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Hudson v. Spencer

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

September 28, 2018

MAC S. HUDSON, FARADAN IBN SALAHUDDIN, EDGAR ROCK, RAYMOND COLON, ABDUL J. LOPEZ, RALPH BROWN, EVANS MAHON and UMAR SALAHUDDIN, Plaintiffs,
v.
LUIS S. SPENCER, CHRISTOPHER MITCHELL, BRUCE GELB, KAREN DINARDO, CHRISTINE LARKINS, LOIS RUSSO, JAILEEN HOPKINS and DALE BISSONNETTE, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM & ORDER

          NATHANIEL M. GORTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This is a pro se prisoner case in which inmates at MCI-Concord claim that they have been denied the right to observe tenets of the Nation of Islam (“NOI”) while incarcerated. Defendants are all employees of MCI-Concord or the Massachusetts Department of Correction (“the DOC”).

         Pending before the Court are defendants' motion for summary judgment and plaintiffs' cross-motion for summary judgment. For the reasons that follow, defendants' motion for summary judgment will be allowed and plaintiffs' cross-motion for summary judgment will be denied.

         I. Background

         Plaintiffs (sometimes referred to as “the inmates”) initiated this lawsuit in December, 2011, and filed an amended complaint in March, 2014. In their amended complaint, plaintiffs alleged that defendants violated 1) plaintiffs' First and Fourteenth Amendment rights, including the right to equal protection, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, 2) the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”) under 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc, et seq., 3) the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”) under 42 U.S.C. § 1997e, 4) Massachusetts General Laws chapter 127, § 88, 5) articles I and XII of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights and 6) Title 103 of the Code of Massachusetts Regulations, § 471.

         The inmates requested 1) the appointment of a full-time NOI chaplain, 2) daily access to space for worship, 3) separate NOI fasting and feast sessions during religious ceremonies, 4) an ability to wear religious attire such as bow ties and lapel pins, 4) an ability to engage in “spiritual drilling” and 6) compensatory and punitive damages.

         The DOC filed a motion for summary judgment in July, 2015, and the inmates filed a cross-motion for summary judgment the following month. This Court entered its original Memorandum and Order allowing, in part, and denying, in part, the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment in September, 2015. The Court allowed defendants' motion for summary judgment as to all of plaintiffs' claims except as to plaintiff's RLUIPA claim for injunctive relief with respect to daily access to worship space.

         As the Court acknowledged in its original Memorandum and Order, defendants explained why they have not hired a full-time Nation of Islam chaplain but did not explain why plaintiffs cannot have access to worship space when there is no chaplain available. Plaintiffs asserted that defendants have allowed other religious groups access to worship space and have provided non-chaplain supervision. The Court's compromise position was to require defendants to provide plaintiffs with televised recordings of Jumuah services when a chaplain is unavailable to provide in-person services.

         In January, 2018, the First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, in part, the Court's Memorandum and Order allowing defendants' motion for summary judgment and remanded for reconsideration of the limitations upon the inmates' access to worship space. Hudson v. Spencer, No. 15-2323, 2018 WL 2046094, *5 (1st Cir. Jan. 23, 2018). The First Circuit held that plaintiffs' affidavits were sufficient to show that the lack of daily access to space for congregational worship substantially burdened their religious exercise. Id. at *2. The First Circuit remanded the case so this Court could consider whether defendants have demonstrated that those access limitations were the least restrictive means of furthering defendants' compelling security interests. Id.

         II. Motions for Summary Judgment

         A. Legal standard

         The role of summary judgment is “to pierce the pleadings and to assess the proof in order to see whether there is a genuine need for trial.” Mesnick v. Gen. Elec. Co., 950 F.2d 816, 822 (1st Cir. 1991) (quoting Garside v. Osco Drug, Inc., 895 F.2d 46, 50 (1st Cir. 1990)). The burden is on the moving party to show, through the pleadings, discovery and affidavits, “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).

         A fact is material if it “might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law . . . .” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A genuine issue of material fact exists where the evidence with respect to the material fact in dispute “is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id.

         If the moving party satisfies its burden, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine, triable issue. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986). The Court must view the entire record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and make all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. O'Connor v. Steeves, 994 F.2d 905, 907 (1st Cir. 1993). Summary judgment is appropriate if, after viewing the record in the non-moving party's favor, ...


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