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Watson v. Pressley

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Anderson/Greenwood Division

January 21, 2016

Jamal M. Watson, Plaintiff,
v.
Director Nadia Pressley, Captain Jackie Scott, Lt. Jerald Irving, Lt. Nick Murray, Defendants.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF MAGISTRATE JUDGE

JACQUELYN D. AUSTIN, Magistrate Judge.

This matter is before the Court on a motion for summary judgment filed by Defendants. [Doc. 25.] Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(d), D.S.C., this magistrate judge is authorized to review all pretrial matters in cases filed under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and to submit findings and recommendations to the District Court.

This action was filed on or before December 8, 2014, [1] alleging violations of Plaintiff's constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act ("RFRA"), and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act ("RLUIPA").[2] [Doc. 1.] Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment on April 30, 2015. [Doc. 25.] On May 4, 2015, pursuant to Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975), Plaintiff was advised to respond to the motion and of the possible consequences if he failed to adequately respond. [Doc. 26.] Plaintiff filed a response in opposition to the motion on May 13, 2015 [Doc. 28] and an additional attachment on May 18, 2015 [Doc. 30]. Accordingly, the motion is ripe for review.

BACKGROUND[3]

Plaintiff, who was a pretrial detainee at the Williamsburg County Detention Center ("WCDC") at all times relevant to the allegations in the Complaint, [4] alleges that Muslims housed at WCDC are denied the right to congregate on Fridays for Jumu'ah, two prayers and a short sermon, but Christians are allowed to congregate with an outside preacher on Sundays and have fellowship on Mondays. [Doc. 1 at 3 ¶ 1.] Further, Plaintiff was stripped of his Kufi, a religious head piece, and asked Defendant Lt. Jerald Irving ("Irving") about Islamic prayer rugs but was told to make prayer on the same blanket he uses to sleep. [ Id. at 3 ¶ 2.] WCDC does not sell Qur'ans in the kiosk, although it is stated that the kiosk sells them. [ Id. ] Plaintiff was told "to do without" a Qur'an. [ Id. ] Plaintiff has heard prison officers make derogatory remarks about Muslims. [ Id. at 3 ¶ 3.] Plaintiff alleges he submitted grievance forms to Defendants Director Nadia Pressley ("Pressley") and Captain Jackie Scott ("Scott"), members of WCDC's administrative staff, but never received a response. [ Id. at 4.] He also complained to Irving and Defendant Lt. Nick Murray ("Murray") but was brushed aside. [ Id. ] Plaintiff wishes to have a chapel/Imam assigned to WCDC and seeks $3.5 million. [ Id. at 5.]

APPLICABLE LAW

Liberal Construction of Pro Se Complaint

Plaintiff brought this action pro se, which requires the Court to liberally construe her pleadings. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972); Loe v. Armistead, 582 F.2d 1291, 1295 (4th Cir. 1978); Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978). Pro se pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys. Haines, 404 U.S. at 520. The mandated liberal construction means only that if the Court can reasonably read the pleadings to state a valid claim on which the plaintiff could prevail, it should do so. Barnett v. Hargett, 174 F.3d 1128, 1133 (10th Cir. 1999). A court may not construct the plaintiff's legal arguments for her. Small v. Endicott, 998 F.2d 411, 417-18 (7th Cir. 1993). Nor should a court "conjure up questions never squarely presented." Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985).

Requirements for a Cause of Action Under § 1983

This action is filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which provides a private cause of action for constitutional violations by persons acting under color of state law. Section 1983 "is not itself a source of substantive rights, ' but merely provides a method for vindicating federal rights elsewhere conferred.'" Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 271 (1994) (quoting Baker v. McCollan, 443 U.S. 137, 144 n.3 (1979)). Accordingly, a civil action under § 1983 allows "a party who has been deprived of a federal right under the color of state law to seek relief." City of Monterey v. Del Monte Dunes at Monterey, Ltd., 526 U.S. 687, 707 (1999).

Section 1983 provides, in relevant part,

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State... subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or any person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress...

42 U.S.C. § 1983. To establish a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must prove two elements: (1) that the defendant "deprived [the plaintiff] of a right secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States" and (2) that the defendant "deprived [the plaintiff] of this constitutional right under color of [State] statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage." Mentavlos v. Anderson, 249 F.3d 301, 310 (4th Cir. 2001) (third alteration in original) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).

The under-color-of-state-law element, which is equivalent to the "state action" requirement ...


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