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Larry v. Goldsmith

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

March 11, 2019




         The plaintiff, who is representing himself, filed this lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. §1983, alleging that the defendants violated his constitutional rights. Dkt. No. 1. On November 23, 2016, the court allowed the plaintiff to proceed on three claims: that defendant Donald Morgan violated his Fourteenth Amendment due process rights; that Matthew Friend and Russell Goldsmith[1]violated his First Amendment right to exercise his religion; and that a John Doe defendant violated his Eighth Amendment rights. Dkt. No. 12.

         On June 26, 2017, the court dismissed the remaining John Doe defendant because the plaintiff had not identified him by the deadline the court had set. Dkt. No. 42 at 3. On March 30, 2018, the court dismissed Morgan because the plaintiff had failed to exhaust the available administrative remedies before suing him. Dkt. No. 57 at 13-14. The court also dismissed one component of the plaintiff's First Amendment claim against Friend on the same basis. Id. at 15. The only remaining claim is that Friend and Goldsmith violated the plaintiff's First Amendment right to exercise his religion when they prohibited him from praying on August 2, 2011. Id. at 19.

         On August 17, 2018, Friend and Goldsmith filed a motion for summary judgment on that remaining claim. Dkt. No. 70. The parties have briefed the motion. Dkt. Nos. 71, 77, 83. The court will grant the defendants' motion and dismiss the case.

         I. FACTS[2]

         The plaintiff was incarcerated at Columbia Correctional Institution from July 28, 2011 until January 3, 2012. Dkt. No. 84 at ¶1. Goldsmith and Friend both worked at Columbia during that time, Goldsmith as a correctional officer and Friend as a correctional sergeant. Id. at ¶¶4-5.

         When the plaintiff arrived at Columbia, he was housed in Housing Unit 10, which is also known as the Barracks. Id. at ¶6. According to the defendants, the Barracks is a temporary housing unit for general population inmates who are awaiting transfer to a medium- or minimum-security facility or who are waiting to be placed in a program at a Division of Community Corrections facility. Id. at ¶7. The plaintiff argues that Columbia is a maximum security facility, and that the inmates housed in the Barracks were coming from lower-security facilities and were on their way to other lower-security facilities. Id. He disputes that the inmates in the Barracks were “part of the [Columbia] general population.” Id. at ¶8.

         The Barracks is separated into two sides, A and B, and each side is separated into four quads. Id. at ¶8. The quads have barracks-style double bunks, separated by three-by-eight-foot rows. Id. An officer control station is located at the front of the Barracks that overlooks both sides of the unit; there is an officer's desk on each side of the unit between the front and back quads. Id. at ¶9. The defendants explain that there is a dayroom and dining area in the center of the Barracks; the plaintiff clarifies that each quad has its own dayroom and dining area. Id. at ¶10.

         The Barracks dayroom was generally open from 7:30 a.m.-11:00 a.m., 12:30 p.m.-4:00 p.m., and 5:30 p.m.-9:00 p.m. Id. at ¶11; Dkt. No. 75-1 at 18. When the dayroom is open, inmates may freely move around the Barracks to do things like playing games, watching television, making phone calls, exercising, showering or praying. Id. at ¶12. When the dayroom is closed, inmates must be at their bunks. Id. at ¶13. (The plaintiff asserts that there is “no rule in the Red Book requiring inmates to be in their bunks after the 9:10 p.m. count.” Id.)

         According to the defendants, rules for the Barracks were listed in the Red Book, which was located on the unit and available for review upon request. Id. at ¶14. The plaintiff says that when an inmate went through orientation at the Barracks, correctional staff was supposed to provide him with a copy of the Red Book; he says that instead of doing that, Columbia staff posted certain pages of the Red Book in the common areas. Id.

