United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin
OPINION & ORDER
D. PETERSON DISTRICT JUDGE
plaintiff Fradario Brim is a Muslim prisoner incarcerated at
the Green Bay Correctional Institution (GBCI). In the spring
of 2015, defendant Correctional Officer Chad Frappier, the
GBCI chapel officer, wrote several reports concerning
Brim's activities during Talim, a Muslim religious
service held at the GBCI chapel. Defendant Chaplain Michael
Donovan reviewed these reports and had a discussion with
non-party GBCI Security Director John Kind, which resulted in
Kind directing Donovan to bar Brim from attending any
congregate religious services for 90 days. Around the same
time, Donovan compiled a list of inmates who wished to fast
during Ramadan that year-Brim's name wasn't on that
list, even though he had participated in Ramadan for many
years and wanted to participate that year. As a result, Brim
did not receive specially timed Ramadan meals from the GBCI
cafeteria and was forced to choose among buying food, not
eating, or violating the strictures of his religion by eating
meals in the cafeteria.
has sued defendants Frappier, Donovan, and GCBI Warden Scott
Eckstein over their actions in 2015, claiming that they
violated his free exercise and free speech rights under the
First Amendment and his religious rights under the Religious
Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) by
barring him from attending congregate religious services and
properly participating in Ramadan because of his religious
speech. Defendants contend that they needed to bar Brim from
attending congregate religious services because of his
disruptive behavior and suspected drug smuggling and that
Brim didn't get Ramadan meals because he didn't sign
up for them on time. They have moved for summary judgment on
all of Brim's claims. Dkt. 19. Brim has abandoned several
of his claims, and his sole remaining RLUIPA claim is moot.
But disputes of fact preclude summary judgment on the
remaining free exercise and retaliation claims: Brim's
version of the facts shows that he wasn't disruptive and
wasn't smuggling drugs, calling into question
defendants' justification for their actions. Those claims
remain for trial.
following facts are undisputed, except where noted.
an inmate in the custody of the Wisconsin Department of
Corrections (DOC). He has been incarcerated at GBCI since
2012. Michael Donovan is the GBCI chaplain. He plans,
administers, and supervises GBCI's religious programming
for the DOC's recognized Umbrella Religion Groups (URG),
including Islam. The religious programming for the Islamic
URG includes an Islamic Talim study group and Salat
al-Jum'ah, or Friday prayers, both of which are held in
the GBCI chapel. An outside volunteer often leads Salat
al-Jum'ah; but Talim is organized by the inmates, who sit
in one or more circles and discuss the Qur'an, the
Prophet Muhammad's teachings, and other Islamic topics.
Brim, a practicing Muslim, has been part of the Islamic URG
since 1995. He regularly attends Talim and Jum'ah,
maintains a Halal diet, and fasts during Ramadan. He used to
work in the chapel library, checking out religious books to
early 2014, Donovan observed Brim's Talim discussions
increase in intensity “to the point where he was
telling other inmates they had to believe exactly as he
believed and practice exactly the way he practiced.”
Dkt. 22, ¶ 11. He was concerned that the “tension
within the Talim group . . . could result in a physical
altercation.” Id. So he and the chapel officer
at the time, Correctional Officer Stone, met with Brim.
According to defendants, Donovan and Stone told Brim
“that he could not dictate to other inmates what they
had to believe and practice.” Id. Brim does
not dispute Donovan's observations about his behavior or
the fact that a meeting took place, but he says that he has
“never been admonished by Donovan or Officer Stone for
extremist, disruptive, threatening, or domineering
attitudes.” Dkt. 30, ¶ 42. Donovan admits that he
has never witnessed Brim espouse “extremist
views” or “threaten or verbally abuse” GBCI
staff or inmates and has never written an incident report or
conduct report concerning Brim's disruptive behavior.
Dkt. 41-1, at 1, 2, 7.
2014, Chad Frappier became the GBCI chapel officer at GBCI.
(He'd been working as a correctional officer at GBCI
since 1991.) When he began working in the chapel, he was told
that “there was an issue concerning Brim and how he was
trying to lead the Muslim services” and that Donovan
and Stone had already spoken to Brim about “how that
was not allowed in the institution.” Dkt. 24, ¶ 6.
