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Monson v. Steward

United States District Court, D. Oregon, Pendleton Division

July 6, 2017

MAURICE MONSON, Plaintiff,
v.
HEIDI STEWARD, Defendants.

          OPINION & ORDER

          Hon. Paul Papak, United States Magistrate Judge

         This pro se prisoner civil rights case comes before the Court on cross motions for summary judgment. ECF Nos, 78, 100, 129. For the reasons discussed below, Plaintiffs Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 78, is DENIED and Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment and Supplemental Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF Nos. 100, 129, are GRANTED.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Maurice Monson ("Monson") is currently incarcerated at Two Rivers Correctional Institution ("TRCI"), an Oregon state prison located in Umatilla, Oregon. Am. Compl., ECF No. 31; Ans. to Am. Compl., ECF No. 43.

         Defendants are employees of the Oregon Department of Corrections ("ODOC"): Defendant Heidi Steward ("Steward") is Assistant Director of Offender Management and Rehabilitation; Defendant Stuart Young ("Young") is Assistant Administrator of Religious Services; Defendant Dennis Holmes ("Holmes") is Administrator of Religious Services; . Defendant Kelly Raths ("Raths") is Administrator of Inmate and Community Advocacy; Defendant Cherie Jackson ("Jackson") is an Office Specialist 2 in Religious Services; Defendant Don Hodney ("Hodney") is Chaplain at TRCI; Defendant John Myrick ("Myrick") is Superintendent at TRCI; Defendant Nancy Howton ("Howton") was Administrator of Offender Management and Rehabilitation until her retirement in April 2015; Defendant Michael Gower ("Gower") is Assistant Director of Operations and Acting Inspector General; Defendant Kim Brockamp ("Brockamp") is Deputy Director of ODOC; Defendant Steve Franke ("Franke") is Administrator of Eastside Institutions; and Defendant Collete Peters ("Peters") is Director of ODOC. Ans. to Am. Compl.

         I. ODOC's Kosher Meal Policy

         ODOC offers two dietary options to all inmates: the mainline meals and the non-meat alternative line. Young Decl. Ex. 4, at 1, ECF No. 104. The non-meat alternative is a vegetarian diet with optional dairy components and it complies with all Old Testament dietary requirements. Young Decl. Ex. 3, at 7; Fanger Deck, ECF No. 102.

         ODOC's "practice and mission" is to "make every effort to accommodate inmates' religious beliefs." Young Decl. This includes providing diets designed to satisfy the requirements of an inmate's religion. Young Decl., Ex. 1, at 2. As part of this policy, ODOC provides kosher meals to inmates with sincere religious beliefs requiring a kosher diet. Young Decl.

         A kosher diet adheres to the Jewish laws of kashrut, and is derived from the laws of the Bible (the "Written Torah") and from the rabbinic Oral Torah, which is preserved in the Talmud and related texts. Vincent Decl. Ex. 3, at 3 (Affidavit of Martin Jaffee), ECF No. 103.[1] The majority of kosher laws are not contained in the Old Testament, but were developed through the oral tradition and the Talmud. Vincent Decl. Ex. 3, at 6. ODOC's kosher diet was designed specifically for Jewish inmates who adhere to the laws of kashrut and was originally available only to Jewish inmates. Young Decl. Ex. 2, at 2. ODOC's kosher meals are produced in a factory, frozen, and then shipped to the institution where they are reheated in a microwave before being served to the inmate. Young Decl. Ex. 4, at 1.; Fanger Decl. The kosher meals do not contain meat, but do include soy products that are made to look and taste like meat.[2] Young Decl. Ex. 4, at 1.; Fanger Decl. ODOC kosher meals are served with a disposable tray, cup, and tableware. Young Decl, Ex. 3, at 4. The TRCI canteen also carries kosher items available for purchase by the inmates. Fanger Decl. Kosher canteen items are listed on the order form with a "K" to indicate their kosher status. Fanger Decl. Ex. 3.

         In 2009, ODOC revised its kosher meal policy as part of a settlement agreement and began to consider requests for kosher meals from non-Jewish inmates, if the inmates have sincerely held religions beliefs that require a kosher diet and that belief can be sustained by an organized religion. Young Decl. Ex. 2, at 11; Ex. 3, at 1. Under a policy adopted in 2012, if an inmate requests a religious accommodation, the prison chaplain will give the inmate a form to fill out and will interview the inmate in order to better understand the request. Young Decl. Ex. 3, at 1-2, 9. The chaplain then forwards the request to the Religious Services central office, where a final decision on the accommodation is made. Young Decl.

         If an inmate is approved for the kosher diet, the inmate may not eat non-kosher food from the kitchen or canteen. Young Decl. If an inmate violates this prohibition, he or she will be counseled by the chaplain and risks losing the right to continue receiving a kosher diet. Young Decl. Ex. 3, at 3.

