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Hunter v. Corrections Corporation

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Dublin Division

November 13, 2014

CURTIS HUNTER, Plaintiff,
v.
CORRECTIONS CORPORATION OF AMERICA, et al., Defendants.

ORDER

BRIAN K. EPPS, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff, an inmate incarcerated at Dooly State Prison in Unadilla, Georgia, commenced the above-captioned case pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, concerning events alleged to have occurred at Wheeler Correctional Facility ("WCF") in Alamo, Georgia. Because he is proceeding in forma pauperis, Plaintiff's complaint must be screened to protect potential defendants. Phillips v. Mashburn, 746 F.2d 782, 785 (11th Cir. 1984); Al-Amin v. Donald, 165 F.Appx. 733, 736 (11th Cir. 2006).

I. SCREENING OF THE COMPLAINT

Plaintiff names the following individuals as Defendants: (1) Corrections Corporation of America ("CCA"); (2) Jason Medlin, Warden at WCF; (3) Ron Day, Chaplain at WCF; (4) Jay Phillips, Faith based Facilitator at WCF; and (5) Damon Hininger, President of Corrections Corporation of America. (Doc. no. 1, p. 1.) Taking all of Plaintiff's allegations as true, as the Court must for purposes of the present screening, the facts are as follows.

CCA, the company responsible for the operation of WCF, has implemented a "Faith based Program" which requires Plaintiff "to participate in their one and only preferred choice of religion[, ] Christianity." (Doc. no. 1, p. 5). Plaintiff enrolled in the program due to an available bottom bunk and a representation that he would be able to teach Islam there. (Id. at 7.) Plaintiff was unable to teach Islam due to the program excluding all other religions besides Christianity. (Id.) Plaintiff, who is Muslim, complains that he has been forced to attend mandatory group sessions promoting Christianity thirteen times a week. (Id. at 5, 6.) CCA is directly responsible for implementing and setting standards for the operation of the program, and Damon Hininger gives orders to his subordinates on how the program should be run. (Id. at 7, 8.) Chaplain Ron Days oversees the program. (Id. at 9.) Jay Phillips also oversees the program and used coercive participation by penalizing Plaintiff with a disciplinary report for not attending a mandatory group session. (Id. at 9-10.) Jay Phillips also kicked Plaintiff out of the program after seven months. (See id. at 10.) Warden Jason Medlin is also in charge of the program and the chaplain department and has failed to purchase materials so that the program can implement other religions.

Plaintiff complains that he was "scandalized, infamy [sic], and disgraced for seven months violating [sic] the tenants of my religion" and was also "greatly humiliated". (Id. at 6.) Plaintiff also claims that CCA "continue [sic] to show a threat of future abuse defrauding the government of millions by not purchasing all religious materials for the program." (Id.) Plaintiff seeks millions of dollars in damages and wants CCA "to implement Islam and 4 other religions" into the program at WCF.

Liberally construing Plaintiff's allegations in his favor and granting him the benefit of all reasonable inferences to be derived from the facts alleged, the Court finds that Plaintiff has arguably stated a viable Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act ("RLUIPA") claim under 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-1(a) and an Establishment Clause claim against Defendants. See id. (requiring that a substantial burden on the religious exercise of an incarcerated person be justified under strict scrutiny); Benning v. Georgia, 845 F.Supp.2d 1372, 1377 (M.D. Ga. 2012) (requiring a demonstration that plaintiff (1) engaged in a religious exercise and (2) the religious exercise was substantially burdened); Glassroth v. Moore, 335 F.3d 1282, 1295 (11th Cir. 2003) (employing the Lemon test in requiring the challenged practice to have a valid secular purpose, not have the effect of advancing or inhibiting religion, and not foster excessive government entanglement with religion). In a companion Report and Recommendation, the Court recommends dismissal of Plaintiff's fraud claims and claims for damages against Defendants in their official capacities.