A Division of Adult Institutions (DIA) policy provides,
“Under no circumstances will an inmate be authorized to
lead or conduct a religious service or study group.”
Dkt. 22-1, at 3. Brim disputes whether leading a Talim group
is prohibited at GBCI in practice. See Dkt. 49,
¶ 33 and Dkt. 30, ¶ 38.
January 13 Talim
January 13, 2015, Frappier issued Brim a conduct report
concerning Brim's involvement in a heated discussion
during Talim. Frappier said that Brim and another inmate,
Darin Cobb, were debating “something in the
Quran” with “slightly elevated” voices and
that Brim appeared to be “challenging Cobb in a verbal
way that often leads to an argument.” Dkt. 24-2, at 1.
Frappier described Brim as “incessant[ly]
ranting” and explained that “[w]hat transpired at
this study group, which should be a group discussion, turned
into an intense heated argument that is not allowed at any
religious group or study at GBCI.” Id. at 2,
4. According to Frappier, he asked Donovan to end Talim early
and then followed the inmates back to their cell hall while
Cobb continued to argue with another inmate, Andre Simpson;
Brim hugged Simpson until Frappier told him to “break
it up[, ] and he did.” Id. at 4.
incident report written on the same day, Frappier gave his
“opinion of the situation”: “Brim wants to
be a leader and won't let anyone take away from him being
the center of attention . . . he commands some kind of
respect from the others . . . I believe he was setting up
Cobb for a fight.” Dkt. 24-1, at 2, 3. He also
mentioned that “[a]bout a month ago an issue being
talked about in the Talim circle was something called zakat,
” which he thought meant “poor box or store for
the muslim group.” Id. at 3. A supervisor
commented on this, stating that according to Donovan,
“there is no evidence that the inmates are paying Zakat
either by money or in canteen goods.” Id. But
because of Frappier's hunch, the supervisor encouraged
“increased rounds in the chapel during the periods when
this group meets.” Id.
had a hearing on Frappier's conduct report. He was found
not guilty of disobeying orders and inciting a disturbance,
but he was found guilty of disruptive conduct and lost 30
days of recreation as a penalty. Dkt. 24-2, at 8. Brim
appealed this finding; it was affirmed.
to Brim, Frappier issued the January 13 conduct report
because he was upset about a different conversation Brim held
with another inmate, Allen Davis, shortly before Talim began
the week prior. Brim was advising Davis on how to explain to
his friends and family that Islam is the one true religion
and telling Davis that a female officer soliciting a sexual
relationship with Davis would be inappropriate under both DOC
regulations and Islamic law. When Frappier heard Brim and
Davis's conversation, he said, “If you come over
here to run your mouth, you know, you all can leave right
now. You can leave right now.” Dkt. 18 (Brim dep.
41:2-4). Brim believes Frappier was upset about the topic of
solicitation because Frappier's ex-wife had been fired
recently for soliciting an inmate. Frappier may have been
upset about the religious topic as well, because Davis says
that Frappier later told him, “You shouldn't let
Brim tell you your family isn't going to Heaven.”
Dkt. 31, ¶ 4. Another Talim participant heard Frappier
tell Donovan “that he didn't have a problem with
Brim until he talked about staff being disciplined for staff
misconduct and said all non-Muslims would go to Hell.”
Dkt. 36, ¶ 10.
says that his conversation with Davis led Frappier to issue
the January 13 incident report, which “extremely
exaggerated” the events of that day's Talim. Dkt.
18 at 45:3. Just before Talim began, Brim says, he and Cobb
had a “normal” debate about whether one of
Brim's books exhibited shirk (the sin of polytheism).
Id. at 50:1. During Talim, Cobb sat outside of the
circle, interrupting Brim and the other inmates and
“yelling his argument to the circle.”
Id. at 54:7. Members of the Talim circle would
occasionally respond to Cobb. Frappier observed this but
never told the inmates to stop arguing. Eventually, he went
into Donovan's office, and Donovan came out to tell the
group that Talim would be ending early that day. All of the
inmates, including Brim, left the chapel. Brim hugged Cobb
and Simpson before going to his cell because “Muslims
do that” when they say goodbye. Id. at 67:24.
