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Dupree v. Laster

September 19, 2007

CEDRIC DUPREE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
EARLY LASTER, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Herndon, District Judge

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

Presently before the Court is a Report & Recommendation ("R&R") (Doc. 200), issued by Magistrate Judge Proud, recommending that Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 188) be granted in part and denied in part. The Motion was filed on behalf of defendants Laster, Kappler, Snyder, Sutton, Sanford, Waltz, Mote, Hammonds, Walker, Jr., Pierce and Kennell (hereinafter "Defendants"). Plaintiff's Amended Complaint (Doc. 85) alleges claims pursuant to either 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of his First Amendment rights or the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act ("RLUIPA"), as set forth in 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000cc -- 2000cc-5. Defendants have filed timely objections (Doc. 201) regarding various aspects of the R&R and Plaintiff has filed an opposing Response to Defendants' objections (Doc. 202). In considering the objected-to portions of the R&R, the Court finds for the following reasons that its rationale and findings are correct and thus, adopts it in its entirety. The Court, in this Order, also addresses Plaintiff's Motion for Trial Setting (Doc. 203).

II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment was based on the following grounds: (1) Defendants' complained-of actions were based on legitimate penological interests; (2) RLUIPA does not authorize monetary damages against state officials in their individual capacities; (3) defendants Walker and Snyder were not personally involved in the alleged violations; and (4) Plaintiff's claims should be barred as to all Defendants under the doctrine of qualified immunity (Docs. 188 & 189). The R&R addressed each of these grounds.

Regarding the defense that Defendants' actions were based on legitimate penological interests, the R&R found RLUIPA requires that actions taken not only be in furtherance of a compelling government interest, but that they also be the least restrictive means of furthering such interest (Doc. 200, p. 7). Because Defendants failed to show that their actions constituted the least restrictive means of dealing with Plaintiff, summary judgment was not warranted. Next, the R&R agreed with Defendants, finding that RLUIPA did not provide a method for Plaintiff to recover compensatory damages without a prior showing of physical injury and thus, summary judgment in this regard was proper. As to the argument that defendants Snyder and Walker were not personally involved in any of the alleged events, the R&R first noted defendant Snyder was no longer a party to the suit, by way of the Court's September 27, 2006 Order (Doc. 165), which adopted in part and vacated in part the R&R regarding Defendants' various Motions to Dismiss. Further, because the R&R found there is no respondeat superior liability under Section 1983, Plaintiff's Sections 1983 claims against defendant Walker should not survive summary judgment, as he was alleged to have merely "endorsed administrative policies" of which Plaintiff complains (Doc. 200, p. 11). However, the R&R found that under RLUIPA, respondeat superior liability is possible and as Defendants did not raise this argument, Plaintiff's remaining RLUIPA claims against defendant Walker should survive summary judgment. Lastly, the R&R found Defendants' qualified immunity defense to be unavailing as their basic "ignorance of the law" argument typically never suffices (Id. at 12).

Defendants state two main objections (Doc. 201) to the overall findings and recommendation by Judge Proud, arguing their actions dealing with Plaintiff's behavior during religious services while incarcerated were legitimate and therefore warrant summary judgment, and that RLUIPA does not authorize individual capacity claims for monetary damages. Although, as Plaintiff keenly observes, Defendants' objections to the R&R seem merely "cursory," they will still be addressed by the Court.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Legal Standard

1. De Novo Review

Because Plaintiff filed timely objections to the R&R, the Court must undertake de novo review of the objected-to portions of the R&R. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B); FED. R. CIV. P. 72(b); SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS LOCAL RULE 73.1(b); Govas v. Chalmers, 965 F.2d 298, 301 (7th Cir. 1992). The Court may "accept, reject, or modify the recommended decision." Willis v. Caterpillar Inc., 199 F.3d 902, 904 (7th Cir. 1999). In making this determination, the Court must look at all the evidence contained in the record and give fresh consideration to those issues to which specific objection have been made. Id. However, the portions of an R&R to which the parties have not objected can be adopted by the Court without a de novo review, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b). See Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 149-52 (1985).

2. Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is appropriate under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure when "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 a judgment as a matter of law." FED.R.CIV.P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The movant bears the burden of establishing the absence of factual issues and entitlement to judgment as a matter of law. Wollin v. Gondert, 192 F.3d 616, 621-22 (7th Cir. 1999). The Court must consider the entire record, drawing reasonable inferences and resolving factual disputes in favor of the non-movant. Schneiker v. Fortis Ins. Co., 200 F.3d 1055, 1057 (7th Cir. 2000); Baron v. City of Highland Park, 195 F.3d 333, 337-38 (7th Cir. 1999). In response to a motion for summary judgment, the non-movant may not simply rest on the allegations as stated in the pleadings. Rather, the ...


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