Hall #090753 v. Martin et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION; signed by Magistrate Judge Joseph G. Scoville (Magistrate Judge Joseph G. Scoville, mmh)
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
GEORGE HALL, # 090753,
MIKE MARTIN, et al.,
Case No. 1:10-cv-1221
Honorable Paul L. Maloney
This is a civil rights action in which a state prisoner seeks relief for violation of his
rights under the First Amendment and under the Religious Land Use and Institutional Persons Act
(RLUIPA) arising from a decision by officials of the Michigan Department of Corrections to cease
offering plaintiff a strict vegetarian diet at Lakeland Correctional Facility (LRF). Plaintiff alleges
that he is a Messianic Jew and that his religious beliefs require him to restrict his diet to food items
that contain no animal products. By order entered May 3, 2012, Chief Judge Paul Maloney granted
a summary judgment to all defendants except defendants Martin and Purves. Judge Maloney’s order,
which adopted a previous report and recommendation, allowed the case for injunctive and monetary
relief against these defendants to proceed. The court denied plaintiff’s motion for a preliminary
injunction reinstating a kosher, vegetarian diet, for lack of clarity concerning the availability of that
diet at plaintiff’s prison and his willingness to accept the strict vegetarian diet offered at LRF.
While the report and recommendation was under consideration by the district judge,
plaintiff filed a motion styled a “motion for reconsideration” (docket # 28) in which he informed the
court that the strict vegetarian diet served at his prison to Buddhists and Seventh Day Adventists
would satisfy plaintiff’s religious dietary needs.1 Plaintiff’s motion stated that the “Coldwater
complex strict vegetarian menu” as then currently being served to Buddhists and Seventh Day
Adventists at his facility “will adequately meet Plaintiff’s religious needs.” (docket # 28 at 2). On
this basis, plaintiff requested the entry of a preliminary injunction requiring defendants to make that
diet available to him.
After Judge Maloney entered his order on the dispositive motions, plaintiff filed an
affidavit concerning recent communications between plaintiff and prison officials or Assistant
Attorneys General assigned to this case. The most important fact disclosed by plaintiff’s affidavit
is that prison officials had agreed to serve plaintiff his desired strict vegetarian meals, beginning
Wednesday, May 16, 2012. Plaintiff’s affidavit informed the court that this concession by prison
officials resolved plaintiff’s request for a preliminary injunction, leaving only the matter of damages.
Defense counsel filed a response (docket # 33), agreeing that prison officials had begun serving
plaintiff his desired diet and arguing that all claims for injunctive relief are therefore moot.
Plaintiff thereafter asked for a hearing to assess damages, apparently assuming that
he had prevailed on all liability issues. (docket # 32). Plaintiff also filed a brief in support of a claim
for punitive damages (docket # 29), as well as a “supplement” citing further evidence in support of
his punitive damages request.
Within the last thirty days, a dispute concerning the scope of discovery has been
raised by the parties. Plaintiff has filed a motion for protective order (docket # 37), requesting that
Plaintiff’s motion raised a possible question concerning Passover, during which plaintiff
is required to abstain from leavened foods, but stated that he could nevertheless meet his Passover
the court deny defendant any discovery on the remaining issues in the case. Defendants have filed
a response in opposition to the motion for protective order and seek leave under Fed. R. Civ. P.
30(a)(2) to take the deposition of plaintiff and other prisoners who have submitted affidavits or
evidence in this case. Plaintiff resists any discovery “at this late date” and accuses defendants of
using discovery “in an attempt to persuade this Court that punitive damages are not appropriate.”
(docket # 40).
The pending motions address two questions. First, was plaintiff’s request for a
preliminary injunction rendered moot by the decision of prison officials to grant his request for a
strict vegetarian diet? Second, should defendants be denied discovery on plaintiff’s remaining claim
for monetary relief?
All parties now agree that plaintiff is receiving a diet that satisfies his religious needs.
This development, which occurred during the course of this case, negates any need for preliminary
injunctive relief, as plaintiff is no longer facing “actual and imminent” harm to his federally
guaranteed rights. See Abney v. Amgen., Inc., 443 F.3d 540, 552 (6th Cir. 2006). Contrary to
defendants’ assertion, however, plaintiff’s claim for permanent injunctive relief is not necessarily
mooted by this concession. Under well-established Supreme Court precedent, the “voluntary
secession of allegedly illegal conduct does not deprive the tribunal of power to hear and determine
the case, i.e., does not make the case moot.” United States v. W.T. Grant Co., 345 U.S. 629, 632
(1953). Where a defendant voluntarily changes its conduct as a result of litigation, courts are
concerned that the challenged conduct might start up again in the absence of judicial intervention.
See Friends of the Earth, Inc. v. Laidlaw Environmental Servs., 528 U.S. 167, 189 (2000). The
Supreme Court therefore places the burden on defendant of persuading the court that the challenged
conduct would not reasonably be expected to recur. Id. The Sixth Circuit accords government
officials more solicitude in this respect than private parties, often holding that government selfcorrection “provides a secure foundation for a dismissal based on mootness so long as it appears
genuine.” Mosley v. Hairston, 920 F.2d 409, 415 (6th Cir. 1990). Consequently, if the court
ultimately finds that plaintiff’s rights under the First Amendment or RLUIPA have been violated,
the court will consider the status of the record at that time to determine whether defendants have met
their burden of showing that the claim for injunctive relief is moot under Sixth Circuit standards.
That question, however, is not presently before the court.
In light of the voluntary action of prison officials, plaintiff’s motion for
reconsideration of his motion for preliminary injunction (docket # 28) will be dismissed.
Plaintiff has made clear his desire to obtain compensatory and punitive damages in
this case. Filing a motion for imposition of punitive damages or seeking a hearing on the issue of
damages is not the way that the law allows such relief to be awarded. As a primary matter, plaintiff
has not prevailed on either his First Amendment or his RLUIPA claims. The court has merely found
that issues of material fact preclude summary judgment in favor of defendants and that they are not
entitled to a defense of qualified immunity. The court has not found, however, that plaintiff is
entitled to prevail in this case. Such a finding of liability is an obvious prerequisite to the imposition
of damages of any kind.
Consequently, this case is not as far advanced as plaintiff assumes, nor is it “late in
the day” for either party to seek discovery. The consequence of the denial of a defendant’s motion
for summary judgment is generally a determination that the case must be tried to resolve remaining
liability and damages issues, unless the court decides on a subsequent motion for summary judgment
that either plaintiff or defendant is entitled to prevail as a matter of law. The Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure envision that both parties will be given a fair opportunity for discovery to establish their
claims or defenses. Plaintiff’s demand for an immediate trial, with no opportunity for discovery,
seriously misapprehends the civil litigation process and invites the court to abuse its discretion.
Therefore, plaintiff’s motion for an assessment of punitive damages (docket # 29) and
his motion for a hearing (docket # 32) are both premature and will be dismissed without prejudice.
The court will establish a schedule setting dates and deadlines for discovery and for the filing of
further dispositive motions. If necessary, the court will establish a pretrial and trial schedule to
resolve any remaining liability or damage issues. Plaintiff has not established good cause, as
required by Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(c), for a protective order limiting or denying discovery in this case.
The court will also grant defendants’ motion to depose plaintiff and his witnesses.
Dated: October 12, 2012
/s/ Joseph G. Scoville
United States Magistrate Judge
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?