April 10 Talim
April 10, 2015, Frappier wrote another incident report
concerning Brim's actions during Talim. He explained that
Talim “is always headed by” Brim and that at this
particular Talim, Brim told another inmate, Jaison Coleman,
that “Islam is the only religion, all other religions
fall to Islam . . . that is what Mohammed said . . . Islam
will wipe all other religions from the earth.” Dkt.
24-3, at 2. Frappier continued his description:
Coleman again stepped in and said something to Brim and the
group . . . . Brim stopped and started in on Coleman saying
that this was his Halaqah, meaning circle, and that it was
his discussion. Coleman said something again and Brim turned
around and walked 3 steps toward Coleman and took off his
jacket. Inmate Williams . . . stood up and said that's
enough slow down, talking to Brim. . . . I told Brim to back
off, Brim knelt down to one knee very close to Coleman and
whispered something to Coleman . . . I told Brim to move away
from Coleman and he did ..... I told Brim to get his pass and
that his Talim was done for the day and he took his pass and
started walking out of the chapel. . . . I . . . told Coleman
that he too was to leave the chapel. Coleman . . . took his
Quran and read a passage from it and told the group that this
was what the Quran says not what they just had been told.
Coleman denied all the “Islam is the only
religion” talk that Brim was saying then left the
chapel . . . .
Id. Frappier then offered his general opinion on
Brim is no slouch, he does know his Quran and he does put off
the vibe that he knows all and says all, and you better not
doubt him. [Brim] push[es] his belief system on everyone
else. I call it the “Brim” [Talim] group because
Brim is the only one talking in the group and no one else
ever says anything unless asked. That is not what a Talim is.
Brim has never went on a tirade like the one he did on the
10th. I can't say he never spoke of wiping out all other
religions before, this is just the first time I heard him
blatantly say it. . . .
The other group is the group that I refer to as the
“real” muslims. They are the one that actually
seem to follow the peaceful teachings of Mazin, the
[volunteer] religious leader, and the Quran. This group
doesn't really have a leader but the closest thing to it
would be Harley . . . . Harley told me that . . . Brim was
starting a problem for the rest of the Muslims in the group.
He said that that was not true Islam it was HISLAM. . . .
I don't claim to be a knowledgeable expert on Islam but
from what I have heard and read about radical Islamist trying
to recruit in American prisons, this stuff computes. It
isn't just this one time when I heard Brim talking about
wiping out all other religions for Mohammed, it's the
whole Brim consortium of holding basically his private,
members only Talim. . . . Brim [is] acting as though he was
the only person gifted enough to preach his version of Islam
or Hislam. . . . [O]ther inmates approached me and said what
Brim is doing is giving them a harder time in the eyes of
those who are not Islam in the prison setting.
Dkt. 24-3, at 2-3.
disputes Frappier's description of the incident. He says
that Coleman was the disruptive one and that Frappier refused
to intervene until Brim “asked Coleman if he wanted to
join the group to give his opinion instead of yelling
at” them, at which point Frappier immediately told
Coleman and Brim to leave the chapel. Dkt. 30, ¶¶
14, 15. Brim claims that he never said that “Islam will
wipe out all other religions.” Id. ¶ 17.
did not issue a conduct report or recommend that any specific
action be taken regarding Brim; he only wrote the incident
report. But Donovan emailed two other GBCI officials about
the incident report, explaining that he was “unaware of
the entire situation [but w]hen Frap[pier] told [him] what he
heard Brim say, it sounded quite extreme for Islam.”
Dkt. 41-4, at 4. Donovan went on, “I'm concerned if
[Brim] is starting to proclaim an extremist form of Islam. .
. . Brim's aggressive behavior seemed no different than
what we have addressed with him in the past.”
Id. A supervisor, Captain VandeWalle, reviewed the
incident report and suggested that “Brim should
possibly be removed from Muslim study groups entirely.”
Id. at 3. Security Director Kind reviewed the
incident report and spoke to Donovan. He followed up with an
email to Donovan stating, “[W]hat have we done with
inmate Brim and him causing problems in the group? I believe
we talked and you were going to remove him.”
Id. at 7. On April 24, Donovan suspended Brim's
congregate services ...