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Giorgio v. Jackson

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

April 1, 2015



LEO T. SOROKIN, District Judge.


Plaintiffs, Matthew Giorgio and Colin Traver, ("Plaintiffs"), bring suit against Lisa Jackson ("Jackson") and Steven Duxbury ("Duxbury"), (collectively "Defendants") on the grounds they were denied their constitutional and statutory rights to engage in Native American religious ceremonies while incarcerated at MCI-Pondville. Specifically, Plaintiffs allege violations of the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution in accordance with 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-1 (the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act or "RLUIPA"). Defendants now move for summary judgment on the grounds that the doctrine of qualified immunity bars Plaintiffs' constitutional claims, and that monetary damages are not available under RLUIPA. For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment is ALLOWED in part, and DENIED in part.


On June 28, 2012, Plaintiffs, former inmates at MCI-Pondville, filed this suit against several prison administrators, claiming they were denied their right to engage in Native American religious ceremonies, in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution. Doc. No. 29 at 1-4.[1] Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint arises out of four alleged violations by prison officials of their right to free exercise by: (1) removing ceremonial feathers from Plaintiffs' cells; (2) refusing to make available a sweat lodge for religious ceremonies; (3) denying Plaintiffs permission to attend off-site Wampanoag pow-wows; and (4) restricting Plaintiffs' participation in smudging ceremonies. Doc. No. 29 at 4-7. Plaintiffs seek monetary damages from Defendants in their individual capacities only. Doc. No. 29 at 7-15.

On February 7, 2013, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim, and Judge Tauro granted the motion, in part, but allowed the case to proceed only against Jackson and Duxbury. Giorgio v. Clarke, No. 12-11171-JLT, 2013 WL 3965419, at *1 (D. Mass. July 31, 2013).[2] Judge Tauro determined the question, which could not be answered on a motion to dismiss, was whether "the state of law at the time of the alleged violation gave the defendant fair warning that his particular conduct was unconstitutional." Id . (citing Maldonado v. Fontanes, 568 F.3d 263, 269 (1st Cir. 2009) (internal citation omitted)). Judge Tauro also allowed Plaintiffs to amend their Complaint in order to add a RLUIPA claim against Jackson and Duxbury. Id.

Defendants answered the Amended Complaint, Doc. No. 29, and the parties engaged in discovery. Defendants have now moved for Summary Judgment on all remaining claims: Count V (Matthew Giorgio's Claims Against Jackson); Count VI (Matthew Giorgio's Claims Against Duxbury); Count XI (Colin Traver's Claims Against Jackson); and Count XII (Colin Traver's Claims Against Duxbury). Plaintiffs have Cross-Moved for Partial Summary Judgment as to liability only.[3]


Summary judgment is appropriate when "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). Once a party has properly supported its motion for summary judgment, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party, who "may not rest on mere allegations or denials of his pleading, but must set forth specific facts showing there is a genuine issue for trial." Barbour v. Dynamics Research Corp., 63 F.3d 32, 37 (1st Cir. 1995) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256 (1986)). Further, a court may enter summary judgment "against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrell, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The Court is "obliged to view the record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, and to draw all reasonable inferences in the nonmoving party's favor." LeBlanc v. Great Am. Ins. Co., 6 F.3d 836, 841 (1st Cir. 1993). Even so, the Court is to ignore "conclusory allegations, improbable inferences, and unsupported speculation." Prescott v. Higgins, 538 F.3d 32, 39 (1st Cir. 2008) (quoting Medina-Munoz v. R.I. Reynolds Tobacco Co., 896 F.2d 5, 8 (1st Cir. 1990)).

"There must be sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party for a [factfinder] to return a verdict for that party. If the evidence is merely colorable or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50. "Trialworthiness requires not only a genuine' issue but also an issue that involves a material' fact." Nat'l Amusements, Inc. v. Town of Dedham, 43 F.3d 731, 735 (1st Cir. 1995). A material fact is one which has the "potential to affect the outcome of the suit under applicable law." Nereida-Gonzalez v. Tirado-Delgado, 990 F.2d 701, 703 (1st Cir. 1993). For a factual dispute to be "genuine, " the "evidence relevant to the issue, viewed in the light most flattering to the party opposing the motion, must be sufficiently open-ended to permit a rational factfinder to resolve the issue in favor of either side." Nat'l Amusements, Inc., 43 F.3d at 735 (internal citation omitted).


A. Defendants' Statement of Undisputed Material Facts Are Admitted

Local Rule 56.1 ("Local Rule 56.1") of the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, states that motions for summary judgment must include "a concise statement of the material facts of record as to which the moving party contends there is no genuine issue to be tried, with page references to affidavits, depositions, and other documentation." Local Rule 56.1. Failure to include such a statement constitutes grounds for denial of the motion. Id . Oppositions to summary judgment must similarly be accompanied by a statement of material facts to which the opposing party contends that there exists a genuine issue to be tried, with supporting references to the record. Id . All referenced documents must be filed as exhibits to the motion or opposition. Id . Material facts set forth in the moving party's statement are deemed admitted for purposes of summary judgment if not controverted by an opposing statement. Id.

The Defendants submitted a Statement of Material Undisputed and Material Facts pursuant to Local Rule 56.1 on October 8, 2014. Doc. No. 66 at 2-5. Plaintiffs filed a Joint Motion in Opposition to the Defendants' Motion and in Support of the Plaintiffs' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment as to Liability on October 8, 2014, but they did not file a statement of disputed material facts in response to the Defendants' statement of undisputed facts. As such, all material facts set forth in the Defendants' Statement are deemed admitted for purposes of summary judgment pursuant to Local Rule 56.1. Plaintiffs did submit affidavits and excerpts of deposition transcripts, and this Court has considered the facts attested to therein.

The facts from Defendants' Statement of Facts which are deemed admitted include:

1. Plaintiff Matthew Giorgio ("Giorgio") was incarcerated with the DOC from January, 2007, to March, 2010.

2. Plaintiff Colin Traver ("Traver") was incarcerated with the DOC from February, 2007, to July, 2010. Traver was incarcerated at PCC from May 12, 2009 to December 21, 2009, as a pre-release inmate.

3. PCC is a Department of Correction facility housing minimum and pre-release inmates, located in Norfolk, MA.

4. Lisa Jackson served as the PCC Deputy Superintendent from April, 2007, to September, 2011.

5. Steven Duxbury served as the PCC Director of Classification and Programs from September, 1997, to March, 2010.

6. In 1999, the DOC developed a Religious Services Handbook ("Handbook") to assist administrators in evaluating inmate religious requests. The Handbook outlines commonly accepted practices of the recognized faiths, including Native American practices. The Handbook permits corporate worship items for a Native American inmate community, known as a circle, including: a ceremonial pipe, a smudge bowl, a drum, a drum stick, a rattle, a flute, a talking stick, ceremonial feathers, kinnik-kinnik, cedar, sage, and sweet grass. Inmates can keep some Native American items in their personal property, including: a headband, prayer beads, medicine bags, healing stones, sacred path cards, quilled wheels, three-tier chokers, a one-piece pipe for ...

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