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Givens v. Vaughn

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

May 16, 2017




         1. Introduction

         This matter is currently before the Court on Defendants' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Doc. 43). Levail Givens, an inmate incarcerated at Lawrence Correctional Center (“Lawrence”), filed the present lawsuit, acting pro se. Plaintiff Givens alleges that Defendants, who are officials at Lawrence and with the Illinois Department of Corrections, violated certain rights afforded him by the United States Constitution and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”). Specifically, he alleges he has been precluded from practicing certain aspects of his Hebrew Israelite religion.

         In their Motion for Partial Summary Judgment Defendants assert that, as to some of his claims, Plaintiff has failed to exhaust his administrative remedies prior to filing suit as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act. Plaintiff has filed a response, and this matter is ripe for disposition. As discussed below, the Court finds that Plaintiff has exhausted his administrative remedies as to his kosher diet claims, but has not exhausted as to any Hebrew Israelite ceremonies specifically referenced in his grievances. Defendants' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Doc. 43) is therefore GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

         2. Factual and Procedural Background

         a. Factual Background

         On December 19, 2014, Plaintiff Givens filed an institutional grievance at Lawrence, seeking the establishment of Hebrew Israelite services within Lawrence (Doc. 60-1, p. 4). Plaintiff sought the establishment of Hebrew Israelite services, and not African Hebrew Israelite services, which he asserted are different (Id. at 4 - 5). In the grievance, Plaintiff detailed his attempts to obtain such services, to no avail, and claimed discrimination on the part of Defendant Chaplain Keim, and others, in not allowing for Hebrew Israelite services (Id.).

         The December 19 grievance was received by Plaintiff's counselor on December 30, 2014, and a response was issued the same day (Id. at 4). Though no Grievance Office response is in the record, the grievance appears to have been given a number by the Lawrence Grievance Office (See id.). There is no record of an appeal to the Administrative Review Board (“ARB”) or ARB response, however.

         Then, on December 23, 2014, Plaintiff submitted two more grievances. In the first grievance, Plaintiff again complained that he was unable to establish Hebrew Israelite services, and among the relief requested, he asked that Hebrew Israelite services be provided once a week (Id. at 6). Plaintiff also attached a documented entitled “First Amendment Religious Proposal” to this grievance (Id. at 7, 8). In the proposal, he requested weekly Hebrew Israelite services on Saturdays (Id. at 8).

         In the second December 23 grievance, Plaintiff again complained of the lack of Hebrew Israelite services, as well as, a specific incident with Defendant Vaughn, and alleged that the refusal to establish Hebrew Israelite services was in retaliation for Plaintiff filing grievances (Id. at 9 - 10). As with the December 19 grievance, there is no indication of an appeal of, or ARB response to, the December 23 grievances.

         Plaintiff fired off another grievance on January 30, 2015, this time grieving not receiving a kosher diet (Doc. 44-2, p. 1). In that grievance, among other things, Plaintiff indicated that he was a member of the Hebrew Israelite faith, and that on January 30, 2015 he had been taken off of a kosher diet that he had been receiving for the previous four years (Id. at 2). He further elaborated that his faith requires him to “eat a kosher diet in compliance with the Hebrews Towrah…. (Id.).” Among the relief requested, Plaintiff asked that he “be placed back on my diet, Kosher. (Id. at 1)”.

         Plaintiff's counselor received the grievance on February 3, 2015 and issued a response on March 30, 2015 (Id.). The counselor indicated that Plaintiff was no longer receiving a kosher diet per the IDOC Chief Chaplain (Id.). The Lawrence Grievance Office received the January 30 grievance on April 9, 2015, and it was reviewed on June 16, 2015 (Id. at 4). The Grievance Office recommended that the grievance be denied. (Id.). The warden concurred on June 18, 2015, and Plaintiff appealed his grievance to the ARB on July 7, 2015 (Id.). The January 30 grievance, which was numbered by the Grievance Office as “04-15-75”, was received by the ARB on July 14, 2015, and the ARB denied the appeal on February 8, 2016 (Id. at 3, 4).

         On July 15, 2015, Plaintiff filed a grievance seeking Sabbath day services and ceremonies, a ceremony for the Memorial Blowing of the Trumpets, and a Day of Atonement Ceremony (Doc. 44-3, p. 4 - 5). Attached to the grievance was a document entitled “Religious Service and Ceremonies at the Lawrence Corr. Ctr. for the Hebrew Israelites' Congregation. (Id. at 6). In this document, Plaintiff laid out in specific detail his request for Sabbath services on Saturdays, a Memorial Blowing of the Trumpets ceremony, and a Day of Atonement ceremony associated with Yom Kippur (Id. at 7 - 10). Plaintiff's counselor responded to the grievance the next day, on July 16, 2015 (Id. at 4). Plaintiff also filed a similar grievance on July 16, 2015, also seeking Sabbath services and the Day of Atonement and Memorial Blowing of Trumpets ceremonies (Id. at 2 - 3). The counselor responded to that grievance on July 17, 2015 (Id. at 2).

         The Grievance Office responded to both July 2015 grievances on September 23, 2015, recommending denial, and the warden concurred on September 24, 2015 (Id. at 11). Plaintiff appealed the July 2015 grievances to the ARB on ...

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