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Brooks v. Bishop

United States District Court, D. Maryland

March 22, 2019

CRAIG S. BROOKS, Plaintiff
v.
WARDEN FRANK B. BISHOP, JR., et al., Defendants

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          PAUL W. GRIMM UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Craig S. Brooks filed this civil rights action, alleging that Defendants[1] violated his rights under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc et seq. ECF No. 1. Defendants have filed a Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment, along with a Memorandum in Support, ECF Nos. 17, 17-2, and Brooks has filed an Opposition, ECF No. 33. Brooks also filed several documents that were docketed as “Supplements” to the Complaint; each includes declarations and/or other evidence in support of his claims. ECF Nos. 24, 25, 26, 27, 35, 39. And, he filed a “Rule 56(d) Motion” and “Declaration/Affidavit, ” which also was docketed as a “Supplement.” Pl.'s Rule 56(d) Mot. & Decl., ECF No. 31. The Rule 56(d) Motion includes additional argument in opposition to Defendants' dispositive motion. Defendants filed an Opposition to Plaintiff's Rule 56(d) Motion. Defs.' Opp'n to Rule 56(d) Mot. & Decl., ECF No. 32.

         Defendants have filed a Motion to Strike one of Plaintiff's Supplements (ECF No. 35), ECF No. 36, and Brooks filed an Opposition, ECF No. 38. Additionally, Brooks filed Motions for Preliminary Injunction regarding his housing at WCI. ECF Nos. 41 and 43. Defendants have responded, ECF No. 44, and Brooks has replied, ECF No. 46.

         The matters are now ripe for review. The Court finds a hearing in these matters unnecessary. See Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2018). For the reasons that follow, Plaintiff's Rule 56(d) Motion is DENIED, Defendants' Motion to Strike is DENIED as moot, Defendants' dispositive motion, construed as a Motion for Summary Judgment, is GRANTED, and Plaintiff's Motions for Injunctive Relief are DENIED.

         BACKGROUND[2]

         Brooks, a state inmate currently confined at the Western Correctional Institution (“WCI”) in Cumberland, Maryland alleges that in July of 2015, while he was incarcerated at the North Branch Correctional Institution (“NBCI”) in Cumberland, Maryland, his rights under the First Amendment and RLUIPA were violated when Warden Bishop cancelled daily Nation of Islam (“NOI”) congregate services during Ramadan. Compl. He also alleges that his rights were violated when NOI members were not allowed to use the bathroom to cleanse during congregate worship services and not provided NOI bag meals with which to break their Ramadan fasting, [3] and when officers questioned him about services. Id. Brooks seeks compensatory and punitive damages as well as an order requiring his transfer from the Cumberland region due to his fears that staff will retaliate against him and abuse him. Id. at 15.

         A. Factual Background

         NBCI is “a supermax facility, with minimal space for group activities.” Warden Bishop Decl. ¶ 2, ECF No. 17-6. The facility is divided into a North and South compound, each of which has two housing units (segregation unit and high security unit on the North compound and two less restrictive units on the South compound) and a gym with two small rooms adjoining it. Id. ¶¶ 2, 4; Harbaugh Decl. ¶ 4, ECF No. 17-4.

         “In 2013 and 2014, NBCI was on lock down as the result of gang warfare and multiple assaults to include stabbings of both Inmates and staff members.” Harbaugh Decl. ¶ 4; Warden Bishop Decl. “After the 18-month lock-down . . . positive results” were observed, Warden Bishop Decl. ¶ 4, including that the Security Threat Groups (“STG”) and NOI “had been somewhat stabilized, ” Harbaugh Decl. ¶ 7. Small group religious study and services were reintroduced, including separate weekly congregate services for Muslim inmates housed on the North compound in Housing Unit 2, and separate weekly congregate services on the South compound for those housed in Housing Units 3 and 4. Harbaugh Decl. ¶ 4; Warden Bishop Decl. ¶ 4.

