United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Corpus Christi Division
Tagle, Senior United States District Judge
Court is in receipt of Defendant Elizabeth Cordova’s
(“Cordova”) Motion for Summary Judgment, Dkt. No.
36; Plaintiff’s Response to Defendant Cordova’s
Motion for Summary Judgment, Dkt. Nos. 40, 41, 42; the
Magistrate Judge’s Memorandum and Recommendation
(“M&R”), Dkt. No. 47; and Plaintiff’s
Objections to the M&R, Dkt. No. 49.
independently reviewing the filings, the record, and
applicable law, the Court ADOPTS IN PART and
DECLINES TO ADOPT IN PART the M&R, Dkt.
No. 47, for the reasons below.
Court adopts Magistrate Judge Jason B. Libby’s
description of the procedural background and
Plaintiff David Hayman [“Hayman”] is a Texas
inmate appearing pro se and in forma
pauperis. In this prisoner civil rights action,
Plaintiff claims [that] prison officials’ taking from
his possession several religious items violated his
constitutional rights as well as his rights under the
Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act
(RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc, et seq. . . .
Plaintiff is a prisoner in the Texas Department of Criminal
Justice, Criminal Institutions Division (TDCJ-CID) and is
currently housed at the McConnell Unit in Beeville, Texas. He
is currently serving a twenty-five-year sentence entered on
February 29, 2008 for a conviction out of Wichita County,
The facts giving rise to Plaintiff’s claims in this
case occurred in connection with his current assignment to
the McConnell Unit.
Plaintiff’s claims arise in connection with McConnell
Unit officials taking from his possession several religious
items related to his Native American faith. Plaintiff named
the following McConnell Unit prison officials as defendants
in his original complaint: (1) Lieutenant C. Garcia; (2)
Assistant Warden Corey Furr; (3) Officer Medardo Villarreal
[“Villarreal”]; (4) Disciplinary Hearing Officer
(DHO) Christopher Pauly; and (5) Officer Cordova. (D.E. 1, p.
3). Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief in the form of return
of all religious items unlawfully seized. (D.E. 1, p. 4).
A Spears hearing was conducted on October 25, 2017.
On November 17, 2017, the undersigned issued a Memorandum and
Recommendation (M&R), recommending that Plaintiff’s
complaint be dismissed for failure to state a claim and/or as
frivolous because he had failed to state a cognizable
constitutional claim against any one of the named Defendants.
In his objections to the M&R, Plaintiff argued that he
had also raised RLUIPA claims in his complaint. (D.E. 11, p.
2). After considering Plaintiff’s objections, Senior
United States District Judge Hilda G. Tagle adopted in part
and declined to adopt in part the M&R. (D.E. 15). Judge
Tagle declined to adopt the M&R only to the extent that
Plaintiff’s allegations had stated RLUIPA claims
against Officers Villareal and Cordova in their official
capacities for injunctive relief. (D.E. 15, p. 6). In light
of Judge Tagle’s order, the undersigned directed
service of Plaintiff’s complaint on Officers Villareal
and Cordova. (D.E. 16).
On June 22, 2018, Officer Cordova filed her answer. (D.E.
21). That same day, the Office of the Attorney General (OAG)
advised the Court that Officer Villareal was no longer
employed with the TDCJ. (D.E. 22). On June 25, 2018, the
undersigned granted the OAG’s motion to place Officer
Villareal’s last known address under seal. (D.E. 24).
Officer Villareal, however, has not been served with the
On December 19, 2018, Officer Cordova filed a Motion for
Summary Judgment. (D.E. 36). Plaintiff has filed a response
along with a Statement of Undisputed Facts and Genuine
Disputes. (D.E. 40, 41).
Dkt. No. 47 at 1–3. On July 8, 2019, Magistrate Judge
Libby published the M&R, Dkt. No. 47. On July 29, 2019,
Plaintiff filed his objections to the M&R. Dkt. No. 49.
Court adopts the M&R’s legal standard on summary
Summary judgment is proper if there is no genuine issue as to
any material fact and the moving party is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A genuine
issue exists “if the evidence is such that a reasonable
jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.”
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248
(1986). The Court must examine “whether the evidence
presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a
jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must
prevail as a matter of law.” Id. at 251-52.
In making this determination, the Court must consider the
record as a whole by reviewing all pleadings, depositions,
affidavits and admissions on file, and drawing all
justifiable inferences in favor of the party opposing the
motion. Caboni v. Gen. Motors Corp., 278 F.3d 448,
451 (5th Cir. 2002). The Court may not weigh the evidence, or
evaluate the credibility of witnesses. Id.
Furthermore, affidavits or declarations “must be made
on personal knowledge, [shall] set out facts that would be
admissible in evidence, and [shall] show that the affiant or
declarant is competent to testify to the matters
stated.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(4); see also Cormier v.
Pennzoil Exploration & Prod. Co., 969 F.2d 1559,
1561 (5th Cir. 1992) (per curiam) (refusing to consider
affidavits that relied on hearsay statements); Martin v.
John W. Stone Oil Distrib., Inc., 819 F.2d 547, 549 (5th
Cir. 1987) (per curiam) (stating that courts cannot consider
hearsay evidence in affidavits and depositions).
Unauthenticated and unverified documents do not constitute
proper summary judgment evidence. King v. Dogan, 31
F.3d 344, 346 (5th Cir. 1994) (per curiam).
The moving party bears the initial burden of showing the
absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex
Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). If the
moving party demonstrates an absence of evidence supporting
the nonmoving party’s case, then the burden shifts to
the nonmoving party to come forward with specific facts
showing that a genuine issue for trial does exist.
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp.,
475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). To sustain this burden, the
nonmoving party cannot rest on the mere allegations of the
pleadings. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1); Anderson, 477 U.S.
at 248. “After the nonmovant has been given an
opportunity to raise a genuine factual issue, if no
reasonable juror could find for the nonmovant, summary
judgment will be granted.” Caboni, 278 F.3d at
451. “If reasonable minds could differ as to the import
of the evidence . . . a verdict should not be
directed.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250-51.
The evidence must be evaluated under the summary judgment
standard to determine whether the moving party has shown the
absence of a genuine issue of material fact. “[T]he
substantive law will identify which facts are material. Only
disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit
under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of
summary judgment.” Id. at 248.
Dkt. No. 47 at 10–11.
Court adopts the M&R’s legal standard on RLUIPA:
Section 3 of the RLUIPA concerns institutionalized persons
and states: No. government shall impose a substantial burden
on the religious exercise of a person residing in or confined
to an institution as defined in section 1997 of this title,
even if the burden results from a rule of general