Fletcher et al v. Bokinstoke et al
ORDER AND OPINION adopting the 68 Report and Recommendation, granting the Defendants' 22 motion to dismiss and 61 motion for summary judgment, and dismissing Plaintiff's complaint with prejudice. Signed by Honorable Margaret B. Seymour on 8/18/2017. (bgoo)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF SOUTH CAROLINA
ROCK HILL DIVISION
Sgt. Bokinstrke, Warden Dunlap, Lieutenant
Salmon, Associate Warden Stonebreaker,
Civil Action No.: 0:16-3528-MBS-PJG
ORDER AND OPINION
Plaintiff Henry Fletcher (“Plaintiff”), proceeding pro se, brought the underlying action
against Defendants Sgt. Bokinstrke, Warden Dunlap, Lieutenant Salmon, and Associate Warden
Stonebreaker (“Defendants”), alleging civil rights violations pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and
the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc et
seq. ECF No. 1. Subsequently, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss and motion for summary
judgment on February 17, 2017, and June 2, 2017, respectively. ECF Nos. 22, 61. In accordance
with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Rule 73.02, D.S.C., this matter was referred to United States
Magistrate Judge Paige J. Gossett for pretrial handling. This matter is before the court on the
Magistrate Judge’s Report and Recommendation (“Report”) filed July 17, 2017. ECF No. 68.
RELEVANT FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Plaintiff is a Muslim state prisoner at Kershaw Correctional Institution in Kershaw, South
Carolina. ECF No. 1. Plaintiff asserts that on June 19, 2016, the prison was locked down, and as
a result, Muslim inmates were not served an evening meal until 11:00 pm without the
opportunity to warm the food. Id. at 5. Plaintiff further claims that Defendants treated Muslim
and Christian inmates differently because Muslims were not fed during appropriate hours during
Ramadan while Christian inmates were always allowed to attend programs and worship services
on time. Id. at 6.
On July 5, 2016, Plaintiff filed an inmate grievance with the prison alerting authorities
that he and his fellow Muslim inmates were not being fed at proper times during their observance
of Ramadan. ECF No. 1-1 at 1. On July 14, 2016, the Warden replied that “the issue was
addressed through security who were advised to feed the Muslim population within the
guidelines of your religious Ramadan services. All unit Managers and Cafeteria Supervisor were
notified to follow the guidelines that were implemented to adjust to Ramadan services.” Id. at 2.
On July 25, 2016, Plaintiff filed a second inmate grievance raising the same claims raised in his
first report. Id. at 3. On November 20, 2016, Plaintiff filed an additional grievance asserting that
he was not allowed to attend Islamic Jum’ah while Christians were allowed to use the chapel. On
October 27, 2016, Plaintiff filed the underlying complaint alleging that, during the month of
Ramadan, he and other practicing Muslims were discriminated against. Id. at 4. Plaintiff requests
relief in the amount of two hundred million dollars. Id.
A. Motion to Dismiss
A Rule12 (b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted tests the legal sufficiency of a complaint. Schatz v. Rosenberg, 943 F.2d 455,489 (4th Cir.
1991). While the complaint need not be minutely detailed, it must provide enough factual details
to put the opposing party on fair notice of the claim and the grounds upon which it rests. Bell
Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S 544, 555 (2007)(citing Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47
(1957)). In order to withstand a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain factual content that
allows the court to reasonably infer that the defendant is liable for the alleged misconduct. Ashcroft
v. Iqbal, 556 U.S 662, 678 (2009). The court must accept the allegations in the complaint as true,
and all reasonable factual inferences must be drawn in favor of the party opposing the motion. Id.
at 679. If the court determines that those factual allegations can “plausibly give rise to an
entitlement to relief,” dismissal is not warranted. Id. To determine plausibility, courts are to “draw
on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id. “But where the well-pleaded facts do not permit
the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged---but it
has not ‘show[n]’---‘that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Id. (citing Fed. Rule Civ. P. 8(a)(2)).
B. Motion for Summary Judgment
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 judgment as a matter of law.” Fed. R.
Civ. P. 56(a). A fact is “material” if proof of its existence or non-existence would affect the
disposition of the case under the applicable law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby Inc., 477 U.S. 242,
248-49 (1986). A genuine question of material fact exists where, after reviewing the record as a
whole, the court finds that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.
