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Murphy v. Scott

United States District Court, E.D. Texas, Texarkana Division

May 22, 2018

TIMOTHY MURPHY
v.
TORI SCOTT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER OF DISMISSAL

          CAROLINE M. CRAVEN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff Timothy Murphy, a prisoner of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Correctional Institutions Division (“TDCJ-CID”), filed this civil action complaining of alleged violations of his constitutional rights. The parties have consented to allow the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge to enter final judgment in the proceeding in accordance with 28 U.S.C. 636(c). The sole named defendant is Tori Scott, food service manager at the Telford Unit of TDCJ-CID.

         I. Plaintiff's Complaint

         Plaintiff's statement of claim reads, in its entirety, as follows:

Meat free option, as directed by policy, provides least restrictive means of observance of my Torah Judaism beliefs and practices, insofar as diet. Normally, an offender request to official to a unit kitchen insures provision of meat free sack meals when meat inclusive sack meals are distributed. I posted two such, soon after my 01/2016 transfer to this unit. Such provisions have been in no way met. As recent as 05/2016, Defendant conveyed to laundry supervisor M. Bumdei, for whom I work, that I would continue to be denied meat free sack meals, as I have been since 01/18/16, forcing me to choose between the benefits of my religious convictions and eating - frequently.

         In a Step Two grievance attached to his complaint, Plaintiff stated as follows:

Prison Policy 3.01 states that prison units will make available three (3) non-medical diets: Regular, Pork Free, and Meat Free.
The Telford Unit inventory makes provisions for peanut butter sandwiches to be served to Diets For Health with very nearly every sack meal and cheese sandwiches to those with peanut allergies. Telford inventory also permits the entire population a serving of cold cereal one very nearly every day during extended lockdown periods and prunes, raisins, and/or dried cherries. Thus, the inventory does in fact include provisions for the exceedingly few vegetarian practitioners.
As a Jew, the meat free diet option provides me with the least restrictive means of adhering to kosher food laws practical [sic] during my period of incarceration, as well as health-based dietary choices.
The response by Food Service Manager II S. Cullum (and personal experience by myself) strongly indicate an effort will be made to provide meat free sack meals of comparable nutritional and caloric value as meat inclusive sack meals during distribution of meat inclusive sack meals. I have been, following the submission of grievance #2016091123, still under the burden of extortion/coercion by the Food Service Department of TO Unit to violate my religious beliefs and personal choice or to not eat by its failure to provide me with meat free sack meals as stated/defined in “Action Requested” and jeopardize my health by means of continued denials of meals (sack).

         The response to this grievance appeal reads as follows:

An investigation was conducted into your allegations. Food Services Procedures Manual 19.01 states this was within policy. Every effort is made when sack meals are provided for meat free and medical sack meals. No further action is warranted by this office.

         For relief, Plaintiff requests an order for the Telford Unit kitchen to provide him with appropriate food, compensatory damages in the form of court costs, nominal damages in the amount of $1.00, and punitive damages of $500.00.

         II. Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment

         In his motion for summary judgment (Docket No. 32), Plaintiff asserts Defendant Scott, food service manager at the Telford Unit, violated his First Amendment right to free exercise of religion by failing to provide him with sack meals which are not prohibited by his religious beliefs. He also invokes the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”).

         After discussing the legal standards set out by RLUIPA and stating his Jewish faith is recognized by TDCJ-CID, Murphy explains the proper preparation of kosher meats and states Jewish tradition includes a tradition of vegetarianism when kosher meats are unavailable. Plaintiff acknowledges TDCJ-CID policy makes provisions for meat-free meals and every effort shall be made to provide meat-free and medical sack meals when sack meals are provided.

         Plaintiff states the response to his grievance no. 20160197007 advised him if he chose to eat a meat free meal, he should request one from the officer on the pod. Although the response to Step One grievance no. 2016178786 quotes Defendant Scott as stating meat free sack meals are provided when sack meals are required, Plaintiff notes the response to Step One grievance no. 2017024440 advised him according to Defendant Scott, he was not on the list for meat free meals.

         Plaintiff argues under RLUIPA, a substantial burden on a person's exercise of religion may be done only in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest. He contends no additional burden would be placed on the food service department to provide him with a meat-free sack meal because meat-free sack meals are routinely provided to other prisoners. Plaintiff maintains the Defendant Scott is not entitled to qualified immunity because his right to a diet consistent with his religious beliefs is clearly established under RLUIPA.

         As summary judgment evidence, Plaintiff attaches three grievances from the Allred Unit (Docket No. 32-1, pp. 1, 3, and 9) indicating his name had been submitted for lay-ins to observe Jewish holy days and prisoners can request meat free meals from the officer on the pod. He also attaches a pamphlet concerning kosher foods (Docket No. 32-1, p. 6), although it is not clear who wrote this pamphlet or where it originated.

         Plaintiff also attaches grievance no. 2016091123 (Docket No. 32-1, p. 12) asking about sack meals, to which the response, dated March 22, 2016, stated information received from Food Service Manager II S. Cullum revealed the Telford Unit inventory does not allow for meat free sack meals during lockdowns. In grievance no. 2016178986 (Docket No. 32-1, p. 16), Plaintiff complains of sack meals on July 10 and July 17, 2016, when he was told no meat substitutes were available. The response to this grievance, dated August 2, 2016, stated according to Food Service Manager IV Captain Scott, meat free sack meals are provided when sack meals are required.

         In grievance no. 2017024440 (Docket No. 32-1, p. 18), Plaintiff complained on September 9, 2016, the lunch and dinner sack meals had two meat items, and the distributing officer told him no meat-free meals had been provided. On September 10, 2016, the dinner meal had two meat items. The distributing officer told him no meat-free sack meals had been provided. On September 11, 2016, the lunch and dinner meals consisted of two meat items. The distributing officer told him no meat-free sack meals had been provided, and she would not call for a meat-free diet for him because he was not on the list for a medical diet. The response to this grievance, dated November 2, 2016, stated information received from Food Service Manager Scott revealed he was not on the list for meat free meals.

         Next, Plaintiff attaches a response from Nurse Practitioner Jammie Barker stating the medical department does not do meat-free diets, but instead Plaintiff must talk to the chaplain. (Docket No. 32-1. p. 20). He sent a request to the chaplain asking if a list was maintained of prisoners whose religious practices included dietary restrictions, and the response stated no such ...


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