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Hayman v. Villarreal

United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Corpus Christi Division

September 27, 2019

DAVID HAYMAN, Plaintiff,
MEDARDO VILLARREAL, et al, Defendants.


          Hilda Tagle, Senior United States District Judge

         The 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.

         After 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.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The Court adopts Magistrate Judge Jason B. Libby’s description of the procedural background and Plaintiff’s allegations:

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, Texas.
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[1] 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. (D.E. 10).
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 complaint.
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.


         a. Summary Judgment

         The Court adopts the M&R’s legal standard on summary judgment:

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.

         b. RLUIPA

         The 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 applicability, ...

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