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Sand v. Milwaukee County House of Correction

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

November 18, 2019

STEVEN SAND, Plaintiff,
v.
MILWAUKEE COUNTY HOUSE OF CORRECTION, MICHAEL HAEFMANN, ARAMARK AMERICAN FOOD SERVICES INC., a/k/a ARAMARK CORRECTIONAL SERVICES LLC, JOHN DOE, JANE DOE, BRAD MEYER, and MILWAUKEE COUNTY, Defendants.

          DECISION AND ORDER

          WILLIAM C. GRIESBACH, DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Steven Sand, a practicing Orthodox Jew, filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 asserting that the defendants violated his rights under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc, et seq., and the United States Constitution when they failed to offer him meals that satisfy the requirements of Jewish dietary law while he was confined in the Milwaukee County House of Corrections (HOC). Presently before the court is Defendants Michael Hafemann, Officials of the HOC, and the HOC's motion to dismiss certain claims against them pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the following reasons, the motion will be partially granted.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         A motion to dismiss tests the sufficiency of the complaint to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Gibson v. City of Chicago, 910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir. 1990); see Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). When reviewing a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court must accept all well-pleaded factual allegations as true and draw all inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Gutierrez v. Peters, 111 F.3d 1364, 1368-69 (7th Cir. 1997); Mosley v. Klincar, 947 F.2d 1338, 1339 (7th Cir. 1991). Rule 8 mandates that a complaint need only include “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). The plaintiff's short and plain statement must “give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). While a plaintiff is not required to plead detailed factual allegations, it must plead “more than labels and conclusions.” Id. A simple, “formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Id. A claim is plausible on its face when “the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 663 (2009).

         ALLEGATIONS CONTAINED IN THE AMENDED COMPLAINT

         Plaintiff is an Orthodox Jew and believes he is obligated to comply with the dietary laws of his religion. He was incarcerated at the HOC from June 1, 2018, to May 31, 2019, when he was released to a term of probation that will run until May 25, 2023. On the first day of his incarceration, Plaintiff's Rabbi provided the HOC with a letter advising that Plaintiff is an observant Orthodox Jew who eats an exclusively kosher diet and requesting that the HOC provide Plaintiff with “only food that is certified kosher in its original packaging.” Am. Compl. ¶¶ 28-29, Dkt. No. 21. Plaintiff also explained on numerous occasions that he is required to adhere to Jewish dietary law.

         Plaintiff claims that the HOC did not provide him with kosher meals and routinely provided meals that violate the most basic tenets of Jewish dietary law. Plaintiff filed numerous grievances with the HOC complaining that it was failing to provide him with kosher meals. The HOC and Aramark responded to Plaintiff's grievances. On August 20, 2018, Aramark stated the HOC, and not Aramark, was responsible for providing kosher meals. In October 2018, the HOC responded to an August 21, 2018 grievance and offered to allow Plaintiff to bring in his own kosher meals so long as the meals were scanned and Plaintiff signed a liability waiver for the purposes of insulating the HOC from liability in the event the meal made Plaintiff sick. However, the HOC refused or failed to provide Plaintiff with a waiver. Plaintiff had been granted work release and attempted to bring in his own meals, but his food was thrown out when he attempted to return to the HOC.

         On October 8, 2018, the HOC called Aramark to inquire about Plaintiff's meal, and Aramark stated that all of the meals provided to Plaintiff were kosher. Plaintiff alleges he received some meals that may have contained kosher parts but many more did not contain any kosher parts. Plaintiff could only eat portions of some of his meals. He claims that, on many days, the caloric intake of the kosher food was not sufficient under the federal guidelines.

         On December 13, 2018, Plaintiff drafted a letter to Michael Hafemann, the superintendent of the HOC, advising that he had been denied kosher meals. Plaintiff's Rabbi reached out to Milwaukee County Corporation Counsel to discuss the HOC's failure to provide Plaintiff with kosher meals. The Milwaukee County Corporation Counsel responded on January 11, 2019, advising that the HOC had provided Plaintiff with multiple options but Plaintiff had rejected them. Yet, over a month later, the HOC agreed to provide Plaintiff kosher meals if he agreed to pay for them. Although Plaintiff signed an agreement requiring him to pay for all kosher meals on February 25, 2019, the HOC and Aramark still failed to provide him with kosher meals. Plaintiff was advised that if he did not eat the meals he was given, he would be put on suicide watch and placed in solitary confinement.

         Plaintiff claims that the HOC's failure to allow him to receive meals compatible with a kosher diet violates RLUIPA. Plaintiff further claims that the refusal of the HOC, its officials, and Aramark to allow Plaintiff to receive meals compatible with a kosher diet violates the free exercise clause of the First Amendment and the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution as well as the free exercise clause of the Wisconsin Constitution. In addition to these claims, Plaintiff asserts a fraud under Wisconsin state law, and he seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, compensatory and punitive damages, as well as attorneys' fees and costs.

         ANALYSIS

         Defendants seek partial dismissal of the amended complaint for a number of reasons and also request that the court strike the exhibits attached to the original complaint. As an initial matter, Defendants argue that the court should dismiss the claims against Hafemann in his official capacity and the HOC because they are duplicative of the claims alleged against Milwaukee County. Milwaukee County concedes that Hafemann, acting in his official capacity, and the HOC are its agents and that it is therefore responsible for their actions. Accordingly, the court will dismiss the claims against Hafemann in his official capacity and the HOC as unnecessary and redundant. Defendants also seek to dismiss the RLUIPA claims against all defendants except Milwaukee County. Plaintiff does not dispute that he cannot bring a RLUIPA claim against the individual Milwaukee defendants. Accordingly, Plaintiff's RLUIPA claims against the individual defendants and the HOC, to the extent they were asserted in the amended complaint, are dismissed. The court will address the remaining arguments in turn.

         A. First Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment Claims

         Defendants assert that Plaintiff's First Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment claims against Hafemann and the John Doe officials of the HOC should be dismissed because they are entitled to qualified immunity. Qualified immunity shields government officials performing discretionary functions from claims for damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 unless they violate “clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.” Hope v. Pelzer, 536 U.S. 730, 739 (2002) (quoting Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982)). A right is “clearly established” if its contours are ...


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