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Harvey v. Assistant Warden West

March 13, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Clifford J. Proud United States Magistrate Judge


Before the court is defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 50). The motion is supported by affidavits and exhibits. Defendants served upon the pro se plaintiff the notice required by Lewis v. Faulkner, 689 F.2d 100, 102 (7th Cir. 1982). (Doc. 51). Plaintiff filed his own affidavit in response. (Doc. 52).

Plaintiff Michael Harvey was formerly an inmate in the custody of the Illinois Department of Corrections. He brings suit under 42 U.S.C. §1983 for violation of his First Amendment right to practice his religion during his incarceration.

Mr. Harvey is Muslim. As construed on preliminary review, plaintiff alleges that, while he was incarcerated at Vandalia Correctional Center, he was not always allowed to attend Muslim services, Muslim services sometimes started late because the inmates were not taken to the chapel on time, and he was told that he could attend only one service a week. Plaintiff also makes a general allegation that Muslim inmates are discriminated against, and claims that he was harassed and insulted when attempting to practice his religion. Mr. Harvey was transferred from Vandalia sometime before July, 2004, and was released from the IDOC in February 2005. See, Docs. 5 and 16.

Grounds for Summary Judgment

Defendants argue that they accommodated plaintiff's practice of his religion insofar as practicable at Vandalia, and that any restrictions on his ability to practice were reasonably related to legitimate penological interests. They deny that Muslims were treated differently from members of any other faith group. They deny that they ever harassed or insulted plaintiff while he was practicing his faith.

Standard for Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is appropriate under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 where "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2552 (1986). The evidence is construed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and all justifiable inferences are drawn in favor of that party. See, Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2513-14 (1986). Once the moving party has produced evidence to show that he or she is entitled to summary judgment, the non-moving party must affirmatively demonstrate that a genuine issue of material fact remains for trial. Johnson v. City of Fort Wayne, 91 F.3d 922, 931 (7th Cir. 1996).

In responding to a summary judgment motion, the non-moving party may not simply reiterate the allegations contained in the pleadings; more substantial evidence must be presented at this stage. Moreover, a genuine issue of material fact is not shown by the mere existence of "some alleged factual dispute between the parties," Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247, or by "some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts," Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp.,475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Rather, a genuine issue of material fact exists only if "a fair-minded jury could return a verdict for the [nonmoving party] on the evidence presented." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252, 106 S.Ct. at 2512.

Summary judgment is not barred by the mere existence of some factual dispute. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; see also, JPM Inc. v. John Deere Industrial Equipment Company, 94 F.3d 270, 273 (7th Cir. 1996). Only disputes as to facts that might affect the outcome of the suit in light of the substantive law are sufficient to defeat summary judgment. Disputes as to irrelevant or unnecessary facts do not preclude summary judgment. Clifton v. Schafer, 969 F.2d 278, 281 (7th Cir. 1992).

Plaintiff is pro se, and his pleadings must be liberally construed. Duncan v.Duckworth, 644 F.2d 653, 655 (7th Cir.1981).


The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States protects the "free exercise" of religion. This right is not completely lost upon conviction of a crime and incarceration. "An inmate retains the right to exercise his religious beliefs in prison." Kaufman v. McCaughtry, 419 F.3d 678, 681 (7th Cir. 2005) (citing Tarpley v. Allen County, 312 F.23d 895, 898 (7th Cir. 2002)).

The free exercise inquiry asks whether government has placed a substantial burden on the observation of a central religious belief or practice and, if so, whether a compelling governmental interest justifies the burden. It is not within the judicial ken to question the centrality of particular beliefs or practices to a faith, or the validity of particular litigants' ...

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