to strike are usually only granted when the contested evidence causes prejudice
to the moving party. Kuntzman v. Wal-Mart, 673 F.Supp. 2d 690, 695 (N.D. Ind.
2009). That is not the case here. When ruling on the motion for summary
judgment, the court is capable of sifting through the evidence, arguments and
purported disputes under the applicable federal rules and case law, giving each
purported dispute the credit to which it is due. Therefore, there is no need to
strike the affidavits based on admissibility concerns.
Chaplain Ungrodt also moves to strike portions of Mr. Boyd’s declaration on
the basis that it contradicts Boyd’s prior sworn testimony. Id. “Parties cannot
thwart the purposes of Rule 56 by creating ‘sham’ issues of fact with affidavits
that contradict prior depositions.” See Bank of Ill. v. Allied Signal Safety Restraint
Sys., 75 F.3d 1162, 1168 (7th Cir. 1996); see also Beckel v. Wal-Mart Assocs.,
Inc., 301 F.3d 621, 624 (7th Cir. 2012). According to Chaplain Ungrodt, Mr. Boyd
tried to create a genuine issue of material fact by submitting a declaration that he
met with Chaplain Ungrodt as early as October 2014 to discuss his desire to
celebrate Chanukah. Chaplain Ungrodt points out that Mr. Boyd testified during
his deposition that he first met with Chaplain Ungrodt about Chanukah in
November or December of 2014. Chaplain Ungrodt argues that Mr. Boyd’s
declaration contains “blatant falsehoods,” “egregious...and arguably libelous
statements,” and contends that Boyd is guilty of “[f]alsifying evidence to secure a
court victory...” Chaplain Ungrodt argues that dismissal of Mr. Boyd’s case with
prejudice would be an appropriate sanction for his transgressions. Id.
Respectfully, the court disagrees.
As a threshold matter, in his deposition Mr. Boyd did state that he wrote to
Chaplain Ungrodt in October 2014. While this meeting might not have been about
Chanukah, it was about his religious concerns. Thus, while Mr. Boyd’s statement
in his declaration is likely mistaken, there seems to be no falsifying evidence on
the part of Mr. Boyd. Moreover, it is unnecessary to strike Mr. Boyd’s statement.
Even without considering the statement that he met with Chaplain Ungrodt in
October 2014 to discuss Chanukah, there is still evidence in the record that Mr.
Boyd sent him numerous letters in November 2014 for that very purpose.
Ultimately, there is no need to strike Mr. Boyd or Mr. Underwood’s declarations.
The court denies Chaplain Ungrodt’s motion.
II. Motion for Oral Argument
Mr. Boyd asks for oral argument on Chaplain Ungrodt’s motion for
summary judgment. To be entitled to an oral argument the requesting party must
explain why it is necessary. See N.D. L.R. 7-5. Mr. Boyd requests oral argument
largely out of concern that his written filings are illegible, but his submissions
have been neat and articulate. Mr. Boyd also says he could call witnesses to
testify, but under the court’s local rules, parties are not permitted to present
additional evidence at this stage in the proceedings. N.D. L.R. 7-5(a)(3). Oral
argument doesn’t appear necessary and Mr. Boyd’s motion will be denied.
III. Motion for Summary Judgment
A. Factual Background
Mr. Boyd, a Jewish inmate within the Indiana Department of Corrections,
was incarcerated at the Westville Correctional Facility during the events
complained of in this lawsuit. In December 2016, Mr. Boyd was transferred to the
New Castle Correctional Facility.
Mr. Boyd claims that in November 2014, he sent Chaplain Ungrodt a letter
asking to celebrate Chanukah. Mr. Boyd sought to observe Chanukah by lighting
candles on a menorah. Mr. Boyd claims that he informed Chaplain Ungrodt that
a rabbi would provide the facility with a menorah that he could use to observe the
holiday. Mr. Boyd testified that he wrote Chaplain Ungrodt another letter on
December 3, 2014 about Chanukah. Mr. Boyd sent Chaplain Ungrodt more
requests regarding his observance of Chanukah dated December 10, 2014 and
December 14, 2014. Chaplain Ungrodt received these requests on December 16,
2014. Chaplain Ungrodt denied both requests on the basis that he couldn’t
accommodate the request because it was too late to obtain the necessary supplies.
