The opinion of the court was delivered by: J. Phil Gilbert District Judge
This matter comes before the Court on the motion for summary judgment filed by defendants Charles Gilkey, Francisco Quintana, Norvell Meadors, Pete Pottios, Keith Chambers, Darlene Veltri, Sara M. Revell and Amber L. Nelson (Doc. 48). Plaintiff Thedell Doss has filed a response (Doc. 50), to which the defendants have replied (Doc. 51). Plaintiff Judy Ann McCarroll Doss has not responded to the subject motion.
During the relevant time period, from May 1, 2002, through July 20, 2005, plaintiff Thedell Doss and his putative wife, plaintiff Judy Ann McCarroll Doss were both inmates at the federal detention facilities in Greenville, Illinois. Mr. Doss was housed in the correctional institution -- the prison -- until February 2006, when he was released. Mrs. Doss was housed in the prison camp but is now imprisoned at FCI Waseca, in Minnesota.
The plaintiffs allege that the defendant prison officials failed to recognize their Cook County, Illinois, May 1991 Islamic marriage, as well as a subsequent 2002 Islamic marriage performed while they were incarcerated at Greenville, in Bond County, Illinois. The plaintiffs were permitted to correspond for a period of time prior to 2002, until prison officials questioned whether the plaintiffs were actually and/or legally married. Certificate or no certificate, the fact of the marriage was called into question, and defendants perceived Mrs. Doss may have been a bigamist. Prison officials determined that the plaintiffs' marriages were not "legal." Therefore, the defendant prison officials did not afford Mr. and Mrs. Doss the "spousal exemption" to the rule that inmates are not permitted to correspond with one another. See 28 C.F.R. § 540.17. Mrs. Doss apparently divorced her then-husband and the plaintiffs were permitted to correspond for a few months, until November 2005, when their communications were again restricted, but purportedly for content-based reasons.
The plaintiffs filed this lawsuit in February 2006. Count 1 of the complaint alleges that the defendants discriminated against the plaintiffs in violation of the Equal Protection Clause. Count 2 alleges the defendants denied plaintiffs due process, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.
II. The Issues and Arguments
The defendants make the following arguments for summary judgment:
1. Mrs. Doss failed to exhaust administrative remedies as required by 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a); therefore her claims should be dismissed without prejudice; and
2. The defendants are entitled to qualified immunity relative to Mr and Mrs. Doss's claims for damages because:
a. Their conduct did not violate a constitutional right:
1. Correspondence was denied based on a rule of general applicability, not due to religious or other impermissible animus, so there can be no viable equal protection claim; and
2. There is no liberty or property interest in inmate-to-inmate correspondence, so there can be no due process violation; and
b. Any right that was violated was not clearly established.
As noted above, Mrs. Doss has not responded to the subject motion. Mr. Doss counters that:
1. His grievances, which were fully exhausted, should suffice for Mrs. Doss; and
2. The defendants are not entitled to qualified immunity because:
a. The plaintiffs were married in 1991, as confirmed by the opinion of the Bond County Clerk, and again married in 2002, in a ceremony witnessed by Greenville prison officials and as documented by a second Islamic marriage certificate;
b. There was no bigamy by Mrs. Doss because her previous marriage was invalid because it was bigamous (on the part of the husband); and
c. The defendants substantively and procedurally misapplied the applicable prison regulations, thereby evincing the defendants' discriminatory intent and denial of due process.
At this juncture, the relevant evidence is as follows:
1. The defendants do not dispute that plaintiff produced a 1991 Islamic marriage certificate (Doc. 48, pp. 3-4).
2. On October 19, 1992, the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri sentenced Mr. Doss to 200 months on a drug charge (Doc. 48-2, pp. 14-17).
3. Mr. Doss's Pre-Sentence Report indicates Mr. Doss was divorced from Patricia Parram; and he and Kathleen Dorsey had been living together in Kansas City, MO, and described themselves as non-blood related cousins, with no sexual relationship; however, the investigator ...