         Brooks is a member of the Nation of Islam (“NOI”). Captain Jason Harbaugh, the Intelligence Supervisor at NBCI in 2015, and Kevin Lamp, the Chaplain at NBCI since 2007, described NOI as a “gang like affinity group that promotes racial and sexist hatred, ” Harbaugh Decl. ¶ 5, “including through its publication ‘The Final Call, '” Chaplain Lamp Decl. ¶ 14, ECF No. 17-5. According to Harbaugh, members of NOI “are likely to retaliate” when one of their members “is threatened or disrespected.” Harbaugh Decl. ¶ 5. He states that NOI members actively recruit new members and “discourage[e] attrition” among their ranks. Id. Harbaugh asserts that “members of other STGs have been known to drop their affiliation and join NOI.” Id.

         NOI has several requirements, and a failure to meet them would constitute “a violation of religious edict.” Chaplain Lamp Decl. ¶ 6. “Attending congregate Ramadan services” is not a NOI requirement; rather, attendance at congregate services “is a matter of an individual's preference.” Id. Similarly, while NOI requires the Ramadan fast, it recommends but does not mandate any other specific practices for eating. Id. ¶¶ 6, 11; “Final Call” Foods to Avoid 1, January 16, 2014, ECF No. 17-7. NOI members with available funds, who are not housed in Housing Unit 1, may purchase items to eat outside of fasting times from the commissary. Warden Bishop Decl. ¶ 10.

         In summer 2015, NBCI permitted daily NOI congregate services for Ramadan that were open to inmates housed in all of the housing units across the compound. Harbaugh Decl. ¶ 6; Warden Bishop Decl. ¶ 4. At that time, all multipurpose rooms on both the North and South compound were in use by various religious groups for services. Chaplain Lamp Decl. ¶ 7. Conflicts between the various Muslim denominations required each group to be assigned a space that was “securely separated from the others.” Warden Bishop Decl. ¶ 6. The restrooms open to the main gym and are separated only by a half-door. Chaplain Lamp Decl. ¶ 8. Given the number of inmates involved in the various Muslim services taking place during the same time, the security of the area, and the need to minimize disturbances with ongoing religious services, a policy was established prohibiting inmates from using the restroom during services. Chaplain Lamp Decl. ¶ 8. Defendants state that, before the daily Ramadan services began, “inmate Muslim leaders were advised that service attendees would not be able to use the restrooms during service time and could cleanse in their cells.” Chaplain Lamp Decl. ¶ 9; Warden Bishop Decl. ¶ 6. Brooks states that, after he challenged this rule and the Commissioner overturned the Warden's Administrative Remedy Procedure (“ARP”) denial, NOI were allowed to use the bathroom during Saturday morning services. Pl.'s Rule 56(d) Mot. & Decl. 20.

         With the introduction of combined services, “NOI membership doubled.” Harbaugh Decl. ¶ 6; Chaplain Lamp Decl. ¶ 4; Warden Bishop Decl. ¶ 4; July 1, 2015 Harbaugh Mem. to Warden Bishop, ECF No. 17-10, at 88. The number of verified STG members within NOI “increased substantially, ” and a high number of verified STG members attended the daily congregate Ramadan services. Harbaugh Decl. ¶ 6; Chaplain Lamp Decl. ¶ 4; Warden Bishop Decl. ¶ 4. According to Harbaugh, attendance at the NOI daily Ramadan congregate service by “the larger mixed-security-level group” provided “an opportunity for inmates to form new alliances, recruit new members, and compete for position within gang hierarchies and between gangs.” Harbaugh Decl. ¶ 7; see also July 1, 2015 Harbaugh Mem. to Warden Bishop.

         On July 1, 2015, inmate Derrick Williams, [4] a member of NOI who regularly attended NOI Ramadan services, stabbed inmate Dante Jeter on the North compound. Harbaugh Decl. ¶ 8; Chaplain Lamp Decl. ¶ 15; Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (“DPSCS”) IID Report of Assault, ECF No. 17-9; Williams's Religious Preference Registration Form 2, ECF No. 32-2. It is undisputed that the stabbing did not occur at an NOI Ramadan service. Williams and Jeter were both “verified members of an STG, the Black Guerilla Family (‘BGF').”[5] Harbaugh Decl. ¶ 8. Within hours of the stabbing, Warden Bishop ordered Housing Unit 2, where Williams and Jeter were housed, locked down and directed that inmates “be bag-fed for dinner that day and breakfast the next day pending further investigation.” Warden Bishop Decl. ¶ 8.