Newport News Holdings Corp. v. Virtual City Vision, 650 F.3d 423, 434 (4th Cir. 2011).
C. Magistrate Judge Review
The Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this court. The recommendation
has no presumptive weight. The responsibility to make a final determination remains with this
court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270-71 (1976). The court reviews de novo only those
portions of a Magistrate Judge’s report and recommendation to which specific objections are filed,
and reviews those portions which are not objected to—including those portions to which only
“general and conclusory” objections have been made—for clear error. Diamond v. Colonia Life &
Acc. Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005); Camby v. Davis, 718 F.2d 198, 200 (4th Cir.
1983); Opriano v. Johnson, 687 F.2d 44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982). The court may accept, reject, or
modify, in whole or in part, the recommendation of the Magistrate Judge or recommit the matter
with instructions. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).
A. Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss
Defendants move to dismiss Plaintiff’s claims, asserting, “as Plaintiff has brought this
action against SCDC employees in their official capacities seeking money damages, his § 1983
claim for damages should be dismissed with prejudice.” ECF No. 22 at 3. In his motion in
opposition to Defendants’ motion to dismiss, Plaintiff claims that members of the prison staff were
“calling [him] names and putting [him] in danger.” ECF No. 53 at 1. He again asks that the court
not dismiss the case as he is still completing grievances with the prison concerning additional
In her Report, the Magistrate Judge agrees with Defendants, finding that they are immune
from Plaintiff’s suit and entitled to sovereign immunity. ECF No. 68 at 5. Following the issuance
of the Magistrate Judge’s Report, Plaintiff filed a letter that includes additional grievances he filed
with the prison. ECF No. 71. Plaintiff makes no specific objections to the Magistrate Judge’s
Report. Instead, Plaintiff asks the court to consider various filed grievances where Plaintiff again
asserts that he was not allowed to attend weekly Jum’ah, and was denied access to serving on the
IRC board. ECF No. 72. 1 Plaintiff attached a Memorandum from Bryan P. Stirling, Director of the
While Plaintiff attaches several grievances to his opposition, when deposed, Plaintiff made
clear that the underlying suit does not pertain to his allegations of missing prayer services and
instead is solely based on the way he and similarly situated Muslims were served meals during
their observance of Ramadan. ECF No. 61-1 at 3-4. Plaintiff has not filed to amend his complaint
to include additional complaints concerning Ju’mah services. Furthermore, when asked during
his deposition whether Plaintiff planned to file a lawsuit about his Ju’mah grievance, Plaintiff
replied, “I might have to.” Id. at 19.
South Carolina Department of Corrections concerning “Ramadan Fast and ‘Eid-Ul-Fitr’, as a
supporting document. ECF No. 72-1.
Section 1983 allows plaintiffs to seek monetary damages from governmental officials who
have violated their constitutional rights. 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Specifically, Section 1983 establishes
Every person who, under statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any
State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects or causes to be subjected,
any citizen of the United States or another person within the jurisdiction thereof to
the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution
A state cannot, without its consent, be sued by its own citizens in federal court. See
Edleman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 662-63 (1974). This immunity extends not only to the states,
but also “protects state agents and state instrumentalities” also known as “the arms of the State.”
Bland v. Roberts, 730 F.3d 368, 389-90 (4th Cir. 2013)(internal citation omitted). As the
Magistrate Judge noted, “Kershaw Correctional Institution is operated by the South Carolina
Department of Corrections, a state agency and the [D]efendants’ employer. As state employees,
the [D]efendants are entitled to sovereign immunity from suits for damages against them in their
official capacities.” ECF No. 68 at 5 (citing Pennhurst State Sch., 465 U.S. 89, 101-02 (1984)).
As a result, this court finds that Plaintiff’s § 1983 claim against Defendants in their official
capacities must be dismissed.
B. Motion for Summary Judgment
In their motion for summary judgment, Defendants assert that Plaintiff’s complaint fails as
a matter of law because (1) “All claims other than the June 19, 2016 incident are not ripe for
consideration as Plaintiff is still in the process of exhausting his administrative remedies; (2)
Plaintiff has failed to meet his burden of demonstrating a prima face case of a violation under the
RLUIPA; and (3) there are no facts to support a claim against the Defendants.” ECF No. 61 at 45.
