United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE
R. ANDERSON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Knight is currently incarcerated at the Federal Correctional
Complex (“FCC”) in Yazoo City, Mississippi, and
files the instant Complaint, pursuant to Bivens v. Six
Unknown Named Agents of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics,
403 U.S. 388 (1971) against prison officials for allegedly
violating his First Amendment constitutional rights, the
Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the Religious Land Use and
Institutionalized Persons Act, and the Equal Protection
Clause. Knight alleges that Defendants: Warden L. Shults;
Food Service Administrator Z. Lee; and, Assistant Food
Service Administrator J. Paxton, improperly denied him the
Nation of Islam's Annual Ceremonial meal in accordance
with the Bureau of Prison's (BOP) policy. Defendant Shults
requests an order of dismissal pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(1), for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, or in the
alternative, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), for failure
to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Having
considered the submissions of the parties and the applicable
law, the undersigned recommends as follows.
instant case, Plaintiff alleges that he submitted a request,
on January 3, 2017, to be served the Nation of Islam's
Ceremonial Meal on February 26, 2017, in commemoration of the
birth of the religion's founder. Yet, despite receiving
the approval of “Religious Services and Food Services,
” Plaintiff asserts that he was not provided the
requested ceremonial meal, which was to consist of: fried
fish, steamed broccoli, navy bean soup, vegetable fried rice,
macaroni and cheese, banana, and a non-meat option for fish.
Plaintiff states that “[u]pon arrival at Food Service
with Chaplain Saccucci on 2/28/17 we found . . . that the
meal was changed by Mr. Lee to the Chicken patty meal served
[to the inmate population] at lunch.” Specifically, he
alleges that Defendant Paxton agreed to the meal and then
later ordered Defendant Lee to deny the meal based on an
erroneous interpretation and/or application of BOP policy.
According to Plaintiff, Defendant Shults's error was
“in agreeing with them;” more specifically,
“[h]is misunderstanding and failure to enforce
applicable law and BOP Policy caused him to err in treating
[Plaintiff's] religious community in a discriminatory
manner as opposed to the general population.” Plaintiff
seeks injunctive and declaratory relief as well as punitive
damages in the amount of $10, 000, 000 because “no meal
was consumed by the group for that
judgment is appropriate only when the moving party can
demonstrate that “there is no genuine dispute as to any
material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A dispute is
genuine if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could
return a verdict for the non-movant. Nickell v. Beau View
of Biloxi, L.L.C., 636 F.3d 752, 754 (5th Cir. 2011)
(citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S.
242, 248 (1986)). A fact is material if its resolution in
favor of one party might affect the outcome of the case.
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. The evidence and any
inferences therefrom are viewed in the light most favorable
to the non-movant. First Colony Life Ins. Co. v.
Sanford, 555 F.3d 177, 180 (5th Cir. 2009). If, on a
motion under Rule 12(b)(6), matters outside the pleadings are
presented to and not excluded by the court, the motion must
be treated as one for summary judgment under Rule 56.
Defendants rely on matters outside the pleadings, the motion
to dismiss should be construed as a motion for summary
judgment. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b); Young v.
Biggers, 938 F.2d 565, 568 (5th Cir.1991).
First Amendment Free Exercise Claim
Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment requires the
government to refrain from interfering with the religious
beliefs and practices of individuals. Cutter v.
Wilkinson, 544 U.S. 709, 719 (2005). As a prisoner,
however, Plaintiff retains only those First Amendment
freedoms which are “not inconsistent with his status as
a prisoner or with legitimate penological objectives of the
corrections system.” Pell v. Procunier, 417
U.S. 817, 822 (1974). Therefore, a government regulation may
interfere with the religious beliefs and practices of a
prisoner if it is reasonably related to a legitimate
penological interest. Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78,
89 (1987) (setting out four-factor test for determining
whether a prison regulation that infringes on an inmate's
First Amendment rights is nonetheless reasonable and
therefore constitutionally valid); see also Butts v.
Martin, 877 F.3d 571, 585 (5th Cir. 2017) (noting that
“free exercise claims in this Circuit are analyzed
under the Turner framework separately and
independently from RFRA and RLUIPA claims”).
Bivens, the United States Supreme Court established
that the Constitution may support a private cause of action
against federal officials for constitutional torts and
allowed the victims of a Fourth Amendment violation by
federal officers to sue the officers for monetary damages in
federal court. 403 U.S. at 388. Plaintiff asserts that he is
entitled to Bivens damages because Defendants
violated his First Amendment right to freely exercise his
Bivens action is the counterpart for those acting
under color of federal law of a suit brought under §
1983. Dean v. Gladney, 621 F.2d 1331, 1336 (5th Cir.
1980). Because its purpose “is to deter individual
federal officers from committing constitutional violations,
” Correctional Services Corp. v. Malesko, 534
U.S. 61, 70 (2001), it may only be maintained against a
defendant in his or her individual capacity. Id. at
72 (“The prisoner may not bring a Bivens claim
against the officer's employer, the United States, or the
BOP.”). Accordingly, to the extent Plaintiff is
attempting to assert a Bivens claim against Warden
Shults in his official capacity, he fails to state a viable
claim. To the extent Plaintiff brings an individual-capacity
claim, however, he is not entitled to a Bivens
remedy for the reasons that follow. Wilkie v.
Robbins, 551 U.S. 537, 550 (2007).
is first a question of whether Bivens applies to a
First Amendment claim.Assuming for purposes of argument that it
did apply, Plaintiff would still not be entitled to relief
for reasons explained herein. The undersigned has considered
the record and applicable law and finds that there is no
genuine issue as to any material fact regarding
Plaintiff's First Amendment claims against Defendant
Shults because there is no supervisory liability under
Bivens. Thus, it is unnecessary for the Court to
decide whether Bivens extends to First Amendment
Shults asserts that Plaintiff fails to state a
Bivens claim against him because Plaintiff does not
provide any evidence that he personally participated in the
conduct, and he cannot be held vicariously liable for alleged
violations based on his supervisory responsibilities over
other prison officials. In his affidavit, Defendant Shults
In his Complaint, Plaintiff, Prince Knight states that I
agreed with the other named defendants' decision to deny
him a ceremonial meal. Inmate Knight also claims I failed to
enforce the applicable law and policy and that I
discriminated against him and his religious community.
Plaintiff, however, fails to explain my direct, personal
involvement in the alleged constitutional violations. I aver
that I was not personally involved in any alleged decision by
the named defendants to deny Plaintiff a ceremonial meal. I
was not involved in the planning or scheduling of the
February 28, 2017, ceremonial meal Plaintiff [sic]. My duties
as Warden involve general oversight and administration. As
many wardens routinely do, I rely on the institution's