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Ryidu-X v. Foxwell

United States District Court, D. Maryland

August 27, 2019

MALCOM MAXWELL RYIDU-X, SID # 896073, formerly known as Richard Janey, Plaintiff


          Catherine C. Blake United States District Judge.

         On July 18, 2019, Maryland prisoner Malcom Ryidu-X ("Plaintiff or "Ryidu-X") filed a "Motion for Emergency Injunction" seeking to enjoin "Maryland State prison officials" at Eastern Correctional Institution ("ECI") from an "on-going campaigne [sic] of discrimination and harassment" against him. Ryidu-X named only ECI Warden Ricky Foxwell in his pleading, complaining that he had been unable to purchase personal hygiene items from the prison commissary and that Foxwell denied him the ability to practice his religion as a Muslim unless Ryidu-X "converts" from the Shi'a to Sunni Muslim faith.[3] See Ryidu-X v. Foxwell, Civil Action No. CCB-18-2213 (D. Md.), ECF No. I.[4] The submission, docketed as a Complaint, was incomplete and Ryidu-X was ordered to supplement his pleading to include a full filing fee or Motion to Proceed in Forma Pauperis. ECF No. 2. He complied, ECF No. 3, and counsel for Defendants was ordered to respond to the complaint, ECF No. 4.

         On August 27, 2019, the Clerk received a new civil rights action docketed as Ryidu-X v. Doe, et al, Civil Action No. CCB-18-2641 (D. Md.). Ryidu-X reiterated his allegations against Foxwell regarding the denial of worship and a lack of hygiene supplies and named ECI staff alleged to be carrying out Foxwell's edicts and denying him access to writing supplies and other property approved for sale via catalog. The Complaint further alleged the improper denial of religious practices and prayer materials[5] by policy-makers with the Division of Correction ("DOC") and by the Warden, Acting Warden, Chaplain, and an unknown individual working at the Maryland Correctional Institution-Hagerstown ("MCI-H"), where Ryidu-X previously was incarcerated prior to his transfer to ECI in November of 2017. Ryidu-X stated such denial violated the First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act ("RFRA"), and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act ("RLUIPA"). Because the issues contained in the new lawsuit were closely aligned with Ryidu-X's previous lawsuit, they were consolidated under Civil Action No. CCB-18-2213. See Order of August 28, 2018, ECF No. 10; see also Supplement to the Complaint, ECF No. 11.

         Prior to consolidation Foxwell had been directed to respond to the emergency injunctive relief request concerning the denial of commissary items filed in Civil Action No. CCB-18-2213. See ECF No. 7; see also Show Cause Order of August 24, 2018, ECF No. 9. Foxwell responded to the commissary denial issue and also responded to a second injunctive relief request contained in Civil Action No. CCB-18-2641 concerning a 12-week denial of hygiene items by MCI-H personnel. ECF No. 15. Injunctive relief was denied by Order dated September 24, 2018, and Ryidu-X was given 21 days to amend his complaint to provide facts and information as to how and when each named defendant violated his civil rights. ECF No. 17. When he failed to timely comply, the consolidated action was dismissed without prejudice. See Order of October 23, 2018, ECF No. 19. The consolidated action was reopened after Ryidu-X informed the Court that he did not receive the September 24, 2018 Order, see ECF No. 20, and Defendants were ordered to address the merits of the Complaint, as supplemented, ECF No. 21.

         Defendants have filed a Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 24, with supporting materials, ECF Nos. 24-2, 24-3, 24-4, 26-1, 26-2, 26-3, which is opposed by Ryidu-X.[7] ECF No. 29. The pending Motion may be decided without a hearing. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2018). For the reasons stated below, the Motion, construed as a Motion for Summary Judgment, will be granted in part and denied in part.

         The Parties' Allegations and Assertions

         I. Ryidu-X's Allegations

         Ryidu-X's allegations extend on a timeline from September 2017 through 2018, during which he was housed at two DOC facilities, MCI-H and ECI, His claims focus on access to religious materials and commissary items, which he claims are denied to him because he is a Shi'a Muslim.[8] He complains that on September 20, 2017, while he was housed at MCI-H, Chaplain Felton informed him that as the only Shi'a Muslim he would no longer be allowed access to the observance and practice of his religion, including access to prayer materials. ECF No. 11 at p. 3. Ryidu-X states that Chaplain Felton advised him that access to religious materials would only be provided to Sunni Muslim prisoners and would be kept for storage by the MCI-H correctional officials. Id. Those materials will be distributed to the Sunni Muslim inmates upon their request. Id. Plaintiff further claims that Chaplain Felton stated he will personally enforce this policy. Id.