Chaplain Ungrodt also said that Department of Correction policy required such
services to be led by an outside volunteer and required more than one inmate
participate. Mr. Boyd contends that he contacted Chaplain Ungrodt “at least 5
times prior to the December 10, 2014 request for interview.” Sometime in early
December 2014, Mr. Boyd had Officer Canady speak with Chaplain Ungrodt about
his need for religious accommodations. Officer Canady told Mr. Boyd that Chaplin
Ungrodt wasn’t going to accommodate his religious needs and that Chaplain
Ungrodt also referred to Mr. Boyd as a “Jewish nigger.”
Mr. Boyd also spoke with Chaplain Ungrodt in person on December 14 or
15, 2014 about his observance of Chanukah. Chaplain Ungrodt contends that this
face-to-face meeting was the first time Mr. Boyd contacted him about Chanukah.
The parties don’t dispute that Chanukah began on December 16, 2014.
Mr. Boyd also contacted Chaplain Ungrodt about access to the prison
chapel. Mr. Boyd sent Chaplain Ungrodt a letter dated November 20, 2014 seeking
permission to pray in the chapel. Chaplain Ungrodt responded that there was
insufficient security staff available to supervise Boyd’s prayer in the chapel. Two
other staff members relayed similar requests to Chaplain Ungrodt that they
received from Mr. Boyd. Chaplain Ungrodt maintained his position that there was
insufficient staff to supervise a private prayer session.
1. Standard of Review
Summary judgment must be granted 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). A genuine issue of material fact exists when “the evidence is
such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.”
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). Not every dispute
between the parties makes summary judgment inappropriate; “[o]nly disputes over
facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will
properly preclude the entry of summary judgment.” Id. To determine whether a
genuine issue of material fact exists, the court must construe all facts in the light
most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all reasonable inferences in that
party’s favor. Ogden v. Atterholt, 606 F.3d 355, 358 (7th Cir. 2010).
Mr. Boyd asserts that Chaplain Ungrodt not allowing him to pray in the
Westville Chapel and celebrate Chanukah in December 2014 violated his rights
under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, which provides
in pertinent part:
No government shall impose . . . a substantial burden on the religious
exercise of a person residing in or confined to an institution . . .
unless the government demonstrates that imposition of the burden
on that person—
(1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and
(2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling
42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-1(a). A “substantial burden” on religious exercise is “one that
necessarily bears direct, primary, and fundamental responsibility for rendering
religious exercise. . . effectively impracticable.” Civil Liberties for Urban Believers
v. City of Chicago, 342 F.3d 752, 761 (7th Cir. 2003). RLUIPA does not “elevate
accommodation of religious observances over an institution’s need to maintain
order and safety . . . [and] an accommodation must be measured so that it does
not override other significant interests.” Cutter v. Wilkinson , 544 U.S. 709, 722
(2005). Courts must apply RLUIPA “with due deference to the experience and
expertise of prison and jail administrators in establishing necessary regulations
and procedures to maintain good order, security and discipline, consistent with
consideration of costs and limited resources.” Id. at 723. While RLUIPA can be
used to obtain injunctive relief, it doesn’t provide a cause of action for money
damages against state prison officials. Sossamon v. Texas, 131 S.Ct. 1651 (2011).
Mr. Boyd is no longer incarcerated at Westville. He doesn’t provide any
evidence or argument that he will return to Westville. As a result, Mr. Boyd’s
injunctive relief claim against any official at Westville is moot and must be
dismissed without prejudice. See Higgason v. Farley, 83 F.3d 807, 811 (7th Cir.
1995) (“If a prisoner is transferred to another prison, his request for injunctive
relief against officials of the first prison is moot unless he can demonstrate that
he is likely to be retransferred.”). Mr. Boyd acknowledges that his injunctive relief
claim is moot, but goes on to request declaratory relief under RLUIPA. Mr. Boyd
wasn’t granted leave at the screening stage to proceed on any RLUIPA claim
seeking declaratory relief. For these reasons, the court grants Chaplain Ungrodt’s
motion for summary judgment with respect to Mr. Boyd’s RLUIPA claim.
b. First Amendment Claims
Unlike his RLUIPA claim, Mr. Boyd’s First Amendment claims haven’t
become moot. Mr. Boyd argues that his First Amendment claims should be
analyzed under the RLUIPA framework, but he is mistaken. Inmates are entitled
to broader religious protection under RLUIPA than they are under the First
Amendment. Holt v. Hobbs, 135 S. Ct. 853 (2015).
Prisoners enjoy a right to exercise their religion under the First Amendment.
