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Case Name Heard v. Finco PC-MI-0042
Docket / Court 1:13-cv-00373-GJQ-HWB ( W.D. Mich. )
Additional Docket(s) 14-02195  [ 14-2195 ]
2:13-cv-11342  [ 13-11342 ]
State/Territory Michigan
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Special Collection DOJ Civil Rights Division Statements of Interest
Case Summary
On March 26, 2013, several Muslim prisoners of the Lakeland Correctional Facility (LCF) filed this lawsuit pro se in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan. The plaintiffs sued the Deputy Director of the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC), the dietician and food service ... read more >
On March 26, 2013, several Muslim prisoners of the Lakeland Correctional Facility (LCF) filed this lawsuit pro se in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan. The plaintiffs sued the Deputy Director of the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC), the dietician and food service manager of the prison, and the Special Activity Coordinator of MDOC, all under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA). The plaintiffs sought declaratory and injunctive relief as well as damages and attorneys’ fees and costs. The case was assigned to District Judge Gordon J. Quist and Magistrate Judge Hugh W. Brenneman, Jr.

The plaintiffs claimed that MDOC violated their First and Eighth Amendment rights by failing to provide adequate nourishment to accommodate the plaintiffs’ fasting period during the 2011 and 2012 Ramadan seasons. Thus, the plaintiffs claimed, MDOC burdened the plaintiffs’ exercise of religion and inflicting cruel and unusual punishment. They also alleged that MDOC did not treat a Jewish inmate in the same way during his fasting period.

On June 14, 2013, the plaintiffs filed a motion for a preliminary injunction, asking that the court require the defendants to provide the plaintiffs with adequate meals during the 2013 Ramadan period. On July 8, 2013, Judge Quist denied this motion because the plaintiffs failed to demonstrate irreparable harm. The court pointed to the MDOC dietitian's testimony which stated that, at most, the Ramadan meals to be provided would be 250 calories under the required amount for prisoners in a day. In a subsequent order of clarification, the court said that the reason plaintiffs did not show irreparable harm was only because of the dietitian's testimony. Despite reaffirming the denial of the plaintiffs’ motion, the order of clarification required MDOC to provide a minimum of 2,350 calories per day during the 2013 Ramadan period.

On July 31, 2013, the defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiffs had not exhausted their administrative remedies before bringing this lawsuit. The plaintiffs filed a cross-motion for summary judgment and the court stayed discovery pending resolution of the motions.

On July 31, 2013, the plaintiffs filed a motion for contempt on the ground that the actual 2013 Ramadan meals provided approximately 600 fewer calories than the defendants had represented in their answer to the complaint. On April 29, 2014, the court found the defendants in contempt of court, agreeing with the prisoners that the state had provided the plaintiffs with unduly limited calories during Ramadan, contrary to the defendants’ own representations to the court and the court's order. The court ordered the defendants to pay $200 to each plaintiff.

On February 25, 2014, the magistrate judge filed a report and recommendation regarding the cross-motions for summary judgment, recommending that the court grant defendants’ motion, deny the plaintiffs’ cross-motion, and dismiss the case. His report argued that the plaintiffs failed to properly exhaust their administrative remedies and that the claims were barred by the statute of limitations. 2014 WL 1347436.

Eighth Amendment Claims
On March 31, 2014, the court granted summary judgment against the prisoners, dismissing their Eighth Amendment claims. On May 12, 2014, however, the plaintiffs filed a motion for reconsideration of this decision, which Judge Quist granted on August 15, 2014, reinstating the Eighth Amendment claim. The defendants appealed this reinstatement to the Sixth Circuit. In an unpublished opinion, the Sixth Circuit affirmed the court’s order reinstating the plaintiffs' Eighth Amendment claims, finding that there was a genuine issue of material fact regarding whether the plaintiffs’ restricted diets during the Ramadan fasts violated a clearly established right.