         When transferred to ECI in Westover, Maryland in November of 2017, Ryidu-X states he was told by Protective Custody Unit Manager Lt. Dunaway that the MCI-H policy of disallowing him access to the observance and practice of the Shi'a Muslim religion is also followed at ECI. Id. at 4. He states he was told that Shi'a Muslim religious services would not be arranged until other Shi'a were present and a minimum of four to ten participants would be required before services were held. He was also told he could participate in Sunni Muslim religious services. Id.

         Ryidu-X also claims the denial of personal hygiene materials lasted a total of twelve weeks and was intended as punishment, id., and claims that Officer Dunaway and Warden Fox well told him that his inability to obtain these items was "simply a glitch in the system," ECF No. 7 at p. 2. Ryidu-X states he sold or traded his meals to obtain hygiene items or borrowed them from other prisoners. Id. Ryidu-X claims that the named officers knew he lacked hygiene items but none offered an alternative way for him to obtain these supplies, such as providing them through the welfare commissary or directly from prison supplies. Id. He names Officer Jones for the denial of his access to the institutional commissary to purchase personal hygiene supplies on June 3, 2018. ECF No. 20 at p. 5. Ryidu-X names Officers Allen, Wilson and Atkins for the denials of his purchases of personal hygiene supplies on June 18 and 25; July 2, 9, and 30; August 6 and 13; and October 22, 2018. Id. Ryidu-X alleges that these Defendant officers' conduct amounted to retaliation, harassment and punishment because of his present legal action. Id.

         In his November 2, 2018, Supplemental Complaint/Motion to Alter or Amend Judgment Ryidu-X states that in the past he could attend Shi'a Muslim religious services because other prison chaplains, religious leaders, and prison supervisory staff recognized and allowed for the separate and equal treatment of both Shi'a and Sunni Muslims. ECF No. 20 at p. 4. He references a February 13, 2015, letter as proof that in the past he had been able to obtain religious oil used in accordance with Shi'a religious practices. ECF No. 20-2.

         Ryidu-X names MCI-H Warden Gelsinger and Chaplain Felton for their "order and intentional act" of denying and discontinuing access to Shi'a Muslim religious services and practices. ECF No. 20 at p. 4. Ryidu-X states that the defendants claimed they were enforcing policies mandated by the Commissioner of Corrections. Id. Ryidu-X also claims that ECI Warden Foxwell, ECI's Chaplain (whose name is not specified), and Officer Dunaway barred Ryidu-X's participation in all Islamic religious services or practices, including participation in official observance of the Feast of the Holy Month of Ramadan, unless and until he converted to the Sunni Muslim faith. Id. at 5.

         II. The Correctional Defendants' Response

         The Correctional Defendants argue that Ryidu-X failed to complete administrative review of his claims, thus precluding this Court from examining those claims. ECF No. 24-1 at p. 15. The defendants further contend that they violated neither Ryidu-X's First Amendment rights nor his rights under RLUIPA, id. at p. 17, 19; that Ryidu-X did not sufficiently support his Eighth Amendment claim, id. at p. 23; and that he failed to plead with specificity claims against certain named defendants, id. at p. 24-25. Finally, the defendants claim that they are entitled to qualified immunity from a claim for damages. Id. at p. 25.

         Defendants provide a Declaration from IGO Administrative Officer Samiyah Hassan in support of their claim of administrative non-exhaustion. ECF No. 24-4. Hassan provides documents showing that Ryidu-X properly completed relevant administrative review of one grievance concerning religion while housed at MCI-H. Id.

