United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Macon Division
T. TREADWELL, JUDGE.
Court granted the Defendants' motion for summary judgment
on Plaintiff Hjalmar Rodriguez's claims regarding
inadequate nutrition, violation of religious modesty
obligations, restricted shower use, contaminated food,
improper handling of food trays, and inadequate care for a
damaged tooth. See generally Docs. 187; 182. It
denied summary judgment on the two claims against Defendant
Burnside regarding Rodriguez's shoulder. Those two claims
will proceed to trial.
Court also noted there might be a remaining equal protection
claim unaddressed by the summary judgment motions: "the
claim that Jewish prisoners were provided with meals that
comply with their kosher religious obligations, while Muslim
inmates were not provided with meals that comply with their
halal religious obligations." Doc. 187 at 3. That equal
protection claim was not at all clear in Rodriguez's
pleadings, so the Court allowed the Defendants to file a
supplemental motion for summary judgment. The Defendants
filed that motion, and for the following reasons, the motion
(Doc. 188) is GRANTED.
Rodriguez did not plead a forced veganism claim
now describes his equal protection claim as being forced to
be vegan in violation of his religion. Rodriguez's
interpretation of Islam requires him to eat meat as an
affirmative obligation. Doc. 192-2 at 2-3. He claims that
adherents of other religions, such as Christianity and
Judaism, are not forced to follow the mandates of different
religions, but he is forced to follow a vegan diet.
Id. at 12. He appears to believe that veganism is a
Jewish religious mandate, though he elsewhere argues that the
restricted vegan meal plan, as implemented at Georgia
Diagnostic and Classification Prison, violated both Islamic
and Jewish dietary obligations. Doc. 192-2 at 2. The
Defendants refer to this newly argued equal protection claim
as the "forced veganism" claim. Doc. 197 at 2-4.
Defendants argue, correctly, that Rodriguez never raised a
forced veganism claim before the summary judgment stage.
Id. He filed two complaints: an original complaint
and an amended complaint. Docs. 1; 39-1; 84. The original
complaint clearly did not raise any claim based on forced
veganism. See generally Docs. 1; 14; 84. Rather, the
Court's statement that there was a potential remaining
equal protection claim was based on its prior order screening
the amended complaint. Docs. 187 at 3; 182 at 2 n.3; 84 at 10
(discussing potential equal protection claims in the amended
the amended complaint expressly lists the "Claims for
Relief": failure to follow prison policies for the
restricted vegan meal plan (¶ 111); inadequate
nutrition, especially during Ramadan (¶ 112); serving
unsafe food containing harmful foreign objects (¶ 113);
failing to keep Rodriguez's body properly covered on the
way to the shower (¶ 114); failing to allow Rodriguez
religiously mandated baths (¶ 115); failure to treat his
shoulder and tooth injuries (¶ 116-120); and failure to
provide timely dental services (¶ 121). None of those
claims concern forced veganism.
the Court's screening order identified a potential equal
protection claim concerning the allegation that Jewish
prisoners were provided with kosher meals and Muslim
prisoners were not provided with religiously proper meals,
citing four paragraphs of the amended complaint. Doc. 84 at
10 (citing Doc. 39-1 ¶¶ 33-34, 37, 46). Three of
the cited paragraphs clearly concern claims on which the
Court has already granted summary judgment: inadequate
nutrition (¶ 33); using the same trays for the
restricted vegan meal plan that had been used by other meal
plans (¶ 34); and supervisory liability for inadequate
nutrition (¶ 37).
46 is vaguer. It alleges that Defendants Dozier, Chatman, and
Sellers violated the prison's Standard Operating
Procedures ("SOP") for the alternative entree
program and denied "muslim offenders (plaintiff) access
to Halal meals unlike other similarly situated offenders
(i.e. Jewish) offenders" that could keep their kosher
obligations in the prison meal plan. Id. ¶ 46.
But this is no basis for a forced veganism claim. First,
there is no evidence that the meal plan was somehow tailored
to kosher requirements. Instead, both Jewish and Muslim
prisoners have requirements for how animal products are
prepared, so the prison simply put them on a vegan meal plan.
Rodriguez now contends he has an affirmative religious
obligation to eat meat, but he did not allege that in the
original or amended complaints. Second, the only alleged
religious violations which could form any basis for an equal
protection claim based on Paragraph 46 concerned mixing trays
and caloric intake. As the Magistrate Judge noted, there is no
evidence that any named Defendant was involved in the alleged
tray mixing, and the alleged inadequate caloric intake was
not supported by evidence and was the result of a voluntary
fast. Doc. 182 at 27-29, 30-32. Accordingly, even if the
conclusory language of Paragraph 46 had somehow raised an
equal protection claim, that claim was resolved by the
Court's Order adopting the Recommendation.
the "Claims for Relief" section of the amended
complaint did not include an equal protection claim based on
forced veganism, and nothing in the facts of the complaint
alleged forced veganism. Nor did the complaint allege that
Rodriguez's religion required him to eat meat. The
screening order, which was generous to a fault, noted a
potential equal protection claim based on the vague language
of Paragraph 46, but any basis for that claim was resolved at
the summary judgment stage.
argument that his equal protection claims are based on forced
veganism appears for the first time in his response to the
Defendants' motion for summary judgment. See
Doc. 192-2 at 6 ("Which in all reality [sic] [the equal
protection claim is] about the Plaintiff also being forced to
be a vegan"). If forced veganism was the basis of
Rodriguez's equal protection claim, he should have raised
it before his response brief filed November 6, 2019, just
under a year after the close of discovery. See Doc.
170. Further, as the Defendants point out, the time for
amending pleadings is long past. See Doc. 197 at 3.
Even if Rodriguez had raised a forced veganism claim, the
Defendants would be entitled to summary judgment
Rodriguez had raised a forced veganism claim, the Defendants
would be entitled to summary judgment on that claim.
is no evidence Rodriguez ever told anyone that because his
meal plan was vegan, it violated his beliefs. Nor does
Rodriguez argue he told anyone of his need for meat. See
generally Docs. 192-1; 192-2. Just as the forced veganism
claim is new to this litigation, it is new to the Defendants.
There is no evidence they could have known of Rodriguez's
religious obligation to eat meat. Rodriguez's putative
forced veganism claim alleges that the restricted vegan meal
plan was disproportionately burdensome to Muslims. When a
plaintiff alleges an equal protection violation based on the
disparate impact of a statute, "a plaintiff must prove
purposeful discrimination." E & TRealty v.
Strickland,830 F.2d 1107, 1112 n.5 (11th Cir. 1987).
And again, there is no evidence the Defendants ...