United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin
OUATI K. ALI, Plaintiff,
SCOTT ECKSTEIN, MICHELLE HAESE, and MICHAEL DONOVAN, Defendants.
Stadtmueller U.S. District Judge
Ouati Ali (“Ali”), a prisoner at Green Bay
Correctional Institution (“GBCI”), brought this
action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against defendants
Scott Eckstein (“Eckstein”), Michelle Haese
(“Haese”), and Michael Donovan
(“Donovan”), employees of GBCI, for a violation
of his First Amendment rights. Specifically, Ali alleges that
the defendants prevented him from fasting properly during
Ramadan in 2016.
defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, and the
motion has been fully briefed. (Docket #24-32, #35-48). For
the reasons stated below, the Court will grant summary
judgment in favor of the defendants as to Ali's claims
against Donovan and Eckstein but will deny their motion as to
Ali's claim against Haese.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Rule of Civil Procedure 56 provides that the court
“shall grant summary judgment 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); see Boss v. Castro, 816 F.3d
910, 916 (7th Cir. 2016). A fact is “material” if
it “might affect the outcome of the suit” under
the applicable substantive law. Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute of fact
is “genuine” if “the evidence is such that
a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving
party.” Id. The court construes all facts and
reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the
non-movant. Bridge v. New Holland Logansport, Inc.,
815 F.3d 356, 360 (7th Cir. 2016). The court must not weigh
the evidence presented or determine credibility of witnesses;
the Seventh Circuit instructs that “we leave those
tasks to factfinders.” Berry v. Chicago Transit
Auth., 618 F.3d 688, 691 (7th Cir. 2010). The party
opposing summary judgment “need not match the movant
witness for witness, nor persuade the court that [his] case
is convincing, [he] need only come forward with appropriate
evidence demonstrating that there is a pending dispute of
material fact.” Waldridge v. Am. Hoechst
Corp., 24 F.3d 918, 921 (7th Cir. 1994).
an inmate in the custody of the Wisconsin Department of
Corrections (“DOC”). He is an adherent of Islam.
At all times relevant to this lawsuit, Ali was incarcerated
at GBCI. Donovan was the chaplain at GBCI, Haese was the
social services director, and Eckstein was the warden.
GBCI Policy Regarding Religious Dietary Observances
institutions, including GBCI, religious diets are available
to inmates whose religious beliefs require them to adhere to
religious dietary laws. (Docket #37 at 2). For example,
inmates who observe Ramadan, a Muslim holy month that
includes daytime fasting, can sign up to receive meal bags to
consume prior to dawn and after sunset. Id. at 2-4.
Inmates can also sign up to participate in the Eid ul-Fitr
meal, a feast celebrated at the end of Ramadan. Id.
year, the religious practices coordinator for DOC sends a
memo to the institutions with dates for annual religious
celebratory meals and multi-day religious observations.
Id. at 5. This includes dates for Ramadan, which
occurs during the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar.
Id. Institutions are required to post the
information from the memo in the chapel, and they may also
post it in other places, such as the restrictive housing
units or on facility televisions, at the discretion of the
warden. Id. GBCI posts the memo in the chapel,
library, and in the restrictive housing units. Prior to 2016,
GBCI broadcasted the information on institution televisions
as well, but it discontinued that practice before the events
of this case took place. Id. at 5-6. Inmates can
also request information about religious observance dates by
writing to the chaplain. Id. at 7.
to DOC policy, inmates must sign up to participate in Ramadan
at least sixty days in advance to receive the multi-day
religious meal accommodations. Id. at 4. Inmates at
GBCI sign up for Ramadan by submitting a written request to
Chaplain Donovan. Id. Donovan's practice is to
retain inmates' requests for participation in Ramadan in
order to double check the participant list prior to sending
it to the food service department. Id. at 9. In
2016, Ramadan began on June 6, meaning that inmates were
required to notify Donovan of their intent to participate by
April 7. Id. at 8.
Ali's Request to Participate in Ramadan
claims that he sent a request form to Donovan on April 1,
2016 asking that he be placed on the participation list for
the Ramadan fast and that he be sent the additional form
necessary to participate in the Eid ul-Fitr meal.
Id. at 8. According to Ali, Donovan returned
Ali's request form to him on April 4 along with the Eid
ul-Fitr sign-up form. Id. Donovan does not recall
ever receiving Ali's request or responding to it, but
says that if he did receive it, he must have mistakenly
overlooked the portion requesting to be placed on the Ramadan
list. Id. at 8-10. Ali produced a copy of the
alleged April 1 request form in opposition to summary
judgment; it includes handwriting in the section for an
official's response that reads “here is the
form.” (Docket #43 at 1-2). Donovan cannot confirm that
the handwriting is his because he has no recollection of
writing it. (Docket #28 at 5). The defendants concede that,
for the purposes of summary judgment, the Court must accept
Ali's assertion that he sent a timely sign-up request.
(Docket #44 at 2).
soon after (Ali says April 5), Ali sent a request to Donovan
asking why information about Ramadan had not been displayed
on the institution televisions that year. (Docket #47 at 4).
Then, sometime between April 10 and 13, after Ali learned
that other inmates had received confirmation of their
placement on the Ramadan participation list, Ali sent a
second request form (without mentioning the first) to Donovan
asking to be placed on the participation list. Id.
at 4-5. On April 13 or 14, Ali received responses from
Donovan to both of these inquiries stating that the April 7
deadline had passed and that “management” no
longer allowed the information about Ramadan deadlines to be
posted on the televisions. Id. at 5; see
also (Docket #37 at 13).
April 14, Ali encountered Donovan on his way to the dining
facility. (Docket #47 at 6). Ali says he asked Donovan if he
had been placed on the Ramadan participation list per his
April 1 request. Id. Donovan told Ali he did not
recall receiving the request and because Donovan had already
turned over the final list to the kitchen staff, Ali would
have to talk to Haese, Donovan's supervisor, to resolve
the issue. Id.
April 15, Ali wrote to Haese to inform her that many inmates
were not able to sign up for the fast because there had been
no television announcement about the deadline that year.
Id. at 6-7. He attached his second (untimely)
request to Donovan to be put on the list as well as his
correspondence with Donovan about the deadline not being
broadcasted on the institution televisions. Id.
According to Ali, he also informed Haese, in a separate
correspondence sent the same day, that he had timely
submitted a sign-up request to Donovan and included his
alleged April 1 request form. Id. On April 16, Ali
received a response from Haese in which she explained why
GBCI did not broadcast information about Ramadan on the
televisions that year. Id.
April 18, Ali wrote to Haese again, this time asking that the
document attached to his first correspondence to her be
returned to him. Id. at 9. Haese wrote back on April
23, stating “Yes-Also I am working on your