United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Greeneville
RONNIE GREER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
civil matter is before the Court on a motion for summary
judgment by defendants Autumn Armstrong and Donna Carter
(“Defendants”) [Doc. 24]. Plaintiff has not filed
a response in opposition to the request and the time for
doing so has now passed. E.D. Tenn. L.R. 7.1, 7.2. For the
reasons that follow, the Court will grant Defendants'
motion for summary judgment.
filed this instant action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against
Autumn Armstrong, Donna Carter, Butch Gallion, and Brittany
Saunders on October 21, 2014 [Doc. 1]. In the complaint,
Plaintiff claimed that Defendants failed to accommodate his
religious beliefs [Doc. 1]. Defendants were served and filed
a timely answer to the complaint on February 27, 2015 [Doc.
11]. On June 17, 2015, Plaintiff requested leave to amend the
complaint in order to add another defendant [Doc. 19]. This
Court denied Plaintiff's request to add the newly
identified defendant because that defendant enjoyed Eleventh
Amendment immunity, thus making it futile to add such a
defendant to the action [Doc. 22].
12, 2016, Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment
claiming the following: Plaintiff failed to exhaust his
administrative remedies under the Prison Litigation Reform
Act (“PLRA”); and, regardless, these Defendants
are entitled to qualified immunity on the merits [Doc. 24].
In support of their request, Defendants filed a memorandum
and statement of material facts [Docs. 25, 26]. Notably,
Plaintiff has not responded in opposition to summary judgment
or submitted any evidence in support of his claims.
housed at Hawkins County Jail, Plaintiff submitted requests
related to the Muslim religion on September 2, 14, 18, and
23, 2014 [Doc. 24-1 at ¶ 14]. On September 18, 2014,
Plaintiff requested the following items by means of the
jail's online kiosk system:
I AM NEEDING A QUA'RAN PRAYER RUG, RELIGIOUS HAT-KUFFIE,
PRAYER OIL, RAMADON SCHEDULE, MUSLIM DIET, ADDRESS TO A
MUSLIM CHURCH SO I CAN START RECEIVING VISITS SINCE THIS
FACILITY DOESN'T HAVE RELIGIOUS MEETINGS FOR MUSLIMS . .
. PLEASE GET THESE THINGS TO ME AS SOON AS POSSIBLE - I FEEL
WITHOUT THESE THINGS THERE IS NO GOD!!
[Doc. 24-1 at 23, 24-2 at ¶ 4].
Cash was provided coffee filters to use as a kufi and a towel
to use as a prayer rug [Doc. 24-2 at ¶¶ 5, 6]. The
decision to provide coffee filters as a kufi and a towel as a
prayer rug was made upon the recommendation of Tonya West, a
State Jail Inspector with the Tennessee Corrections Institute
(“TCI”) [Id. at ¶ 7]. Inspector
West advised Defendants to provide Plaintiff with coffee
filters and a towel because that is what the TCI had
recommended to other county jails as a solution to similar
requests [Id.]. Plaintiff was provided a copy of the
Quran and advised that he could have his family bring him a
kufi and/or a prayer rug [Doc. 24-1 at ¶¶ 16, 17].
With respect to prayer oil, Plaintiff could not have liquid
oil in his cell because of security concern about possible
jail contraband [Id. at ¶ 18]. With respect to
obtaining a Ramadan schedule, Plaintiff could have written to
any family member or friend asking them to look up the 2014
Ramadan schedule or he could have asked any visitor to look
it up for him [Id. at ¶ 19]. With respect to
contacting someone to consult with about the Muslim religion,
Plaintiff could have asked the Jail's Chaplain to provide
this information; or he could have asked family or friends to
look up this information [Id. at ¶ 20].
Defendant Armstrong met with Plaintiff to discuss his request
for a Muslim diet, but Plaintiff was unable to clarify his
request because he did not know what the diet consisted of
[Doc. 24-2 at ¶ 8]. Since neither Defendants nor
Plaintiff were aware of the requirements of a Muslim diet, no
further action was taken [Id.]. Defendants deny ever
making any “vulgar” or “anti-Muslim”
comments to Plaintiff as was outlined in his complaint
[Id. at ¶ 10].
October 21, 2014, Plaintiff filed the instant action against
Defendants asserting that Defendants failed to accommodate
his religious beliefs [Doc. 1, Doc. 26].
judgment under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure is proper “if 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). The motion can be limited to a single claim or part of
each claim and the moving party bears the burden of
establishing that no genuine issues of material fact exist.
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 330 n.2
(1986); Moore v. Phillip Morris Cos., 8 F.3d 335,
339 (6th Cir. 1993). Summary judgment is proper where
“the pleadings, depositions, answers to
interrogatories, admissions on file, together with ...