RLUIPA Claims
Judge Quist partially agreed with Magistrate Judge Brenneman’s recommendation when on March 31, 2014 he dismissed the plaintiffs’ request for preliminary injunctive relief and their Eighth Amendment claims. However, he reversed the Magistrate Judge’s other recommendations and held that the plaintiffs could proceed on their First Amendment and RLUIPA claims. He said that the claims were not barred by the statute of limitations, that the defendants had not shown that the plaintiffs had failed to exhaust their administrative remedies, and that MDOC was not entitled to qualified immunity because it was a genuine issue of fact whether MDOC provided the plaintiffs with sufficient nutrition in Ramadan 2011 and 2012. 2014 WL 1347432.

On May 13, 2014, the defendants filed a motion for partial summary judgment as to the plaintiffs’ 2011 and 2012 Ramadan claims. Magistrate Judge Brenneman filed a report and recommendation regarding this motion, recommending that the court dismiss all the plaintiffs’ Ramadan 2011 claims and the plaintiffs’ Ramadan 2012 claim for lack of exhaustion. 2015 WL 3936315.

On June 26, 2015, partially agreeing with Judge Brenneman, Judge Quist granted in part and denied in part the defendants’ motion for partial summary judgment, dismissing some of the plaintiffs’ Ramadan 2011 claims but retaining one Ramadan 2011 claim and all Ramadan 2012 claims. 2015 WL 3936395. On July 9, 2015, the plaintiffs filed a motion for reconsideration of this order. Judge Quist granted this motion and reinstated the 2011 Ramadan claims because the plaintiff showed that his exhausted grievance for Ramadan 2010 properly exhausted his Ramadan 2011 claim.

The Second Preliminary Injunction
On May 28, 2014, the plaintiffs filed a second motion for a preliminary injunction. The plaintiffs asked the court to order the defendants to provide 2,900 calories per day during the 2014 Ramadan period. Citing the defendants’ failure to comply with the court’s order of clarification for the 2013 Ramadan period, the plaintiffs also requested that the court appoint a monitor to ensure that the defendants comply with their legal obligation to provide the plaintiffs adequate nutrition during the 2014 Ramadan period. On June 27, 2014, the Court agreed with the defendants' position that providing prisoners participating in the Ramadan fast an average of 2,350 calories per day over a two-week period, rather than providing at least 2,350 calories every day, was consistent with sound nutritional practices and would not adversely affect prisoners’ health. Judge Quist ordered the defendants to provide the court a copy of the 2014 Ramadan menu and, on a weekly basis, a sworn statement from a representative at LCF confirming that the plaintiffs were served the food items listed on the 2014 Ramadan menu. 2014 WL 2920479.

On June 20, 2014, the United States filed a statement of interest. The United States expressed interest in whether Michigan prison officials were substantially burdening the exercise of religion in violation of the RLUIPA if they were found to provide inadequate nutrition to prisoners observing Ramadan. If the officials were inflicting a substantial burden, the United States was interested in what remedies were needed to ensure that Michigan officials comply with RLUIPA.

On September 2, 2014, the plaintiffs filed a second motion for contempt, this time for the defendants’ failure to provide the plaintiffs an average of 2,350 calories per day over a two-week cycle during the 2014 Ramadan period. In another victory for the plaintiffs, Judge Quist granted this motion on May 4, 2015.

The court appointed a pro bono attorney from the Michigan State University Law School Civil Rights Clinic for the plaintiffs on July 2, 2015. Shortly thereafter, this case was reassigned to Magistrate Judge Ray Kent from Magistrate Judge Brenneman on August 1, 2015. In November 2015, the plaintiffs filed a motion for leave to file a supplemental complaint adding claims for Ramadan 2013 and 2014. Those claims were substantially the same as the claims in the original complaint but also added a Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection claim based on MDOC’s differential treatment of a Jewish inmate during his fasting period and a civil conspiracy claim alleging that MDOC had conspired to provide the plaintiffs with fewer calories than required by MDOC guidelines and the court’s previous orders because plaintiffs were Muslim. The court granted the motion on April 14, 2016, and the new claims were added to the previous ones.

On July 30, 2016, the plaintiffs filed a motion for summary judgment as to the constitutional and statutory claims during the 2011 and 2012 Ramadan fasting, arguing that the plaintiffs were fed only 1600 calories per day. However, on August 11, 2016, the defendants filed a joint stipulation with the plaintiffs in which the plaintiffs agreed to voluntarily dismiss their claims for injunctive and monetary relief based on the RLUIPA. Soon after, Judge Quist granted this proposed order, but the plaintiffs’ Eighth Amendment, First Amendment, and Fourteenth Amendment claims remained. Then, the defendants filed another motion for partial summary judgment on August 17, 2016. The defendants sought summary judgment in their favor on the grounds that the defendants were entitled to qualified immunity because the law was not clearly established.

