United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin
CHARLES B. GILL, SR., Plaintiff,
HEIDI MICHEL, J. MEKASH, BRENT MEYER, and IAN HIGGINS, Defendants.
ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY
JUDGMENT (DKT. NO. 58), GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR
SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DKT. NO. 62), DENYING PLAINTIFF'S
MOTION TO STRIKE FILINGS AND/OR MOTIONS (DKT. NO. 84) AND
PAMELA PEPPER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Charles B. Gill, Sr., is a Wisconsin state prisoner
representing himself. The court screened his complaint and
permitted him to proceed on a claim that the defendants
violated his First Amendment right to freely exercise his
religion based on allegations that they prevented him from
praying correctly for ten days while he was confined at the
Brown County Jail. Dkt. No. 14 at 7. The court also allowed
the plaintiff to proceed on a Fourteenth Amendment equal
protection claim based on allegations that the defendants
discriminated against him because of his faith. Id.
at 7-8. The plaintiff has filed a motion for summary
judgment, dkt. no. 58, and the defendants have filed a joint
motion for summary judgment, dkt. no. 62. The court addresses
these motions below.
1994, the plaintiff has been an American Sunni Muslim who
adheres to the tenets of Islamic Faith. Dkt. No. 70 at
¶3. The plaintiff was confined at the Brown County Jail
(“BCJ”) from August 19, 2016 to June 9, 2017,
when he was transferred temporarily to the Outagamie County
Jail due to overcrowding. Id. at ¶¶7-8.
Defendant Heidi Michel is a captain with the Brown County
Sheriff's Office and works at the BCJ. Dkt. No. 72 at
¶12. During the plaintiff's confinement there,
Michel was a lieutenant. Id. at ¶13. Defendants
Correctional Officers J. Mekash, Brent Meyer and Ian Higgins
work at the BCJ. Id. at ¶¶16-18. Chaplain
Karen Konrad, who is not a defendant, consults as the
BCJ's chaplain. Id. at ¶19.
plaintiff received a copy of the inmate handbook and jail
rules when he entered the BCJ. Dkt. No. 72 at ¶2. One of
the “Recreation area (gym)” rules states:
“Private inmate use of the gym is not allowed. All
meetings/sessions must be approved by Jail
Administration.” Id. at ¶3. One of the
“Dayroom” rules states, “You are not
allowed to loiter around the phone, sink, water fountain, or
gym entrance area. Standing in the dayroom for an
unreasonable amount of time can be considered
loitering.” Id. The defendants construe these
rules to prohibit inmate-led worship in the gym and dayroom.
Dkt. No. 72 at ¶4. According to the defendants, the
policies and rules against inmate-led worship in the inmate
handbook and jail rules serve legitimate penological
interests and are in place to prevent inmates from plotting
staff assaults, escapes, or violations of prison rules. Dkt.
No. 72 at ¶¶4, 5. The defendants state that these
rules are in place primarily for security reasons, such as
maintaining social order, and preventing organized crime and
gang activity within the jail. Id. at ¶5.
2017, Ramadan took place from May 26, 2017 to June 24,
2017. Dkt. No. 72 at ¶9. In her
declaration, defendant Michel states that BCJ staff received
the plaintiff's “first” religious request on
May 21, 2017, when he asked for a prayer blanket for Ramadan.
Dkt. No. 64 at ¶10. She stated that the next day, May
22, the plaintiff made a request for a Halal diet.
Id. at ¶22. Michel averred that these requests
were denied “due to no mention of [the plaintiff's]
Islamic faith at the time of booking.” Id.
Despite that fact, Michel says that she “reached
out” to Chaplain Karen Konrad, who met with the
plaintiff and approved his dietary request. Id. at
¶13. Konrad confirmed in her declaration that she
received the requests for the prayer towel and the Halal diet
on May 22, 2017. Dkt. No. 66 at ¶10. Konrad stated that
she interviewed the plaintiff the same day, concluded that he
had a basic understanding of some of the core beliefs of the
Islamic faith, granted his request for a Halal diet and
provided him with a prayer towel. Id. at
plaintiff states that from May 26, 2017 (the first day of
Ramadan) to the afternoon of May 31, 2017, defendant Officer
Higgins allowed him to pray in the gym. Dkt. No. 70 at
¶4. On May 31, 2017, defendant Officer Meyer told the
plaintiff to pray in his cell and did not let the plaintiff
pray the last three prayers of that day in the gym.
Id. at ¶5. On June 4, 2017, Higgins told the
plaintiff to pray in his cell. Id. at ¶7.
day-June 4, 2017-the plaintiff filed grievance #2017-001125.
