United States District Court, D. South Carolina
Dean A. Holcomb, #369696, Plaintiff,
Bryan Styrling, Commissioner of the South Carolina Dept. of Corrections, Defendant.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
V. HODGES UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Holcomb (“Plaintiff”) is an inmate incarcerated
in the custody of the South Carolina Department of
Corrections (“SCDC”). He filed this action in the
Court of Common Pleas, Richland County, South Carolina, on
April 3, 2018, against SCDC director Bryan Styrling
(“Defendant”). [ECF No. 1-1]. On May 14, 2018,
Defendant removed the case to this court. [ECF No. 1]. This
matter is before the court on Defendant's motion for
summary judgment. [ECF No. 22]. Having been fully briefed
[ECF Nos. 28, 32, 44, 54], the motion is ripe for
pretrial proceedings in this case were referred to the
undersigned pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. §
636(b)(1)(B) and Local Civ. Rule 73.02(B)(2)(e) (D.S.C.).
Because the motion is dispositive, this report and
recommendation is entered for review by the district judge.
For the following reasons, the undersigned recommends the
district judge grant Defendant's motion for summary
Factual and Procedural Background
complaint, Plaintiff alleged he is a Jewish inmate and SCDC
denied his request for kosher meals, instead placing him on a
vegetarian diet. [ECF No. 1 at 4-5]. Plaintiff asserted
SCDC's vegetarian menu imposed a substantial burden on
his religious exercise. Id. On October 4, 2018,
Defendant moved for summary judgment. [ECF No. 22]. In
response to Defendant's motion, Plaintiff alleged for the
first time he is diabetic, SCDC's diabetic diet is not
kosher, and the diet SCDC provided does not meet his medical
or religious needs. [ECF No. 28 at 1]. On January 3, 2019,
the undersigned recommended the district judge grant
Defendant's motion for summary judgment. [ECF No. 35].
Plaintiff objected, again asserting SCDC's meals did not
meet his medical needs as a diabetic. [ECF No. 38 at 2-3]. In
an abundance of caution, the district judge construed
Plaintiff's new claim as an attempt to amend his
complaint, granted Plaintiff leave to amend, vacated the
report and recommendation, and remanded the case to the
undersigned. [ECF No. 40].
February 15, 2019, Plaintiff filed an amended complaint. [ECF
No. 44]. Plaintiff's amended complaint alleges SCDC's
kosher-compliant diet, the alternate entry diet, is not
prepared under kosher standards and does not meet his needs
as a diabetic. Id. at 1. In addition, he asserts the
supplemental snack he receives as a diabetic contains
non-kosher items and items the American Diabetes Association
(“ADA”) recommends diabetics avoid. Id.
at 3. Plaintiff alleges the failure to provide a
kosher-diabetic diet substantially burdens his religious
exercise and is not the least-restrictive means of furthering
any compelling government interest. Id. at 2. He
seeks “declaratory judgment relief and injunctive
relief from the refusal of SCDC to make their menus for
Diabetic Inmates who have religious needs, to meet kosher
standards.” Id. at 1-2.
April 5, 2019, Defendant filed a supplement to its motion for
summary judgment addressing the additional issue of whether
SCDC provides a diet that meets both kosher and diabetic
requirements. [ECF No. 54].
Standard on Summary Judgment
court shall grant summary judgment “if the movant shows
that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and
the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of
law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The movant bears the initial
burden of demonstrating that summary judgment is appropriate;
if the movant carries its burden, then the burden shifts to
the non-movant to set forth specific facts showing that there
is a genuine issue for trial. See Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). If a movant
asserts that a fact cannot be disputed, it must support that
assertion either by “citing to particular parts of
materials in the record, including depositions, documents,
electronically stored information, affidavits or
declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes
of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or
other materials;” or “showing . . . that an
adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support
the fact.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1).
considering a motion for summary judgment, the evidence of
the non-moving party is to be believed and all justifiable
inferences must be drawn in favor of the non-moving party.
See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242,
255 (1986). However, “[o]nly disputes over facts that
might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law
will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment. Factual
disputes that are irrelevant or unnecessary will not be
counted.” Id. at 248. Further, while the
federal court is charged with liberally construing a
complaint filed by a pro se litigant to allow the development
of a potentially meritorious case, see, e.g., Cruz v.
Beto, 405 U.S. 319 (1972), the requirement of liberal
construction does not mean that the court can ignore a clear
failure in the pleadings to allege facts that set forth a
federal claim, nor can the court assume the existence of a
genuine issue of material fact when none exists. Weller
v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387 (4th Cir.
asserts a claim pursuant to the Religious Land Use and
Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”). [ECF
No. 44 at 1]. RLUIPA provides as follows:
No government shall impose a substantial burden on the
religious exercise of a person residing in or confined to an
institution, as defined in section 1997 of this title, even
if the burden results from a rule of general applicability,
unless the ...