On November 4, 2016, Judge Kent filed a report and recommendation with the court regarding the plaintiffs’ July, 30, 2016 motion for summary judgment and the defendants’ August 17, 2016 motion for partial summary judgment, recommending that the court deny all of these motions because factual uncertainties remained. Judge Kent also recommended that the court grant the defendants’ motion as to the plaintiffs’ equal protection claim and the plaintiffs’ 2014 Ramadan claims against the prison’s dietitian based on his lack of personal involvement; and deny the defendants’ motion with regard to the plaintiffs’ Ramadan 2013 conspiracy claim but grant the defendants' motion with regard to the 2014 Ramadan conspiracy claim.

On February 16, 2017, Judge Quist partially agreed with Judge Kent, saying that there were still triable issues of fact that precluded summary judgment on the plaintiffs' Ramadan 2011 and 2012 claims. However, he dismissed the plaintiffs’ claims based on Ramadan 2013 and 2014 because the defendants were entitled to qualified immunity. 2017 WL 631600. The parties met for a settlement conference on June 8, 2017, but they could not reach a settlement. After some rescheduling, the court set trial for October 2, 2018.

The parties went to a jury trial on October 2, 2018 and the trial lasted three days. At the conclusion of the plaintiffs’ proofs, defendants moved for judgment as a matter of law and the court took the motion under advisement. The defendants again moved for judgment as a matter of law at the conclusion of trial. This time, the plaintiffs agreed to dismiss the MDOC Deputy Director from the case, leaving the dietician as the sole defendant.

The jury returned a verdict for the plaintiffs. The damages against the remaining defendant totaled $3,900, consisting of $150 in actual damages and $500 in punitive damages per plaintiff for each month of Ramadan included in the claims. The defendant renewed his motion for judgment as a matter of law after hearing the jury verdict, but the District Court denied it. After hearing the verdict, the plaintiffs moved for a new trial as to damages for their First Amendment claim, but the Court denied their motion on November 7, 2018.

On November 27, 2018, the plaintiffs appealed the decision to deny their motion for a new trial as to damages for their First Amendment claim. The case was added to the docket of the Sixth Circuit a day later. The issue is pending on appeal.

The plaintiffs filed a motion for expenses on December 12, 2018 and as of March 17, 2019, that motion was still pending in the District Court.

The case is ongoing.

Jake Parker - 05/31/2018
Nathan Santoscoy - 04/19/2019


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Equal Protection
Free Exercise Clause
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief denied
Defendant-type
Corrections
Discrimination-basis
Religion discrimination
General
Food service / nutrition / hydration
Language/ethnic/minority needs
Religious programs / policies
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
Ex Parte Young (Federal) or Bivens
Religious Freedom Rest. Act/Religious Land Use and Inst. Persons Act (RFRA/RLUIPA)
Defendant(s) Michigan Department of Corrections
Plaintiff Description Muslim Inmates at Lakeland Correctional Facility who wished to fast for Ramadan.
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se Yes
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Damages
Source of Relief Litigation
Filing Year 2013
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
  Civil Rights Injunctions Over Time: A Case Study of Jail and Prison Court Orders
N.Y.U. Law Review
Date: May 2006
By: Margo Schlanger (Washington University Faculty)
Citation: 81 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 550 (2006)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ] [ External Link ]

  Judicial Policy Making and the Modern State: How the Courts Reformed America's Prisons
Book
Date: Jan. 1, 1998
By: Malcolm M. Feeley & Edward Rubin (UC Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law & Vanderbilt School of Law Faculty Faculty)
Citation: (1998)
[ Detail ]