II. INSTRUCTIONS

IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that service of process shall be effected on Defendants. The United States Marshal shall mail a copy of the complaint (doc. no. 1) and this Order by first-class mail and request that the defendants waive formal service of the summons. Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(d). Individual defendants have a duty to avoid unnecessary costs of serving the summons, and if a defendant fails to comply with the request for waiver, the defendant must bear the costs of personal service unless good cause can be shown for failure to return the waiver. Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(d)(2). A defendant whose return of the waiver is timely does not have to answer the complaint until sixty days after the date the Marshal mails the request for waiver. Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(d)(3). However, service must be effected within 120 days of the date of this Order, and the failure to do so may result in the dismissal of any unserved defendant. Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(m). Plaintiff is responsible for providing sufficient information for the Marshal to identify and locate the defendants to effect service.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Plaintiff shall serve upon the defendants, or upon their defense attorney if appearance has been entered by counsel, a copy of every further pleading or other document submitted to the Court. Plaintiff shall include with the papers to be filed a certificate stating the date a true and correct copy of any document was mailed to the defendants or their counsel. Fed.R.Civ.P. 5; Loc. R. 5.1. Every pleading shall contain a caption setting forth the name of the court, the title of the action, and the file number. Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(a). Any paper received by a District Judge or Magistrate Judge that has not been properly filed with the Clerk of Court or that fails to include a caption or certificate of service will be returned.

It is Plaintiff's duty to cooperate fully in any discovery that may be initiated by the defendant. Upon being given at least five days notice of the scheduled deposition date, Plaintiff shall appear and permit his deposition to be taken and shall answer, under oath and solemn affirmation, any question that seeks information relevant to the subject matter of the pending action. Failing to answer questions at the deposition or giving evasive or incomplete responses to questions will not be tolerated and may subject Plaintiff to severe sanctions, including dismissal of this case. The defendants shall ensure that Plaintiff's deposition and any other depositions in the case are taken within the 140-day discovery period allowed by this Court's Local Rules.

While this action is pending, Plaintiff shall immediately inform this Court and opposing counsel of any change of address. Failure to do so will result in dismissal of this case.

Plaintiff must pursue this case; if Plaintiff does not press the case forward, the Court may dismiss it for want of prosecution. Fed.R.Civ.P. 41; Loc. R. 41.1. If Plaintiff wishes to obtain facts and information about the case from the defendants, Plaintiff must initiate discovery. See generally Fed.R.Civ.P. 26 through 37 (containing the rules governing discovery and providing for the basic methods of discovery). Plaintiff should begin discovery promptly and complete it within four months after the filing of the last answer of a defendant named in the amended complaint screened herein.

Interrogatories are a practical method of discovery for pro se litigants. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 33. Interrogatories shall not contain more than twenty-five questions. Id . Plaintiff must have the Court's permission to propound more than one set of interrogatories to a party. Discovery materials should not be filed routinely with the Clerk of the Court; exceptions include when the Court directs filing; when a party needs such materials in connection with a motion or response, and then only to the extent necessary; and when needed for use at trial. If Plaintiff wishes to file a motion to compel pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 37, he should first contact the attorney for the defendants and try to work out the problem; if Plaintiff proceeds with the motion to compel, he should also file a statement certifying that he has contacted opposing counsel in a good faith effort to resolve any dispute about discovery. Loc. R. 26.5.

Plaintiff must maintain a set of records for the case. If papers are lost and new copies are required, these may be obtained from the Clerk of the Court at the standard cost of fifty cents per page.

Under this Court's Local Rules, a party opposing a motion to dismiss shall file and serve his response to the motion within fourteen days of its service. "Failure to respond shall indicate that there is no opposition to a motion." Loc. R. 7.5. Therefore, if Plaintiff fails to respond to a motion to dismiss, the Court will assume that there is no opposition to the defendant's motion and grant the dismissal.

A response to a motion for summary judgment must be filed within twenty-one days after service of the motion. Loc. R. 7.5, 56.1. A failure to respond shall indicate that there is no opposition to the motion. Loc. R. 7.5. Furthermore, each material fact set forth in a defendant's statement of material facts will be deemed admitted unless specifically controverted by an opposition statement. Should a defendant file a motion for summary judgment, Plaintiff is advised that he will have the burden of establishing the existence of a genuine issue as to any material fact in this case. That burden cannot be carried by reliance on the conclusory allegations contained within the complaint. Should a defendant's motion for summary judgment be supported by affidavit, Plaintiff must file counter-affidavits if he desires to contest the defendant's statement of the facts. Should Plaintiff fail to file opposing affidavits setting forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial, the consequences are these: any factual assertions made in the defendant's affidavits will be accepted as true and summary judgment will be entered against Plaintiff pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56.

SO ORDERED.


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