         The mainline and non-meat alternative meals cost $2.60 per inmate per day. Fanger Decl. It costs $6.75 per inmate per day to supply kosher meals, exclusive of the additional costs of maintaining kosher facilities and the additional staff time involved in preparation of the meals. Fanger Decl. It costs an extra $3, 029.50 per biennium to supply an inmate with kosher meals. Fanger Deci. ODOC has investigated other means of providing kosher meals and determined that the current system is the most cost effective method of providing inmates with a kosher diet. Fanger Decl. Purchasing the prepackaged kosher meals in larger quantities would not yield a lower price. Fanger Decl. There are currently 58 inmates who receive kosher meals, costing ODOC $175, 711 in additional expenditures per biennium, out of a total kitchen budget of $27, 856, 277 for the 2015-2017 biennium. Fanger Decl.

         ODOC has investigated how many inmates would request a kosher diet if it were made more generally available. Vincent Decl. Ex. 2 (Declaration of Paul Bellatty).[3] Although the investigation did not yield a specific number, the results indicated that a substantial percentage of inmates would request kosher meals, with especially high interest indicated by Muslim and Seventh Day Adventist inmates. Vincent Decl. Ex. 2, at 6. ODOC's security budget is "strained, " and budgetary limitations have already resulted in a reduction in the quality of programming available for inmates and the amount of protection ODOC is able to offer to inmates and staff. Morton Decl., ECF No. 101.

         II. Maurice Monson

         Monson describes himself as "a Rastafarian who is a biblical believer, " or a "Rastafarian Judeo-Christian." Vincent Decl. Ex. 1, at 10-11. Monson does not identify as Jewish or Christian, but does "adhere to Jewish laws." Vincent Decl. Ex. 1, at 5-6, 10, The "most observant" Rastafarians follow a dietary law called Ital, which encourages its followers to eat a vegan or vegetarian diet and to avoid chemically altered foods, coffee, and dairy products. Vincent Decl. Ex. 1, at 9-10. Unlike a kosher diet, Ital does not require rabbinical oversight. Young Decl.

         Monson asserts that his practice of Rastafarianism does not include adhering to the requirements of an Ital diet. Vincent Decl. Ex. 1, at 9-10. Although Rastafarians do not ordinarily eat a kosher diet, Monson maintains that his sincerely held religious beliefs require him to eat kosher meals. Vincent Decl. Ex. 1, at 5-6, 9. In particular, Monson's religious beliefs require him to strictly avoid contact with pork and pork products, Vincent Decl. Ex. 1, at 12. Monson testified that he believes all utensils should be disposable and that anything that has come in contact with pork products must be destroyed. Vincent Decl, Ex. 1, at 8, 12. Monson testified that he was unaware of the highly processed nature of ODOC's kosher meals. Vincent Decl. Ex. 1, at 12.

         On August 9, 2013, Monson first requested that he be provided with ODOC's kosher diet, which Monson contends is required by his religion. Young Decl. Ex. 5, at 3. In making his request, Monson identified his religion as Rastafarian. Young Decl. Ex. 5, at 3. Monson said that, in the alternative, he would accept a vegetarian or vegan diet without coffee or milk.[4]Young Decl. Ex. 5, at 4. Monson said that he was aware that the non-meat alternative diet met all Biblical dietary laws, but claimed that it caused him to lose weight, interfered with his blood pressure, and "enticed [him] to buy commissary that also disagree with [his] blood pressure." Young Decl. Ex. 5, at 4.

         Monson's request was denied on September 5, 2013, "due to lack of factual evidence to support that a kosher diet is rooted in Rastafari faith tenets and because his canteen purchases did not conform to kosher requirements or standards." Young Decl.; Ex. 6, at 1. The letter of denial also noted that Monson's medical file did not support his claim that he required additional calories or a special diet for his blood pressure. Young Decl. Ex. 6, at 1. Monson was informed that, even if a legitimate health issue existed, ODOC's kosher meals did not meet the health or dietary requirements Monson described. Young Decl. Ex. 6, at 1. Monson was encouraged to use ODOC's non-meat alternative diet, which offered food most closely aligned to the requirements of a Rastafarian religious diet.[5] Young Decl. Ex. 6, at 1.

         On July 12, 2014, Monson once again requested a kosher diet. Young Decl. Ex. 7, at 1. In this request, Monson identified himself as a "Rastafarian-Judeo-Christian, " and cited his belief in the Old Testament of the Bible and the Quran. Young Decl. Ex. 7, at 2. In this request, Monson particularly objected to pork products and to eating food prepared in the same kitchen where pork products had been prepared.[6] Young Decl. Ex. 7, at 3. Monson claimed that ODOC's non-meat alternative meals did not meet Old Testament dietary standards because the same pots, pans, and cooking utensils were used to prepare the mainline and non-meat alternative meals. Young Decl. Ex. 7, at 3. ODOC's subsequent inquiry revealed that Monson attended two Muslim religious services and one Protestant Christian service. Young Decl. Monson's second request was-denied on August 5, 2014, "due to lack of factual evidence from Rastafari religious leaders to support his request and his canteen purchases-which included pork rinds-did not conform to kosher requirements or standards." Young Decl. Monson's canteen purchases, which included a number of non-kosher items, were especially considered to demonstrate a lack of sincerity. Young Decl. Ex. 8; Ex. 9. Monson was informed that all cookware, kitchen utensils, and dining utensils were properly cleaned and sanitized for each meal to avoid cross-contamination with meat products. Young Decl. Ex. 8. Monson was once again encouraged to use the non-meat alternative diet. Young Decl. Ex. 8.