Vinning-El v. Evans, 657 F.3d 591, 592-593 (7th Cir. 2011). This right is “subject
to limits appropriate to the nature of prison life.” Id. Restrictions that limit the
exercise of religion are permissible if they are reasonably related to legitimate
penological objectives, including security and economic concerns. Turner v. Safley,
482 U.S. 78, 89–91 (1987); Ortiz v. Downey, 561 F.3d 664, 669 (7th Cir. 2009).
The Supreme Court has fashioned a four-factor test to determine whether a
reasonable relationship exists between the challenged regulation and a legitimate
penological interest. Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. at 89. First, there must be “valid,
rational connection” between the questioned regulation and the “governmental
interest put forward to justify it.” Id. The second factor asks whether there exist
alternative ways for the prisoner to exercise the right. Id. at 90. Third, a court
should consider the impact that accommodation of the prisoner would have on
guards, other inmates, and “on allocation of prison resources generally.” Id.
Fourth, “the absence of ready alternatives” on the part of the prison
administration is strong evidence that the regulation is reasonable. Id.
Chaplain Ungrodt isn’t entitled to summary judgment on either of Mr.
Boyd’s First Amendment claims.
i. Observance of Chanukah
Chaplain Ungrodt argues that Mr. Boyd’s request was untimely. Chaplain
Ungrodt says he first received notice of Mr. Boyd’s request on December 15, 2014,
one day before the start of Chanukah. He argues that because there wasn’t
adequate notice, he didn’t have time to gather unspecified supplies necessary to
accommodate Mr. Boyd’s request. Furthermore, Chaplain Ungrodt’s counsel
points to a Department of Correction policy requiring the participation of more
than one prisoner in a service led by an outside volunteer. The defense argues that
no other inmate had requested a similar service, so no volunteer had been
Mr. Boyd claims that Chaplain Ungrodt had advance notice of his request
because he wrote Chaplain Ungrodt several letters in November and December
about his desire to celebrate Chanukah. Mr. Boyd also had Officer Canady speak
with Chaplain Ungrodt about this before December 15, but the chaplain indicated
(according to Mr. Boyd) that he wouldn’t accommodate Mr. Boyd’s religious needs.
Mr. Boyd contends that the facility had adequate supplies to accommodate his
request because he had donated a menorah to the facility in November. Chaplain
Ungrodt doesn’t specifically address these arguments.
Chaplain Ungrodt’s primary justification for denying Mr. Boyd’s request was
the lack of advance notice and supplies necessary to accommodate the request.
The trier of fact must resolve these factual disputes to determine whether
Chaplain Ungrodt’s denial satisfies the Turner balancing test. There might have
been reasonable security concerns that justified the denial of the request. For
example, one can imagine that there is a reasonable penological interest in
prohibiting open flames within the prison. See Childs v. Duckworth, 705 F.2d 915,
hazard…Consequently, it was a sensible and reasonable precaution for the
authorities, in the interest of prison security and the safety of the inmates and
staff, to impose supervision on the use of candles and incense in the chapel and
to deny inmates their use in individual cells”); Kaufman v. McCaughtry, 419 F.3d
678, 683 (7th Cir. 2005) (“an inmate is not entitled to follow every aspect of his
religion; the prison may restrict the inmate's practices if its legitimate penological
interests outweigh the prisoner's religious interests”). Yet, Chaplain Ungrodt’s
denial was not based on the facility’s security concerns, but rather his inability
to accommodate an untimely request and a lack of “adequate supplies.” Factual
questions preclude the granting summary judgment in favor of Chaplain Ungrodt.
ii. Access to the Prison Chapel
Chaplain Ungrodt seeks summary judgment because he denied Mr. Boyd’s
request based on reasonable staffing and security concerns. A prison may
reasonably restrict private prayer sessions on the basis of staffing concerns. See
Richards v. White, 957 F.2d 471, 474–475 (7th Cir. 1992) (inmate’s request for 30
minutes of uninterrupted prayer time in the chapel was unreasonable in light of
administrative burden on prison); Al-Alamin v. Gramley, 926 F.2d 680, 686 (7th
Cir. 1991) (“Both security and economic concerns are legitimate penological
demands. Prison administrators, like most government officials, have limited
resources to provide the services they are called upon to administer”). Prisons
have a strong interest in “having its guards observe prisoners at all times and in
all situations.” Canedy v. Boardman, 91 F.3d 30, 34 (7th Cir.1996).
