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Jefferson v. L.C. Ward

United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin

March 19, 2018

WILLIE JEFFERSON, Plaintiff,
v.
L.C. WARD, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          STEPHEN L. CROCKER MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Pro se plaintiff Willie Jefferson, an inmate at Oxford Federal Correctional Institution (“FCI-Oxford”), is proceeding in this lawsuit against multiple FCI-Oxford employees on a claim under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb-1 (“RFRA”) based on his alleged inability to pray in accordance with his Muslim faith. Before the court are plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction (dkt. #2), defendants' motion to dismiss (dkt. #30) and plaintiff's motion for leave to amend his complaint (dkt. #34). As explained below, plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction is moot because plaintiff no longer is in custody, the court will accept his motion to amend, and I am directing plaintiff to supplement his complaint to clarify whether he is seeking monetary damages from defendants and whether he wishes to continue to proceed as a class action. Once plaintiff responds, the court can set this matter for next steps.

         ALLEGATIONS OF FACT[1]

         During the relevant time period, plaintiff Willie Jefferson was confined at FCI-Oxford, but he was recently released from the Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”) custody. Defendants, all sued in their official capacities, are employees of FCI Oxford: L.C. Ward, the warden; David B. Christensen, the camp administrator and administrative remedy coordinator; E. Harris, the associate warden of programs; and Ryan Willis, the Supervisory Chaplain at FCI Oxford.

         Jefferson is a devout Muslim, and he prays five times a day at fixed times as mandated by his faith. FCI Oxford allegedly has an “informal, unwritten blanket ban” on prayer “other than the religious services area or living quarters, ” which excludes areas for work, education and recreation. Jefferson claims that these restrictions impede his ability to pray as necessary, either because the religious services area is often unavailable or his living quarters do not provide sufficient space for him to perform his prayers. Jefferson further claims that this policy imposes a substantial burden on his ability to practice his religion, and that other inmates suffer under the same burden.

         OPINION

         I. Motion for Preliminary Injunction

         Plaintiff seeks an order stopping enforcement of the policy banning prayer outside the religious services area or living quarters. To prevail on a motion for a preliminary injunction, a litigant must show: (1) a likelihood of success on the merits of his case; (2) a lack of an adequate remedy at law; and (3) an irreparable harm that will result if the injunction is not granted. Lambert v. Buss, 498 F.3d 446, 451 (7th Cir. 2007).

         However, plaintiff has been released from BOP custody and no longer subject to the harm that he wishes to enjoin. Accordingly, this motion is moot, so it requires no court action at this time. In the highly unlikely event that plaintiff is re-incarcerated at FCI-Oxford, he may renew his motion at that time.

         II. Motion to dismiss (dkt. #30) and for leave to amend (dkt. #34)

         Defendants seek dismissal of plaintiff's entire action pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), on the ground that because plaintiff's complaint seeks only declaratory and injunctive relief against defendants, his claims -- construed both as an individual claim and a class claim -- are moot. In considering Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, the court may consider additional evidence submitted by the parties. Apex Digital, Inc. v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 572 F.3d 440, 444 (7th Cir. 2009)(“[T]he district court's ability to consider evidence beyond the pleadings derives from the importance of limiting federal jursidction.”).

         A. Plaintiff's individual claims

         Defendants first point out that while the court's leave to proceed order recognized that plaintiff could pursue an individual capacity claim against defendants, plaintiff's complaint only requested injunctive and declaratory relief. Therefore, defendants argue that because plaintiff is no longer located at FCI-Oxford, his claim is moot and must be dismissed. Plaintiff responded by seeking leave to amend his complaint and opposing the motion to dismiss.

         As to the former request, plaintiff seeks to amend his complaint to proceed against the defendants in their official and individual capacities. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a) permits a party to amend pleadings as a matter of course within 21 days of service of a motion under Rule 12(b). Since plaintiff mailed his motion on November 18, 2017, less than 21 days after defendants served their motion to dismiss, plaintiff did not need to seek leave to amend. Therefore, the amendment to plaintiff's complaint is accepted. However, ...


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