Plaintiff responds to Defendants’ arguments in his opposition to Defendants’ motion for
summary judgment again asserting that “What went on was religious discrimination by not
allowing me to attend Ramadan the right way and bringing me cold food and not allowing me to
heat it up in the microwave on at least 6-16-2016 pm and 6-19-2016 pm and 6-20-2016 am.” ECF
No. 65 at 1. Furthermore, Plaintiff claims that he believes such rights would not have been violated
if he were Christian. Id. Plaintiff provides no additional evidence to support his claims.
In the Report, the Magistrate Judge agrees with Defendants’ position, finding that Plaintiff
was unable to demonstrate or provide prima facie evidence to support his claim that there was a
“substantial burden  placed on the exercise of his religion by the [D]efendants.” ECF No. 68 at
5. Specifically, the Magistrate Judge posits:
Plaintiff, with no supporting testimony, alleges that on one occasion he had to eat
a cold meal later than he normally would have after the sun went down during
Ramadan, and the next day, he was served a meal after sunrise. However, Plaintiff
fails to provide any evidence that he was served a meal after sunrise. Further
Plaintiff fails to provide any evidence that this isolated incident was a substantial
burden to his religion.
Id. at 6-7.
Pursuant to the RLUPIA:
No government shall impose a substantial burden on the religious exercise of a
person residing in or confided to an institution . . . even if the burden results from
a rule of general applicability, 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 governmental interest.
42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-1.
Plaintiff has the burden of producing prima facie evidence to show “he holds a sincere
religious belief that is substantially burdened by the challenged governmental 2 practice.” ECF
No. 68 at 6 (citing Holt v. Hobbs, 135 S. Ct. 853, 862 (2015). Once this initial showing is made,
the burden shifts to Defendants to show that the action was in furtherance of a compelling
governmental interest and was the least restrictive means of furthering the compelling
governmental interest. See Id. A substantial burden is one that “puts substantial pressure on an
adherent to modify his behavior and to violate his beliefs.” Lovelace v. Lee, 472 F.3d 174, 187
(4th Cir. 2006)(citing Thomas v. Review Bd. of Id. Employment Sec. Div., 450 U.S. 707, 718
Plaintiff’s underlying claims can be distinguished from those raised in Lovelace. In
Lovelace, the court found that the defendant prison officials had substantially burdened the
plaintiff’s exercise of religion when they removed him from a list of approved inmates who
could participate in Ramadan. Lovelace, 472 F.3d at 187. The plaintiff was a member of the
Nation of Islam (“NOI”). Id. After participating in the first few days of the religious observance,
plaintiff was removed from the “pass list”, meaning he was no longer approved to participate in
meals provided before sunrise and after sunset. Id. The removal from the list also meant that
plaintiff would be unable to participate in post meal prayers with fellow members of his faith. Id.
This was especially important because all other prayer services for the NOI were canceled during
Ramadan. Id. The Fourth Circuit ultimately found that the plaintiff’s removal from the Ramadan
observance list qualified as a substantial burden under RLUIPA as the Plaintiff was denied his
ability to observe Ramadan for twenty-four of its thirty days. Id. at 188.
“‘Government’ includes any official of a ‘State, county, municipality, or other governmental
entity created under the authority of a State’ and any other person ‘acting under color of State
law.’” Lovelace v. Lee, 472 F.3d 174, 185 (4th Cir. 2006).
As the Magistrate Judge concluded in the underlying action, “Plaintiff has failed to meet
his burden of providing prima facie evidence to support his claim that the [D]efendants
substantially burdened his religious exercise.” ECF No. 68 at. 6. Plaintiff acknowledges that the
late receipt of meals was a result of a dorm wide lock down. ECF No. 61-1 at 14-15. Thus, the
prison’s actions were not a substantial burden on Plaintiffs’ religious exercise and instead were
minor inconveniences that occurred over a twelve hour period due to prion security concerns.
Therefore, Plaintiff’s claims under the RLUPIA also fail and Defendants are entitled to summary
judgment as a matter of law.
For the foregoing reasons, the court adopts the Magistrate Judge’s Report and
Recommendation. Defendants’ motion to dismiss, ECF No. 22, and motion for summary
judgment, ECF No. 61, are GRANTED. Plaintiff’s complaint, ECF No. 1, is DISMISSED
IT IS SO ORDERED.
/s/ Margaret B. Seymour
Margaret B. Seymour
Senior United States District Judge
Columbia, South Carolina
August 18, 2017
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