         “Shortly after the July 1, 2015 stabbing, the NBCI Intelligence Department[] received a credible communication from a confidential informant that the attack . . . was planned during NOI daily Ramadan services.” Harbaugh Decl. ¶ 9. According to Harbaugh, the informant appeared to have attempted, without success, to alert staff to the planned attack prior to the stabbing. Id. “The NBCI Intelligence Department also received multiple credible reports that gang members and possibly others were routinely conducting illicit activities during NOI daily Ramadan services.” Id. ¶ 10. Based on this information, on July 1, 2015, Harbaugh prepared a memorandum to Warden Bishop regarding the concerns about NOI daily Ramadan services. Id. ¶ 11; Warden Bishop Decl. ¶ 9. Harbaugh and Bishop met to discuss these concerns. Harbaugh Decl. ¶ 12; Warden Bishop Decl. ¶ 9.

         The day after the stabbing, after NOI Ramadan services concluded for the night, Officers Hughes, Bowers and Thrasher instructed Brooks to stand against the wall, where he was “grilled in a semi-circle by (5) officers on what [he] was teaching from the Final Call Newspaper, Holy Bible and Holy Qur'an .…” Compl. 4. Brooks notes that the officers questioned him about the service even though they had been present for the entire service. Id. The following day, Warden Bishop cancelled the daily congregate Ramadan services for NOI, Warden Bishop Decl. ¶ 10, and Brooks was advised, without explanation, that he would not be permitted to lead services for the remaining days of Ramadan, Compl. 4. Also, NOI members in the North and South compounds were separated for weekly services. Harbaugh Decl. ¶ 18. The separation interrupted channels of communication as well as areas of conflict and reinstituted the pre-Ramadan “division, which had been relatively stable.” Harbaugh Decl. ¶ 18.

         Harbaugh declares that “[i]t would not have been possible by the end of Ramadan 2015 to conclude an investigation that would have identified and allowed removal of dangerous NOI participants from the NOI congregation.” Harbaugh Decl. ¶ 14. Brooks insists that Secretary of DPSCS Stephen Moyer, as the supervisor of all of the other named Defendants, and in his capacity as Secretary, would have been able to review the video of the stabbing that occurred during Ramadan and video of services to determine whether STG groups were congregating in the area of the services area to organize illicit activities. Compl. 10. And, asserting that “[t]he members of the NOI . . . wear white or blue shirts and bowties, ” Brooks contends that “[i]t is the duty of the Chief of Security and Chaplin [sic] to know the sincere believers of the faith and to ensure that security and safety protocols are in place and religious accommodations extend[] only to sincere believers.” Id. at 11; see Pl.'s Rule 56(d) Mot. & Decl. 22.

         According to Harbaugh, security cannot determine, simply based on the clothing an inmate wears, whether he plans to participate in an illicit activity or is a risk to the security of the institution. Harbaugh Decl. ¶ 15. Similarly, “a verified STG member may hold sincere religious beliefs and may have presented no security threat in attending NOI daily congregate services.” Id. ¶ 16. Not knowing the extent of, or who participated in the illicit activity, the continuation of “daily meetings of any NOI groups presented an unreasonable risk of dangerous activities.” Id. ¶ 18. According to Harbaugh, the continuation of daily services after the stabbing and information provided to the Intelligence Department “would have increased tension and allowed more opportunity for retaliation and other violence.” Id. ¶ 17.

         After the NOI daily congregate Ramadan services were cancelled, NOI inmates were not transported to post-sundown meal services, due to a “misunderstanding.” Warden Bishop Decl. ¶ 11. As a result, “they did not receive post-sundown meals” or the bagged “food that would have served as their breakfast” the next day. Id.

         Throughout 2015, Brooks regularly ordered food items through the prison commissary. Commissary Items, ECF No. 17-8, at 2-26. Indeed, during the approximate two weeks that Brooks did not receive a meal bag to break his Ramadan fast, he ordered and received food from the prison's commissary. Id. at 18-20. Brooks states that he used the commissary items (which were outside his diet) to pay a typist to type legal briefs for him. Pl.'s Rule 56(d) Mot. & Decl. 19. He works in the kitchen and purchases food from kitchen workers when necessary. Id. at 20.

