United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Brunswick Division
ORDER AND MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND
STAN BAKER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion to
Dismiss, or in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment.
(Doc. 14.) For the reasons set forth below, I RECOMMEND that
the Court GRANT Defendants' Motion to Dismiss and DISMISS
Plaintiff's Complaint. Specifically, the Court should
DISMISS WITH PREJUDICE Plaintiff's claims for monetary
damages against Defendants in their official capacities, his
RFRA claims for monetary damages, and his FTCA claims in
their entirety. I further RECOMMEND that the Court DISMISS
Plaintiff's Bivens claims for monetary damages
WITHOUT PREJUDICE and DISMISS AS MOOT Plaintiff's
declaratory and injunctive relief claims. Additionally, the
Court should DENY Plaintiff leave to appeal in forma
pauperis and DIRECT the Clerk of Court to close this
who was previously incarcerated at the Federal Correctional
Institute in Jesup, Georgia (“FCI Jesup”),
submitted a Complaint in the above captioned action
contesting certain conditions of his confinement. Plaintiff
believes and practices the Santeria religion and alleges that
Defendants deprived him of the ability to practice his
sincerely held religious beliefs. (Doc. 12.)
Plaintiff claims that Defendant Kenneth Harris, the
Supervisory Chaplain at FCI Jesup, created a policy
eliminating the practice of the “Spiritual Mass”
ceremony. (Id. at pp. 3-4.) This policy was carried
out by Defendant Sam Kirchoff, the Chaplain at FCI Jesup.
(Id.) Plaintiff maintains that prior to Defendant
Harris' arrival at FCI Jesup in November of 2014, there
was a “Standardized Spiritual Mass” for Santeria
practitioners at the Prison. (Id. at p. 10.) This
“Standardized Mass” for Santeria allowed, among
other things, for each practitioner to receive a half-cut
cigar “so that the practitioner could properly invoke
[his] own spiritual protectors” and “cleanse
[himself] with it.” (Id.) This practice was
implemented without any security or safety issues.
(Id.) However, on or about November 17, 2014,
Defendant Harris terminated the practice of providing each
practitioner a cigar and instead only allowed two cigars for
the ceremony. (Id. at p. 10.)
maintains that, due to the sharing of cigars, Santeria
practitioners were exposed to health risks and could not
properly perform the religious ceremony. As for the health
risks, Plaintiff contends that he suffered from “throat
pain; troubling [sic] swallowing; sinuses; Body Aches;
Headaches; Fatigue; loss of weight; loss of sleep, as one of
the practitioners was sick with the flu.” (Id.
at p. 12.) He describes his ailments as “serious
inhibition of the ability of Plaintiff to eat, chew, lack of
ability to masticate food without causing pain and suffering
to the Plaintiff's throat; and the inability to engage in
the normal life activities, including sleeping, physical
exercise, loss of nutrition deficiencies from inability to
eat and chew.” (Id. at pp. 12- 13.) At the
time of his Amended Complaint, Plaintiff stated that he
suffered these symptoms “for almost a month” and
had not recovered. (Id. at p. 13.)
also contends that Defendants interfered with Santeria
practitioners' worship in other ways. He alleges that,
due to Santeria practitioners' use of food offerings
during Spiritual Mass, Defendant Harris relocated Santeria
worship services outdoors because food is not allowed in the
chapel. (Id. at p. 11.) However, Defendant Harris
allows Jewish worshipers to bring challa bread, matzo, and
beverages into the chapel during religious services.
(Id.) Plaintiff also alleges that prison staff
failed to provide supplies to the Santerian practitioners and
that Defendants unnecessarily burdened Santerian inmates'
receipt of religious items. (Id.)
sued Defendants in their individual and official capacities
and contended that they violated the Religious Freedom
Restoration Act (“RFRA”), 42 U.S.C. §2000bb,
et seq., the Federal Tort Claims Act
(“FTCA”), and the First, Eighth and Fourteenth
Amendments to the United States Constitution. (Doc. 12.) He
requested compensatory and punitive damages in the amount of
$320.00 per day per Defendant. (Id. at pp. 14-15.)
