United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Western Division
ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON
L. PARKER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Boaz Pleasant-Bey, an inmate at the Trousdale Turner
Correctional Center (“TTCC”) in Hartsville,
Tennessee, sued pro se under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (ECF No.
1.) Chief Jailer Robert Moore moved for judgment on the
pleadings on Plaintiff's individual capacity claims
against him, arguing that he is entitled to qualified
immunity. (ECF No. 20.) Officer Charles Gatewood later joined
in Chief Moore's motion. (ECF No. 33.) For the reasons
below, this Court DENIES Chief Jailer Robert
Moore and Officer Charles Gatewood's Motion for judgment
on the pleadings.
asserts that he is a Muslim and, as a Muslim, he wears a kufi
or a turban. (ECF No. 1 at PageID 2-3.) He alleges that a
staff member at the Shelby County Jail told him that he could
not wear a kufi in the jail per Chief Moore's
instructions. (Id. at PageID 3.) And Defendant
Gatewood once “aggressively” grabbed at his kufi,
forcing Plaintiff to remove it and walk to his cell.
also claims that the Defendants “created and enforced
unconstitutional policies/customs that prohibit inmates from
conducting religious services at the jail.”
(Id. at PageID 4.) He claims that Defendants forced
him to eat non-halal foods and refused to hire a qualified
Sunni Muslim Imam to hold traditional Islamic sermons.
(Id. at PageID 2-4.)
alleges that these policies violated his rights under the
Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act
(“RLUIPA”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc(a)(1)(A)-(B),
the Free Exercise and Establishment Clause of the First
Amendment, and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth
Amendment. (Id. at PageID 3-4.) He sues Defendants
in their official and individual capacities and seeks
monetary damages and abolition of all contested policies.
(Id. at PageID 5.)
screening the Complaint, the Court dismissed Plaintiff's
claims: (1) for denial of religious services by failing to
hire a full-time Imam, (2) for failure to provide halal food
options, and (3) those under RLUIPA. (ECF No. 9 at PageID
31-35.) The Court, however, allowed Plaintiff's claims to
proceed against Shelby County, Chief Moore, and Officer
Gatewood for violating his First Amendment right to wear
religious headgear. (Id.) Now, Chief Moore moves for
Judgment on the Pleadings on Plaintiff's claims of
individual liability, (ECF No. 20), and Officer Gatewood
joins in the Motion. (ECF No. 33.)
Moore and Officer Gatewood seek relief under Rule 12(c) of
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. “After the
pleadings are closed-but early enough not to delay trial-a
party may move for judgment on the pleadings.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). A court reviews a motion for judgment on
the pleadings under Rule 12(c) using the same standard as a
motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). Monroe Retail,
Inc. v. RBS Citizens, N.A., 589 F.3d 274, 279 (6th Cir.
motion under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests
the sufficiency of the complaint's allegations by arguing
the allegations establish no claim for which relief can be
granted. To test the sufficiency of the complaint, the Court
also looks to Rule 8. Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
8(a)(2), “a complaint must contain sufficient factual
matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief
that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 566 U.S. 622, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)); see
Engler v. Arnold, 862 F.3d 571, 575 (6th Cir. 2017).
“A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff
pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the
reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the
misconduct alleged.” Reilly v. Vadlamudi, 680
F.3d 617, 623 (6th Cir. 2013) (quoting Hensley Mfg. v.
ProPride, Inc., 579 F.3d 603, 609 (6th Cir. 2009)).
considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) must
“construe the complaint in the light most favorable to
the plaintiff, accept all allegations as true, and draw all
reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff.”
DIRECTV, Inc. v. Treesh, 487 F.3d 471, 476 (6th Cir.
2007). A court need not accept as true all legal conclusions
or unwarranted factual inferences. Hananiya v. City of
Memphis, 252 F.Supp.2d. 607, 610 (W.D. Tenn. 2003)
(citing Lewis v. ACB Business Servs., Inc., 135 F.3d
389, 405 (6th Cir. 1998)). “Determining whether a
complaint states a plausible claim for relief [is] . . . a
context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to
draw on its judicial experience and common sense.”
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.
“[t]o withstand a Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the
pleadings, ‘a complaint must contain direct or
inferential allegations respecting all the material elements
under some viable legal theory.” Barany-Snyder v.
Weiner, 539 F.3d 327, 332 (6th Cir. 2008) (quoting
Commercial Money Ctr., Inc., 508 F.3d 327, 336 (6th
Cir. 2007)). Put another way, “[t]he Court's narrow
inquiry on a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) is based
upon whether the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to
support the claims, not whether the plaintiff can ultimately
prove the facts alleged.” Time & Sec. Mgmt.,
Inc. v. Pittway Corp., 422 F.Supp.2d 907, 910 (W.D.
Tenn. 2006) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).
Moore and Gatewood claim qualified immunity from suit because
Plaintiff's right to wear a kufi was not clearly
established. (ECF Nos. 20-1 at PageID 66-68; 33 at PageID
103-05.) Plaintiff, on the other hand, argues that his right
to wear a kufi is clearly established, absent a legitimate
penological interest in ...