         B. Administrative Remedy/Grievance History

         On July 6, 2015, Brooks submitted Administrative Remedy Procedure (“ARP”) NBCI-1345-15, complaining that daily congregate prayers no longer were allowed, officers had harassed him about services, NOI were not allowed to use the bathrooms during services, and NOI were not given their bagged meals to break the fast. ARP, ECF No. 17-8, at 27-28, 30; Compl. 4. Acting Warden Nines dismissed the ARP, reasoning that pursuant to “DMC-140, the Warden may discontinue a religious activity at any time for security purposes.” Id. at 27. Nines noted that “[t]he NOI services became a threat to the security and orderly operation of the institution, ” which justified their cancellation. Id. The dismissal did not address Brooks's other concerns regarding harassment, bag meals, or use of the bathroom. See id.

         Brooks appealed the dismissal of his ARP to the Commissioner of Corrections. ARP, ECF No. 17-8, at 32. The Commissioner found the appeal was “meritorious in part in that the Warden did not fully address [Brooks's] initial complaint.” Id. at 31. The Commissioner agreed that “the Warden ha[d] the authority to modify or cancel a religious service or event based on security concerns, ” but the Warden had failed to address Brooks's concerns regarding his ability “to properly break [his] daily Ramadan fast” or the issue regarding restroom accommodations. Id. The Commissioner recommended “further investigation by the facility, ” directed the Warden “to fully address complaints in their entirety, ” and advised Brooks that “[n]o further action [wa]s warranted through the ARP process.” Id. Brooks claims that Warden Bishop never responded to the other allegations in the ARP. Compl. 7. However, Brooks also states that, after the Commissioner overturned the Warden's ARP denial, NOI were allowed to use the bathroom during Saturday morning services. Pl.'s Rule 56(d) Mot. & Decl. 20.

         Brooks filed a grievance with the Inmate Grievance Office (“IGO”), Grievance, ECF No. 17-10, at 10-13, which rejected Brooks's claims regarding the cancellation of services and the “deni[al] [of his] opportunity to participate in the religious fast.” Jan. 15, 2016 IGO Dismissal, ECF No. 17-10, at 25.

         Brooks then filed a Petition for Judicial Review in the Circuit Court for Allegany County. Pet., ECF No. 17-10, at 1. On February 1, 2017, the state court reversed the decision of the IGO in part and remanded the case to the IGO for further administrative proceedings, finding that, while “[t]here [wa]s ample evidence to support the response to the complaint of cancellation of services pursuant to DCM-140, ” the Warden had never addressed Brooks's complaints regarding the bathroom facilities and breaking the fast. Mem. & Order, ECF No. 17-10, at 69-70. Thereafter, counsel for the IGO advised Brooks and the state court that the IGO “sent the matter back to the Warden to address the issues raised in th[e] Court's Memorandum and Order.” May 3, 2017 Ltr., ECF No. 17-10, at 71. On June 7, 2017, Brooks filed a Motion for Constructive Civil Contempt, contending that the IGO failed to hold a hearing to resolve his claims. Pl.'s Mot. for Contempt, ECF No. 17-10, at 76-79. The court denied the motion. Id. at 95. Brooks acknowledges that Warden Bishop responded on October 7, 2015, but in his view, it was “a hollow response . . . that further violated Plaintiff's 1st and 14th Amendment Rights and the RLUIPA.” Compl. 12. Nevertheless, Brooks did not appeal the Warden's response.