         On October 7, 2014, Monson filed a grievance requesting a kosher diet. Young Decl. Ex. 10. ODOC reviewed the grievance and did not discover any evidence that a kosher diet is a tenet of the Rastafarian religious practice. Young Decl. Ex. 11. ODOC also noted that Monson's canteen purchases did not reflect a sincere religious belief requiring a kosher diet. Young Decl. Ex. 11. On November 10, 2014, ODOC denied the grievance. Young Decl. Ex. 11.

         On December 7, 2014, Monson appealed the denial of his grievance, alleging that ODOC had not adequately researched his request. Young Decl. Ex. 12. Monson stated that he is a "Rastafarian Judeo-Christian who believes in and follows the Levitical and Deuteronomy laws of the Old Testament in the Bible." Young Decl Ex. 12, at 1.

         ODOC was unable to find any support for Monson's request in Rastafarian religious practice. Young Decl. On December 22, 2014, ODOC denied Monson's grievance appeal. Young Decl. Ex. 13. In its denial, ODOC requested that Monson provide documentation "showing consistency in embracing selectively the doctrines of three separate religious belief systems." Young Decl. Ex. 13, at 2. ODCO also informed Monson that they would be willing to revisit Monson's request if he could demonstrate "clean" commissary purchases for a few months and provide ODOC with evidence of the existence of a Rastafarian-Jewish-Christian belief system. Young Decl. Ex. 13, at 2.

         On January 28, 2015, Monson filed a second grievance appeal asserting that he is a "12 Tribes of Israel Rastafarian" and that his father was born in the Rastafarian Bobo Shanti sect and that he required a diet that complied with the standards of Leviticus and Deuteronomy. Young Decl. Ex. 14. ODOC researched Monson's request and found no support for Monson's claim that either the Twelve Tribes of Israel Rastafarians or the Bobo Shanti Rastafarians required or encouraged a kosher diet prepared with rabbinic blessing or oversight, although ODOC found all Rastafarian sources agreed on a vegetarian or vegan diet. Young Decl. Ex. 15, at 1. On March 9, 2015, Monson's second grievance appeal was denied and he was once again encouraged to use ODOC's non-meat alternative diet. Young Decl. Ex. 15, at 2.

         Monson commenced this action on March 27, 2015, ECF No. 1. On January 8, 2016, ODOC placed Monson on a kosher diet during the pendency of this case. Suppl. Young Decl. ECF No. 130. ODOC has since determined that Monson will receive a kosher diet for the rest of his time in ODOC custody, unless he asks to be removed from the kosher diet or engages in behavior that would render him ineligible for the kosher diet under ODOC rules.[7] Suppl. Young Decl.

         LEGAL STANDARDS

         Summary judgment is appropriate when "there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Wash, Mut. Inc. v. United States\ 636 F.3d 1207, 1216 (9th Cir. 2011); Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The moving party must show the absence of a dispute as to a material fact. Rivera v. Philip Morris, Inc., 395 F.3d 1142, 1146 (9th Cir. 2005). In response to a properly supported motion for summary judgment, the nonmoving party must go beyond the pleadings and show there is a genuine dispute as to a material fact for trial. Id. "This burden is not a light one. . . . The non-moving party must do more than show there is some 'metaphysical doubt' as to the material facts at issue." In re Oracle Corp. Sec. Litig., 627 F.3d 376, 387 (9th Cir. 2010) (citations omitted).

         A dispute as to a material fact is genuine "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Villiarmo v. Aloha Island Air, Inc., 281 F, 3d 1054, 1061 (9th Cir. 2002) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). The court must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Simmer v. Verity, Inc., 606 F.3d 584, 587 (9th Cir. 2010). "Summary judgment cannot be granted where contrary inferences may be drawn from the evidence as to material issues." Easter v. Am. W. Fin., 381 F.3d 948, 957 (9th Cir. 2004). A "mere disagreement or the bald assertion that a genuine issue of material fact exists" is not sufficient to preclude the grant of summary judgment. Harper v. Wattingford, 877 F.2d 728, 731 (9th Cir. 1989). When the non-moving party's claims are factually implausible, that party must "come forward with more persuasive evidence than otherwise would be necessary[.]" LVRC Holdings, LLC v. Brekka, 581 F.3d 1127, 1137 (9th Cir. 2009) (quotation marks and citation omitted).

         The substantive law governing a claim or defense determines whether a fact is material. Miller v. Glenn Miller Prod., Inc.,454 F.3d 975, 987 (9th Cir. 2006). If the resolution of a factual dispute would not affect the ...


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