He also requests court costs and expenses, and
“declaratory and injunctive relief” against each
Defendant. (Id. at p. 14.)
originally filed this action the United States District Court
for the District of Columbia. Defendants moved that court to
either dismiss Plaintiff's case or transfer the case to
this District. (Doc. 14.) Among other things, they contended
that the District of Columbia court lacked jurisdiction over
them, because they reside in this District and the events
giving rise to Plaintiff's claims occurred in this
District. (Doc. 14-1, pp. 16-22.) Defendants also argued that
they were immune from suit in their official capacities, and
Plaintiff failed to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted against them in their individual capacities.
Plaintiff filed a response to Defendants' Motion, (doc.
24), and Defendants filed a reply, (doc. 29.). In the
interim, Plaintiff was transferred from FCI Jesup to Yazoo
City Low Federal Correctional Institute. (Doc. 28.)
District of Columbia court ultimately granted Defendants'
request to transfer the case to this Court. (Doc. 30.)
However, that court left pending Defendants' arguments
for dismissal which this Court now addresses.
ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court must
“accept[ ] the allegations in the complaint as true and
constru[e] them in the light most favorable to the
plaintiff.” Belanger v. Salvation Army, 556
F.3d 1153, 1155 (11th Cir. 2009). “A complaint must
state a facially plausible claim for relief, and ‘[a]
claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads
factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
alleged.'” Wooten v. Quicken Loans, Inc.,
626 F.3d 1187, 1196 (11th Cir. 2010) (quoting Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). “A pleading that
offers labels and conclusions or a formulaic recitation of
the elements of a cause of action” does not suffice.
Ashcroft, 556 U.S. at 678.
plausibility standard is not akin to a probability
requirement, but it asks for more than a sheer possibility
that a defendant has acted unlawfully. Where a complaint
pleads facts that are merely consistent with a
defendant's liability, it stops short of the line between
possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.”
Id. (internal punctuation and citation omitted).
While a court must accept all factual allegations in a
complaint as true, this tenet “is inapplicable to legal
conclusions. Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause
of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, ”
are insufficient. Id.
analysis, the Court will abide by the long-standing principle
that the pleadings of unrepresented parties are held to a
less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys and,
therefore, must be liberally construed. Haines v.
Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972); Boxer X v.
Harris, 437 F.3d 1107, 1110 (11th Cir. 2006)
(“Pro se pleadings are held to a less
stringent standard than pleadings drafted by
attorneys.”) (emphasis omitted) (quoting Hughes v.
Lott, 350 F.3d 1157, 1160 (11th Cir. 2003)). However,
Plaintiff's unrepresented status will not excuse mistakes
regarding procedural rules. McNeil v. United States,
508 U.S. 106, 113 (1993) (“We have never suggested that
procedural rules in ordinary civil litigation should be
interpreted so as to excuse mistakes by those who proceed
Dismissal of Official Capacity Claims for Monetary
brings this action pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown
Named Agents of Fed. Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388
(1971) (“Bivens”) and RFRA.
“Bivens only applies to claims against federal
officers in their individual capacities; it does not create a
cause of action for federal officers sued in their official
capacities.” Sharma v. Drug Enf't Agency,
511 F. App'x 898, 901 (11th Cir. 2013) (citing Corr.
Servs. Corp. v. Malesko, 534 U.S. 61, 69-71 (2001)).
Moreover, the Eleventh Circuit has held that Congress did not
unequivocally waive the Government's sovereign immunity
through RFRA. Davila v. Gladden, 777 F.3d 1198,
1210-11 (11th Cir. 2015). Therefore, RFRA does not authorize
suits for money damages against federal officers in their
official capacities. Id. Thus, the Court should
DISMISS WITH PREJUDICE Plaintiff's Bivens and
RFRA claims for money damages against Defendants in their
Dismissal of RFRA Claims ...