         NON-DISPOSITIVE MOTIONS

         A. Motion to Strike

         ECF No. 35 includes (1) a declaration that identifies the attachments, ECF No. 35, (2) a cover letter, ECF No. 35-1, and (3) a June 3, 2018 ARP and Appeal, (4) a Notice of Assignment to Administrative Segregation, and (5) a Waiver and Notification of Case Management Action, ECF No. 35-2. It appears that Brooks filed these documents to challenge his May 27, 2018 assignment to administrative segregation, in essence, supplementing his complaint with a new claim. Defendants move to strike these documents, arguing that “Mr. Brooks has neither expressly requested that new claims be added to this case nor alleged any just terms, ” as required by Rule 15(d), and in any event the supplement would be futile because Brooks has not stated a claim in ECF No. 35 against any Defendant with regard to being placed in administrative segregation or alleged that he exhausted his administrative remedies. Defs.' Mot to Strike 2.

         “The court may strike from a pleading an insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f). Defendants do not contend that ECF No. 35 is any of these. And, although the court maintains wide discretion in considering a motion to strike, see Haley Paint Co. v. E.I. Du Pont De Nemours & Co., 279 F.R.D. 331, 336 (D. Md. 2012), “Rule 12(f) motions are generally viewed with disfavor ‘because striking a portion of a pleading is a drastic remedy and because it is often sought by the movant simply as a dilatory tactic.'” Waste Mgmt. Holdings, Inc. v. Gilmore, 252 F.3d 316, 347 (4th Cir.2001) (quoting 5A Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice & Procedure § 1380, 647 (2d ed. 1990)).

         Nonetheless, a party is not at liberty to supplement his pleadings whenever it suits him. Supplemental filings must be requested by motion, providing any adverse party with reasonable notice and an opportunity to oppose the supplementation; the court must rule on the motion, granting it if finds “just terms” to do so, and that the supplement “set[s] out any transaction, occurrence, or event that happened after the date of the pleading to be supplemented.”. Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(d). Procedurally, as a Supplement to the Complaint, ECF No. 35 is deficient, as Brooks did not file a motion to supplement. See Id. And, while his assignment to administrative segregation happened after Brooks filed his Complaint, see id., he has not stated his basis for challenging the assignment or provided any justification for adding the additional information to his Complaint.

         Certainly, in his Opposition, Brooks complains that, while he was housed at WCI, a “small legal pad” of his was confiscated after “someone used [his] name, ID#, and old cell address to threaten one of the officer[]s on a request slip”; the pad was returned to him two days later, after the officers determined that he “did not write the note.” Pl.'s Opp'n 4-5. Then, he was placed in administrative segregation at WCI “39 days after being cleared, ” which he views as “harassment because of Plaintiff's civil lawsuit.” Id. at 5. And, he discusses his housing assignment at length in his preliminary injunction motions. But, neither a preliminary injunction motion nor an opposition to a dispositive motion is a vehicle for amending a complaint. See Whitten v. Apria Healthcare Grp., Inc., No. PWG-14-3193, 2015 WL 2227928, at *7 (D. Md. May 11, 2015). Moreover, given that Brooks's initial Complaint concerns denial of religious services in 2015 at NBCI, Brooks's allegations against unnamed correctional staff at a different facility, regarding harassment and improper assignment to administrative segregation in 2018 are too far removed from the initial claim. Thus, insofar as ECF No. 35 (or even the preliminary injunction motions) could be construed as a Rule 15(d) motion to supplement, see Fed. R. Civ. P. 1, it is denied. Brooks may file a new civil rights complaint detailing these allegations and naming the proper Defendants if he believes his constitutional rights have been violated. Having construed ECF No. 35 as a motion to supplement, and denied it, the Motion to Strike, ECF No. 36, is denied as moot.

         B. Request for Discovery

         Brooks seeks discovery of the following information: 1. videos of (a) the dining room showing “the officers in the NOI service and outside surrounding the Brooks after all participants were dismissed”; (b) “Plaintiff leaving Housing Unit 4 on August 12, 2015, in route to the North Side of the prison to meet with Officer, Chaplin [sic] Kevin Lamp”; (c) “the stabbing incident”; (d) the “STG group activity taking place in the rear of the NOI Ramadan service to do illegal activity”; and (e) the incident at WCI when his legal pad was confiscated;[6] and 2. a request in his handwriting to go to the North compound of the prison to teach class. Pl.'s Rule 56(d) Mot. & Decl. 1, 18-19, 35; see also Id. at 24-25. Brooks contends that the videos are exculpatory and would show what ...


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