Docket(s)
1:13-cv-00373-GJQ-RSK (W.D. Mich.)
PC-MI-0042-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/10/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Civil Action Complaint [ECF# 1]
PC-MI-0042-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/26/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion and Order Denying Plaintiff's Motion for Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 21] (W.D. Mich.)
PC-MI-0042-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/08/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Report and Recommendation [ECF# 56] (2014 WL 1347436) (W.D. Mich.)
PC-MI-0042-0004.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 02/25/2014
Source: Westlaw
Memorandum Order Adopting in Part and Rejecting in Part Report and Recommendation [ECF# 59] (2014 WL 1347432) (W.D. Mich.)
PC-MI-0042-0005.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 03/31/2014
Source: Westlaw
Order of Contempt [ECF# 70] (W.D. Mich.)
PC-MI-0042-0007.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/29/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Statement of Interest of the United States [ECF# 98]
PC-MI-0042-0001.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 06/20/2014
Source: U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Special Litigation Section
Opinion Regarding (1) Plaintiff's Motion for Preliminary Injunction Concerning Ramadan 2014 and (2) Defendant's Motion for Relief From an Order Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P.60(b)(5) [ECF# 104] (2014 WL 2920479) (W.D. Mich.)
PC-MI-0042-0008.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 06/27/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Granting Plaintiff's Motion for Reconsideration [ECF# 122] (W.D. Mich.)
PC-MI-0042-0009.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/15/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Report and Recommendation [ECF# 181] (2015 WL 3936315)
PC-MI-0042-0010.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 03/27/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Order [ECF# 191] (W.D. Mich.)
PC-MI-0042-0011.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/04/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Adopting in Part and Rejecting in in Part 3/27/15 Report and Recommendation [ECF# 204] (2015 WL 3936395) (W.D. Mich.)
PC-MI-0042-0012.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 06/26/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Granting Plaintiff Heard's Motion to Reconsider June 26, 2015 Order Adopting in Part and Rejecting in Part March 27, 2015 Report and Recommendation [ECF# 212] (W.D. Mich.)
PC-MI-0042-0013.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/04/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 215] (W.D. Mich.)
PC-MI-0042-0014.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/21/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 229] (W.D. Mich.)
PC-MI-0042-0015.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/21/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Granting Plaintiff's Appeal of Magistrate Judge's December 28, 2015 Order (Ecf. 231) [ECF# 244] (W.D. Mich.)
PC-MI-0042-0016.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/14/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Plaintiffs' Supplemental Civil Complaint [ECF# 245]
PC-MI-0042-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/14/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Report and Recommendation [ECF# 302] (2016 WL 8668513)
PC-MI-0042-0017.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 11/04/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Adopting in Part and Rejecting in Part 11/04/2016 Report and Recommendation [ECF# 306] (2017 WL 631600) (W.D. Mich.)
PC-MI-0042-0018.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 02/16/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Brenneman, Hugh Warren Jr. (W.D. Mich.) [Magistrate] show/hide docs
PC-MI-0042-0004 | PC-MI-0042-0010
Kent, Ray Court not on record [Magistrate] show/hide docs
PC-MI-0042-0017 | PC-MI-0042-9000
Quist, Gordon Jay (W.D. Mich.) show/hide docs
PC-MI-0042-0005 | PC-MI-0042-0006 | PC-MI-0042-0007 | PC-MI-0042-0008 | PC-MI-0042-0009 | PC-MI-0042-0011 | PC-MI-0042-0012 | PC-MI-0042-0013 | PC-MI-0042-0016 | PC-MI-0042-0018 | PC-MI-0042-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Cobb, Ryan D. (Michigan) show/hide docs
PC-MI-0042-0001 | PC-MI-0042-9000
Fox, Deena (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-MI-0042-0001
Kappelhoff, Mark (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-MI-0042-0001
Manville, Daniel E. (Michigan) show/hide docs
PC-MI-0042-0003 | PC-MI-0042-9000
Miles, Patrick A. Jr. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-MI-0042-0001
Morse, Thomas Jackson (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-MI-0042-0001
Preston, Judy C. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-MI-0042-0001
Samuels, Jocelyn (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-MI-0042-0001
Smith, Jonathan Mark (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-MI-0042-0001
Defendant's Lawyers Soros, Allan J. (Michigan) show/hide docs
PC-MI-0042-9000
Thurber, John L. (Michigan) show/hide docs
PC-MI-0042-9000

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