SHORTER et al v. RANDOLPH et al
Entry Granting Unopposed Motion for Summary Judgment And Directing Entry of Final Judgment - The motion for summary judgment [dkt. 41 ] is therefore granted and this action is dismissed. Judgment consistent with this Entry shall now issue (See Entry). Copy sent to Plaintiff via US Mail. Signed by Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson on 3/23/2017. (DW)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
TERRE HAUTE DIVISION
ROBERT LEE SHORTER,
IKE RANDOLPH Deputy Director of
Religious and Volunteer Service,
DAVID LIEBEL Director of Religious and
Case No. 2:15-cv-00099-JMS-MJD
Entry Granting Unopposed Motion for Summary Judgment
And Directing Entry of Final Judgment
Plaintiff Robert Lee Shorter filed this civil action seeking a kosher diet and money
damages. The defendants argue that after this case was filed, Shorter began getting the diet he
requested and disavowed his request for damages. The defendants argue that because the claim for
injunctive relief is moot, they are entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Shorter has not responded
to the motion for summary judgment.
For the reasons explained below, the defendants’ motion for summary judgment [dkt. 41]
I. Standard of Review
Summary judgment should be granted “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute
as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” Fed. R. Civ. P.
56(a). A “material fact” is one that “might affect the outcome of the suit.” Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The Court views the facts in the light most favorable to the
non-moving party and all reasonable inferences are drawn in the non-movant’s favor. Ault v.
Speicher, 634 F.3d 942, 945 (7th Cir. 2011).
“The applicable substantive law will dictate which facts are material.” National Soffit &
Escutcheons, Inc., v. Superior Systems, Inc., 98 F.3d 262, 265 (7th Cir. 1996) (citing Anderson,
477 U.S. at 248).
II. Undisputed Facts
Shorter is currently incarcerated at Pendleton Correctional Facility. He filed his initial
complaint on April 06, 2015, and amended his complaint on July 7, 2015. The alleged incidents
occurred at the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility. Shorter is self-designated in Department of
Correction records as a Hebrew Israelite and has been since October 17, 2013.
Shorter requested a religious accommodation in his diet and was denied. No religious
accommodation was provided to Shorter because vegan meals available without a special
accommodation met the requirements set out by Shorter.
Following an administrative appeal, Shorter was approved for a kosher diet in September
2015, began receiving the accommodation in November 2015, and is receiving it today.
Shorter does not seek any monetary relief in this action. Shorter testified at his deposition
that he did not want money from either of the defendants. (Shorter Dep. 91:13- 15.) When probed
further to determine what Shorter was seeking, having already received the kosher diet, Shorter
responded that he wanted “[a]n injunction from them to stop denying me my kosher diet and
provide me with my kosher diet.” (Shorter Dep. 91:22-25; 92:1.) For final clarification, Shorter
was asked if he wanted 1 dollar, a million dollars or any money whatsoever and he responded that
he did not. (Shorter Dep. 92:12-14.) Accordingly, the only remaining relief sought by the plaintiff
is an injunction that he be allowed to eat a kosher diet and that it not be taken away for unjust
cause. (Shorter Dep. 92: 15-19.)
A private settlement agreement now governs the provision of kosher diets in the Indiana
Department of Correction. The agreement reached in Witmer (formerly Willis), et al., v.
Commissioner, Cause No. 1:09-cv-815-JMS-DM, applies to:
All prisoners confined within the Indiana Department of Correction, including the
New Castle Correctional Facility, who have identified, or who will identify,
themselves to the Indiana Department of Correction as requiring a kosher diet in
order to properly exercise their religious beliefs and who have requested such a
diet, or would request it if such a diet was available.
That agreement governs revocation of approved religious diets and limits the circumstances under
which an offender may lose approval for a kosher diet to situations of abuse of the diet by non-use
or conduct in conflict with the assertion of a sincerely held religious belief that the diet is required,
such as eating off of the non-kosher main food line or buying non-kosher food from commissary.
See dkt. 41-4 (Witmer settlement agreement); dkt. 41-5 (Witmer Order).
The settlement agreement in Witmer applies to Shorter’s request for and approval of a
kosher diet because he is a member of the class. Thus, the defendants are not free to simply cancel
Shorter’s diet. Absent any misconduct on Shorter’s part, the diet will continue undisturbed.
The defendants argue that they are entitled to judgment as a matter of law because this case
is moot. They explain that Shorter is receiving the kosher diet he requested and that diet cannot be
taken away absent misconduct. Accordingly, there is no controversy for this Court to adjudicate.
Shorter does not contradict the defendants’ argument.
“A court’s power to grant injunctive relief only survives if such relief is actually needed.”
Nelson v. Miller, 570 F.3d 868, 882–83 (7th Cir. 2009). In this case, Shorter has been given the
diet he requested and there is no “cognizable danger of recurrent violation.” United States v. W.T.
Grant Co., 345 U.S. 629, 633 (1953). The undisputed record reflects that Shorter’s kosher diet will
not be revoked absent Shorter’s abuse of the diet by non-use or conduct in conflict with the
assertion of a sincerely held religious belief that the diet is required. There is no basis to conclude
that Shorter will be denied a kosher diet in the future. Nelson, 570 F.3d at 882-883 (affirming the
district court’s finding that plaintiff’s claim for non-meat diet is moot).
“In an action seeking only injunctive relief . . . once the threat of the act sought to be
enjoined dissipates, the suit must be dismissed as moot.” Brown v. Bartholomew Consol. Sch.
Corp., 442 F.3d 588, 596 (7th Cir. 2006). Under these circumstances, Shorter’s only claim for
relief is moot, the defendants are entitled to summary judgment, and this action is dismissed with
The motion for summary judgment [dkt. 41] is therefore granted and this action is
dismissed. Judgment consistent with this Entry shall now issue.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Nikki G. Ashmore
INDIANA ATTORNEY GENERAL
David A. Arthur
OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
ROBERT LEE SHORTER
PENDLETON - CF
PENDLETON CORRECTIONAL FACILITY
4490 West Reformatory Road
PENDLETON, IN 46064
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