Dkt. No. 70 at ¶6. In the grievance, the plaintiff
alleged that the BCJ offered services to Christians, who
could pray in the gym, but not to Muslims. Dkt. No. 72 at
¶27. He also alleged that, as a Muslim, he could not
pray in his cell because he would have to pray next to a
declaration, Konrad stated, “Over the years, I
contacted Imams- religious leaders in the Muslim community-at
mosques in Green Bay, Appleton, and Milwaukee to enquire if
they would come to the BCJ to lead prayer services. Each Imam
declined.” Dkt. No. 66 at ¶14. Konrad attested
that she'd also asked the Imams about whether Islamic
prayer rules “prohibited an inmate from praying on
their own, in their cell, due to the presence of a
toilet.” Id. at ¶15. She stated,
16. Based on my conversations with the Green Bay Mosque Imam,
Appleton Mosque Imam, and the Milwaukee Mosque Imam; my
understanding was that Islamic rules did not prohibit [the
plaintiff] from praying in his cell because the Islamic god,
Allah, would be understanding about [the defendant's]
circumstances while praying.
17. The Imams stated that he could pray in his cell if he
kept it clean and prayed as far away from the toilet as
possible, and they also said that laying something over the
top was an option as well.
Id. at ¶¶16-17.
declaration, Michel stated, “On June 4, 2017, [the
plaintiff] filed a grievance against BCJ for not offering
Islamic prayer services, and Correctional Officer Mekash met
with [the plaintiff] after I spoke to the Chaplain.”
Dkt. No. 64 at ¶14. This statement doesn't provide a
clear chronology, but it appears that after Michel saw the
plaintiff's complaint, she contacted Konrad. Michael
indicates that Konrad told her about reaching out to Imams in
Green Bay and Milwaukee, and about the information the
chaplain had learned from them. Id. at
¶¶15-16. The chaplain also told Michel that
she'd tried to get Islamic leaders to come lead services
at BCJ but had been unsuccessful. Id. at ¶16.
Michel attested that she'd “reported back to
correctional officer (“CO”) Mekash before his
meeting with [the plaintiff].” Id. at
¶17. Konrad confirmed in her declaration that she'd
“discussed the June 4, 2017, grievance and what [she]
learned from the Imams with then-Lieutenant Michel.”
Dkt. No. 66 at ¶18.
Officer Mekash attested that he reviewed the plaintiff's
grievance. Dkt. No. 65 at ¶6. Mekash averred that he
explained to the plaintiff that the BCJ didn't have a
volunteer to lead Islamic services in the gym or dayroom, but
asked the plaintiff to let the chaplain know if the plaintiff
knew of anyone who qualified. Id. at
¶¶7-8. He also explained to the plaintiff the
policy that prohibited inmates from using the gym or the
dayroom for individually-led services. Id. at
¶9. Finally, he stated that he relayed to the plaintiff
the chaplain's information about the Imams' views of
performing prayers ina call with a toilet. Id. at
¶10. He suggested that the plaintiff put something in
front of the toilet to block it, and concluded that the
plaintiff's grievance was unfounded. Id. at
¶¶11-12. The plaintiff's proposed findings of
fact indicate that during this meeting with Mekash, the
plaintiff “explained to Mekash about Catholics praying
and taking communion in the gym.” Dkt. No. 60 at
5, 2017, the plaintiff appealed the ruling. Id. at
¶11. Michel says that she reviewed the appeal and
concluded that it was unfounded. Dkt. No. 64 at ¶20.
Michel attached the grievance and the summary showing her
response to her declaration. Dkt. No. 64-2. The summary shows
that Michel responded to the appeal as follows:
Mr. Gill, I am in receipt of your appealed grievance. I
understand your frustration however we are not denying your
right to practice your religion. We do not allow inmate led
religion practices that is why you cannot utilize the gym for
praying. The other religions you reference are actually ran
by the jail ministry. We have attempted many times to obtain
someone from the Muslim faith to volunteer in our facility
but we have not had any success. As far as your concern with
praying by the toilet, we have investigated this matter and
many of the leaders in the Muslim religion have indicated
that is preferred not to pray by a toilet but exceptions can
be made-the important thing is to pray no matter where you
are. Grievance is closed and unfounded.
Id. at 3.
plaintiff states in his proposed findings of fact that he
told both Michel and Mekash that it was forbidden for him to
pray next to a toilet. Dkt. No. 60 at ¶17. Catholics
could pray and take communion in the gym because they were
led by an outside religious leader. Id. at ¶18.
The plaintiff states that he felt “emotional as well as
felt some type of prejudice” because of his religion,
because the Catholics could pray in the gym and he could not.
Id. at ¶20.
plaintiff states in his declaration that from May 31, 2017
until his June 9, 2017 transfer to the Outagamie County Jail,
he was not allowed to pray correctly at the BCJ, and that he
was forced to miss forty-eight prayers during the month of
Ramadan. Dkt. No. 61 at ¶19. He says that while at the
Outagamie County Jail, he prayed in the dayroom without a
problem. Id. ¶20.
Summary Judgment Standard
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.” See 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
asserting that a fact cannot be 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),
admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials; or
(B) showing that the materials cited do not establish the
absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse
party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1). “An affidavit or declaration
used to support or oppose a motion must be made on personal
knowledge, set out facts that would be admissible in
evidence, and show that the affiant or declarant is competent