Yet Mr. Boyd’s claim goes further than merely challenging his own access
to the chapel. Rather, he argues that Christian prisoners were permitted private
prayer sessions in the chapel, but prisoners of other faiths were not. Mr. Boyd
submitted an affidavit from a fellow prisoner, Kelvin Underwood, who claims to
have worked in the chapel every day for 19 months. Mr. Underwood’s affidavit
says he “personally witnessed offenders pray and worship in the G.S.C. chapel
without supervisor or custody staff. This happened every day that [he] worked for
19 months.” Mr. Underwood claims that Chaplain Ungrodt told him that he
couldn’t pray in the chapel because only Christians were permitted to pray in the
chapel. Mr. Boyd contends that Chaplain Ungrodt told him the same thing when
he asked why he could not use the chapel. He claims that Chaplain Ungrodt told
him that only Christians could pray in the chapel, and that all other prisoners had
to pray in the auditorium.
While the United States Constitution doesn’t require prison and jail officials
to provide a special chapel or place of worship “for every faith regardless of size;
nor must a chaplain, priest, or minister be provided without regard to the extent
of the demand,” Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319, 322 n. 2 (1972), any restriction on
religion must be applied evenly to inmates of all faiths. Kaufman v. Pugh, 733
F.3d 692, 696 (7th Cir. 2013) (“the Establishment Clause may be violated even
without a substantial burden on religious practice if the government favors one
religion over another [or religion over nonreligion] without a legitimate secular
reason for doing so”).
Chaplain Ungrodt doesn’t dispute, or even address, this aspect of Boyd’s
claim. If Christians were permitted to pray in the chapel but prisoners of other
faiths were not, there might have been a reasonable penological interest behind
the policy. See Burns v. Buncich, No. 2:12-CV-034, 2017 WL 1347046, at *7 (N.D.
Ind. Apr. 11, 2017) (“It is ‘not constitutionally impermissible for Defendants to
consider the demand and need of the group requesting the chapel, along with
space and staffing limitations, when deciding where religious groups will conduct
their services’ ”) (quoting Baranowski v. Hart, 486 F.3d 112, 123 (5th Cir. 2007)).
But because Chaplain Ungrodt does not address this claim, a genuine dispute of
material fact remains. For these reasons, Chaplain Ungrodt’s motion for summary
judgment with respect to Mr. Boyd’s First Amendment claims is denied.
c. Qualified Immunity
Chaplain Ungrodt argues that if he committed a constitutional violation, he
is entitled to qualified immunity. “The doctrine of qualified immunity protects
government officials from liability for civil damages insofar as their conduct does
not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a
reasonable person would have known. Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818
(1982).” Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 231 (2009) (quotation marks and
parallel citations omitted). A two-part inquiry determines whether the defense
applies: (1) whether the facts alleged by the plaintiff show that the defendants
violated a constitutional right; and (2) whether that constitutional right was clearly
established at the time of the alleged violation. Id. This doesn’t require inquiry into
the defendant’s subjective intent; tThe question is one of “the objective
reasonableness of an official’s conduct, as measured by reference to clearly
established law.” Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. at 818. So to decide whether
Chaplain Ungrodt has qualified immunity, the court must determine “the
currently applicable law,” as well as “whether that law was clearly established at
the time an action occurred.” Id. “If the law at that time was not clearly
established, an official could not reasonably be expected to anticipate subsequent
legal developments, nor could he fairly be said to ‘know’ that the law forbade
conduct not previously identified as unlawful. Id.
Mr. Boyd alleges that Chaplain Ungrodt arbitrarily denied him the
opportunity to observe Chanukah sufficient notice of his request, and that
Chaplain Ungrodt intentionally denied him access to pray in the chapel based on
his religious beliefs. If Mr. Boyd’s version of events is true, Chaplain Ungrodt’s
actions violated the clearly established law. As the cases cited in the prior sections
of this opinion demonstrate, in 2014, no reasonable prison official could have
believed that it was legal to arbitrarily deny a prisoner access to religious
observance, or to intentionally discriminate against a prisoner based on the
prisoner’s religious beliefs. Chaplain Ungrodt hasn’t demonstrated that he is
entitled to qualified immunity.
For these reasons, the court:
1. DENIES the motion to strike (ECF 108);
2. DENIES the motion for oral argument (ECF 100); and
3. DENIES IN PART the summary judgment motion (ECF 94), denying it
with respect to Mr. Boyd’s First Amendment Claims, granting it with respect to
Mr. Boyd’s RLUIPA claims.
ENTERED: May 10 , 2017.
/s/ Robert L. Miller, Jr.
United States District Court
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