         On October 17, 2017, Ryidu-X filed ARP MCI-H 0343-17 complaining that Chaplain Felton was discriminating against the Shi'a faith. ECF No. 11-3. From the Commissioner's response, it appears the discrimination claim arose because prayer oil was provided only to those participating in congregant worship services. See Id. (ARP MCI-H 0343-17 and related appeals). On December 11, 2017, the IGO received the matter, IGO 20171879, for review, which it dismissed on January 25, 2018, based on the prison's compliance with the dispensing of oil as governed by the Religious Services Manual. ECF No. 24-4 at p. 3.

         Ryidu-X also filed ARPs while at ECI. On July 5, 2018, Ryidu-X submitted grievance ARP ECI-1245-18 concerning a plethora of complaints regarding Officer Green's lack of action to address missing food items during a Iockdown, a lost money order and letter from a family member, an unidentified officer who collected his commissary slip on June 3, 2018 but failed to submit it, a lack of access to his prison account to determine whether funds had been "misappropriated," and the failure to unlock his cell so he could participate in his assigned prison job. ECF No. 1-1 at pp. 1-2. ARP ECI-1245-18 was dismissed on June 27, 2018, because the complaint contained multiple unrelated issues. ECF No. 15-1 at p. 16. The IGO dismissed Ryidu- X's appeal of the dismissal on November 21, 2018, for failure to exhaust the ARP process. ECF No. 26-1 at p. 2.[9]

         On August 8, 2018, Ryidu-X submitted grievance ARP ECI-1725-18, alleging that his request for a copy of his financial record had been ignored or denied. ECF No. 26-2 at p. 10. After investigation, Warden West denied relief, stating that he had been issued a copy of his account forms on October 25, 2018. Id. With the exception of the claim concerning an officer's alleged failure to submit a commissary request in June 2018, these grievances are not before the Court and are not addressed here.

         IGO No. 20181347, filed October 17, 2018, concerned Ryidu-X's claim in ARP ECI-1378-18 that he was denied the opportunity to practice Shi'a Islam. It was administratively dismissed on November 28, 2018. ECF No. 26-1 at p. 2. On December 11, 2018, Ryidu-X filed IGO No. 20181917, which appears to be a resubmission from the disposition of ARP ECI-1725-18. As of January 10, 2019, the matter remained pending with the IGO. Id.

         Defendants confirm that Ryidu-X is the only Shi'a Muslim adherent housed at ECI. ECF No. 24-1 at p. 7. They state that Officer Dunaway properly referenced the Religious Services Manual, § .07, ¶ D, subparagraph (12) to explain that Ryidu-X cannot have his own religious services and that at least three fellow Shi'a Muslims would be needed before religious services would be provided. Id. They state that Dunaway did not mandate that Ryidu-X become a Sunni practitioner, but merely suggested he could join the Sunni worshippers to accommodate his request to have congregant worship. Id. They stress that Ryidu-X is not prohibited from practicing his religion, merely that they would not impede his ability to attend Sunni services should he choose to do so. Id. The defendants also argue that while he was at MCI-H, Ryidu-X was no longer permitted to keep religious oil in his cell based on the directives on the use of oil only during congregant worship, as provided in the Religious Services Manual - OPS. 140.0002.14. Id. at p. 8.

         Defendants note that the contractual commissary provider, Keefe Commissary, is aware that Plaintiff uses his new legal/religious name in his transactions. See Memorandum, ECF No. 15-1 at p. 2; see also ECF No. 15-1 at pp. 3-15. He has received multiple commissary purchases that include personal hygiene products and stationery materials. See Declaration of Larry Adkins, ECF 15-2 ¶ 5; see also ECF No. 15-1 at pp. 12-15 (documentation of Ryidu-X's multiple transactions with Keefe Commissary).

         III. Ryidu-X's Opposition Response

         Ryidu-X takes issue with the defendants' assertion that his "access to religious prayer ceremony materials was/is denied due to some sort of 'personal use, '" ECF No. 29 at p. 1, and states that his status as the "lone believer in the Shi'a faith" is false, [11] ECF No. 29 at p. 2. He states that he alone is denied an opportunity to receive religious meals, meet with religious leaders, and observe religious holidays. Id. He reiterates that adherents of other faiths have their religious and prayer ceremony materials stored by the prison and distributed as needed, an opportunity that is not afforded to him because he is the sole Shi'a practitioner at ECI and thus unable to participate in congregate worship with others.[12]Id. at p. 3. He also argues that the only conclusion to be drawn from ...

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