The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joe Billy Mcdade Senior United States District Judge
Monday, 28 February, 2011 10:25:54 AM
Clerk, U.S. District Court, ILCD
The plaintiff, currently incarcerated in Danville Correctional Center, alleges that he was denied an adequate religious diet during his incarceration at Hill Correctional Center.*fn1 The defendants move for summary judgment, which, for the reasons below, will be granted in part and denied in part, leaving for trial only the First Amendment religious practice claim against Defendant Rundle, the dietary manager at Hill Correctional Center.
SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD
Summary judgment is mandated "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). At the summary judgment stage, evidence is viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and material factual disputes are resolved in the non-movant's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986); Beraha v. Baxter Health Corp., 956 F.2d 1436, 1440 (7th Cir. 1992). The party moving for summary judgment has the burden of demonstrating that no disputed material fact exists. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). This burden can be satisfied by "'showing'--that is, pointing out to the district court--that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325. If the movant satisfies this burden, the non-movant must then"set out specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial," rather than resting on allegations and pleadings. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)(2).
This case concerns the plaintiff's incarceration in Hill Correctional Center from 2008 to September, 2010, when he was transferred to Danville Correctional Center.
The plaintiff is a practicing African Hebrew Israelite, a religion which requires him to be a strict vegan. That means that he must refrain from eating animal product or byproducts, including "meat, dairy products, eggs or any products made from or with any part of an animal." (d/e 61-5). (Aff. of Suzann Griswold ¶ 3).*fn2
There is a master vegan menu circulated to all adult IDOC prisons, which has been created for the IDOC by Suzann Griswold, a registered dietitian who works as the food service administrator for IDOC. (Griswold Aff. ¶¶ 1-2). The plaintiff does not dispute that the master vegan menus "are designed to ensure that recipients receive a nutritionally adequate vegan diet that offers approximately 2300-2500 calories per day." (Griswold Aff. ¶ 4). According to Ms. Griswold, "The Food Service Managers at individual facilities are directed to serve the food items and portion sizes as indicated in the vegan menu. However, occasional substitutions of food items that meet necessary dietary restrictions may become necessary due to the unavailability of certain food items." (Griswold Aff. ¶ 6).
The plaintiff does not appear to dispute that the master vegan menu complies with his religious tenets and provides adequate nutrition. He does contend that fresh fruits and vegetables should be provided, along with brewer's yeast, sesame seeds, black strap molasses, parsley, kelp, wheat germ, bean sprouts, and whole grains. (see d/e 61-2, p. 3). However, there is no evidence that the lack of these items makes the master menu nutritionally inadequate. The menu may not be as palatable or varied as it could be, but that is not the standard. The Constitution requires prisons to "'provid[e] nutritionally adequate food that is prepared and served under conditions which do not present an immediate danger to the health and well being of the inmates who consume it.'" French v. Owens, 777 F.2d 1250, 1255 (7th Cir. 1985), quoting Ramos v. Lamm, 639 F.2d 559, 570-71 (10th Cir. 1980); see also Board v. Farnham, 394 F.3d 469, 482 (7th Cir. 2005)("requiring that prisoners and pre-trial detainees receive a nutritionally adequate diet assists one in combating illness and contributes to the prevention of future health problems.")(citation omitted); Lunsford v. Bennett, 17 F.3d 1574, 1580 (7th Cir. 1994)("'A well-balanced meal, containing sufficient nutritional value to preserve health, is all that is required.'")(quoting Smith v. Sullivan, 553 F.2d 373, 380 (5th Cir. 1977). Thus, on this record, the Court finds as an undisputed fact that the IDOC master vegan menu is nutritionally and calorically adequate, if followed, and also complies with the plaintiff's religious tenets.
The primary factual dispute seems to be whether the master vegan menu was actually followed at Hill Correctional Center. The plaintiff maintains that the master menu was regularly not followed. (d/e 61, p. 2).In particular, he and other inmates aver that animal byproducts such as "milk solids, whey, beef type gelatine, and turkey meat" were substituted for the vegan items listed on the master menu. (d/e 61, p. 2). He contends that the "defendants deliberately ordered inmate cooks to prepare and serve soy crumbles mixed with ground turkey meat, wheat bread that contained whey, mashed potatoes that contained milk solids and jello that contained beef type gelatine." (d/e 61, p. 5).*fn3
Inmate Alzonta Magee avers that he worked as a vegan diet cook at Hill during part of the relevant time*fn4 and "was ordered almost daily by dietary supervisor Jeff Carson, James Rundle, Richard Gerald and [illegible] to prepare food for the vegan trays that was infused with animal byproducts such as mashed potatoes that contained milk solids, wheat bread that contained whey and soy bits that were mixed with ground turkey meat." (d/e 61-4, p. 8, ¶ 2). Magee avers that he informed the supervisors that these foods contained animal byproducts, and, in response, the supervisors (including Defendant Rundle) told him to serve the food or be fired. Id. at ¶ 3. He also avers that the supervisors (including Rundle) ordered him to serve half-portions to the vegans, to cook the vegan meals in dirty pots and pans that contained dried-on meat and grease, and never to serve the vegans fresh vegetables. Id. at ¶¶ 5-7. Magee avers that he asked the supervisors (including Rundle) why the vegan food was prepared in this way, and the supervisors responded that "they wanted to get a lot of the vegans to stop receiving vegan trays because there were too many vegans on the diet list." Id. at ¶ 8. The plaintiff filed affidavits from other inmates to the same effect. Many of those affidavits do not mention Rundle by name, but it appears undisputed that Rundle was the dietary manager in charge, and thus an inference arises that the other food supervisors were acting at Rundle's direction. (Rundle Aff. ¶
1).*fn5 *fn6 One inmate, Joseph Moore, avers that Rundle "told [him] personally while Albert Boyd  was present that the conditions of the vegan diet would remain poor until the inmates who are on the vegan diet stop writing grievances on the diet." (d/e 61-8, p. 3, ¶ 9).
In the merit review order, Judge Baker identified a potential First Amendment claim, and possible claims under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) and the Illinois Religious Freedom and Restoration Act (IRFRA). In October, 2010, the case was ...