         The Red Book says that inmates cannot exercise or pray on the floor by their bunks when the dayroom is closed. Id. at ¶15. It states, “Inmates may perform floor exercises and prayers in the area on the side of their bunks, one at a time, in agreement with their bunkmate, during dayroom hours only.” Id.; Dkt. No. 75 at 20. The defendants indicate that this rule allowed inmates to pray on the floor by their bunks when the dayroom was open, and that it did not prohibit them from praying silently in their bunks when the dayroom was closed. Dkt. No. 84 at ¶16. Night-time quiet hours started after the 9:10 p.m. count. Id. at ¶18. The defendants indicate that during this time, inmates' movement is limited to using the restrooms (up to three inmates at a time); the plaintiff says inmates also were allowed to access their lockers. All other movement is restricted. Id. at ¶18.

         The defendants say that inmates must remain in their bunks during quiet time because it is more efficient for security staff. Id. at ¶19. Officers can observe the inmates in their bunks from the officer's desk or the control center; if the inmates are moving around, officers are required to walk around the unit to monitor the inmates. Id. The plaintiff argues that because of the location of the control room, there are blind spots that prevent officers from seeing inmates; he says the officers still would have to talk around on a regular basis to account for all the inmates. Id.

         The plaintiff is Muslim, and, as part of his religion, he performs prayers at least five times each day. Id. at ¶2. The parties agree that one round, or “Rak'ha, ” of prayer requires the plaintiff to stand, then to prostrate himself, then to stay in a seated position for a short while, then return to a standing position. Id. The plaintiff indicates that it usually takes about five minutes to complete four Rak'has (and a worshipper performs two to four Rak'has, depending on which time of day he is praying). Id. at ¶3. Worshippers must perform the prayers at specific times. Id. at ¶24; Dkt. No. 69 at 12, Tr. pp. 43-44.

         According to the plaintiff, officers did not begin to enforce the Red Book rule prohibiting inmates from praying when the dayroom was closed until the beginning of the month of Ramadan. Dkt. No. 84 at ¶16. Specifically, on August 2, 2011, just after 10:00 p.m., Goldsmith observed inmate Denyal Kahali praying in his bunk row. Id. at ¶21. Goldsmith approached Kahali and told him that he could not pray. Id. The plaintiff, who says he hadn't yet begun to pray, approached Goldsmith and informed him that he and Kahali had to pray at that time. Id. at ¶¶ 21, 23. Chaplain Teslik had given the plaintiff a timetable, which specified that the final prayer that day must occur between 9:55 p.m. and 4:16 a.m. Id. at ¶35; Dkt No. 74-1 at 3, 13. According to the plaintiff, Goldsmith told him that they could not pray when the dayroom was closed and that he would be giving the plaintiff and inmate Theodore Deibert conduct reports. Id. at ¶22.

         The plaintiff returned to his bunk row and started his prayer. Id. at ¶23. After finishing, he saw Kahali and inmate Anthony Garcia talking to Goldsmith. Id. at ¶24. The plaintiff joined them, and the three inmates tried to explain to Goldsmith that their religion required that they pray at certain times. Id.; Dkt. No. 69 at 43:20 - 44:14.

         After this interaction, Goldsmith issued the plaintiff a conduct report for disobeying orders, group resistance and petitions, disruptive conduct and violation of institutional policies and procedures. Dkt. No. 84 at ¶25. (The plaintiff says that even before Goldsmith issued the conduct report, he had the plaintiff placed in the temporary lockup unit, and he disagrees with the conduct report's version of what happened. Id.) The adjustment committee found the plaintiff guilty of disobeying orders, disruptive conduct and violation of institutional policies and procedures, and gave him sixty days of disciplinary separation. Id. at ¶30. The defendants say that the plaintiff was able to perform his prayers that evening, and that no other officer ever again told the plaintiff that he could not pray at a certain time. Id. at ¶32.


         A. Summary Judgment Standard

         “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 also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986); Ames v. Home Depot U.S.A., Inc., 629 F.3d 665, 668 (7th Cir. 2011). “Material facts” are those under the applicable substantive law that “might affect the outcome of the suit.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. A dispute over “material fact” is “genuine” if “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id.

         A party asserting that a fact cannot be disputed or is genuinely disputed must support the assertion by:

(A) citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion only), ...

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