United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
PHILIP P. SIMON, Chief District Judge.
Plaintiff Timothy Manges, an inmate at the Indiana State Prison, is a man who zealously defends his rights. He is a serial grievance filer. By Manges' own reckoning, he has filed more than sixty grievances over the years; Defendants say it's closer to one hundred. This case arises out of the many grievances Manges filed between 2009 and 2011 while at the Indiana State Prison ("ISP").
Manges is a member of the Eastern Orthodox Christian faith, and, at various times during his confinement at ISP, Manges was prevented from attending Eastern Orthodox liturgical services. The reasons vary-one time, services were cancelled for construction, another time he was disciplined for insubordination. At another time he was accidentally left off the pass list. Manges alleges that these incidents infringed his First Amendment right to exercise his religion, and has brought this lawsuit against six ISP staff members he alleges are responsible. He also alleges that three Defendants retaliated against him for filing grievances.
Manges seeks summary judgment on his retaliation claims against one Defendant, ISP Chaplain Terry Harman [DE 127]. As I'll explain, I think there are still genuine issues of fact that preclude judgment at this time, so I will deny Manges' motion. Meanwhile, Defendants have moved for summary judgment as well [DE 119]. This motion will be GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART. Defendants are entitled to judgment on the bulk of Manges' claims but he has come forward with just enough evidence to support two of his retaliation claims, so those claims will have to proceed to trial.
Timothy Manges is a prisoner in the Indiana state system. From March 2002 until March 2012 he was housed at the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City, Indiana. Since 2012, he's been housed at the Pendleton Correctional Facility in Pendelton, Indiana. This lawsuit concerns Manges' last few years at ISP.
Manges is a member of the Eastern Orthodox Christian faith and was an active member of the Eastern Orthodox community at ISP. The Eastern Orthodox community is one of the smaller faith communities at ISP, but every week an Orthodox priest or lay volunteer comes to preside over a liturgical service at ISP's Religious Center.
Manges' trouble began in September 2009, when he discovered that he had been left off of the Eastern Orthodox "count letter." A count letter is simply a list of the prisoners authorized to attend an event, in this case, the Eastern Orthodox service. If a prisoner's name was on the count letter, the guard at the checkpoint would allow him into the Religious Center. If his name wasn't on the list, no such luck. In September 2009, ISP had issued updated count letters after coming off of lockdown, and, due to a clerical error, Manges was left off. As a result, he was not able to attend the first two Orthodox services in September. Manges complained about the oversight to the ISP chaplains Terry Harman and David Rogers, who said they would look into it [DE 120-9 at 1]. According to Manges, when the problem still hadn't been cleared up by September 19, Chaplain Rogers issued him a same-day pass so that he could attend services despite being left off the count letter. Id. Rogers denies that he could have done this [DE 120-3 ¶ 7].
Things came to a head the next week, September 26. Manges set off to go to Orthodox services only to find, yet again, he was not on the count letter. Manges then went to Chaplain Harman to request a pass so that he could attend anyway. Harman refused, citing prison regulations barring same-day passes. Manges lost his temper. He told Harman that he was doing a lousy job, was incompetent, and that all the people working for him were incompetent too [DE 120-2 at 7]. Harman said Manges went further than that. According to Harman, Manges threatened him, saying "maybe I'll just have to kill some motherfucker to get back on the list" [DE 120-1 ¶ 10; DE 120-9 at 2]. Manges denies this [DE 139 ¶ 7]. Curiously Harman didn't report the threat. He later said that he was planning on just "letting it go" to help Manges out [DE 120-1 ¶ 12].
Manges, never one to let things go, filed a grievance about being left off of the count letter [DE 120-9 at 1]. When Harman was asked for his side of the story, he told prison officials about Manges' threat [DE 120-9 at 2]. After learning about the threat, Chaplain Rogers punished Manges by barring him from all Religious Center activities for thirty days [DE 120-10]. Manges was not otherwise disciplined by ISP because Harman had not reported the threat within five days of the incident, as ISP policy required. Id.
The next incident occurred nearly a year later, in June 2010. On June 5, 2010, Chaplain Rogers cancelled Eastern Orthodox services after the Orthodox volunteer, Peter Bylen, called the prison and told them he couldn't make it in [DE 120-3 ¶ 12; DE 120-11 at 6]. Bylen, though not a priest, usually led Orthodox services at ISP. A substitute volunteer ended up reporting to ISP that day, but, according to Rogers it was too late to reverse course by the time the substitute showed up. Id. A couple of weeks later, on June 30, Bylen called off again, leading to another cancelled service. Id. Manges filed grievances in response to both cancellations [DE 120-11 at 1, 7].
After a long period of relative peace, Chaplain Harman and Manges clashed again in April 2011. Peter Bylen requested that Manges be allowed to help set up the Religious Center for the Orthodox community's Easter service [DE 139-2 at 27]. Manges had been part of similar set-up and tear-down crews in the past [DE 139-2 at 30]. But this time Harman denied the request. Harman barred Manges from all non-essential religious activities, including the set-up crew [DE 120-12 at 1]. As Harman explained in an April 25, 2011 memo to Manges, Manges could still attend services and go to counseling sessions, but Harman was not going to allow him to help set up for ceremonies. Id. at 3. Harman explained that he needed to be able to trust the members of the set-up crew, and he did not trust Harman because of his history of angry outbursts. Id. Manges responded by filing a grievance [DE 120-12 at 4].
Then, in May, the roof of the Religious Center started leaking. The hole in the roof was large enough that debris fell inside the building, at which point, all religious services at ISP were cancelled while ISP fixed the roof [DE 120-13 at 1]. By early June, prison administrators found alternative venues for holding religious services. Nevertheless, Orthodox services remained cancelled for a few more weeks because the volunteer, Peter Bylen, was unavailable due to a family emergency. Id. Again, Manges filed grievances [DE 120-13 at 5].
By this point, Harman had had enough. On June 25, 2011, he interrupted the Eastern Orthodox service to pull Manges, Bylen, and the Orthodox priest aside for a meeting about Manges' behavior. According to Harman, the meeting was simply a "counseling session about the general doctrines of [Manges'] chosen faith"[DE 120-1 ¶ 16]. Harman told Manges that his practice of constantly filing grievances was legalistic and out of line with Orthodox teaching. Id.
Manges tells a different story. In his telling, Harman was aggressive and threatening from the start, exclaiming "I am tired of all your paperwork and grievances and it is going to stop" [DE 139 ¶ 2]. Manges denies that the meeting was a religious counseling session at all-Harman's sole intention was to deter him from filing grievances. Manges claims the only time faith came up was when Harman told him "You cannot be Orthodox because of your legalistic mind-set and you need to consider whether you are a Christian or not." Id. Naturally, Manges filed a grievance [DE 120-14].
In the late summer of 2011, ISP went into a state of lockdown. During a lockdown, all religious services are suspended. The lockdown ended in late August, but religious services did not start up again for a few weeks because it took the chaplains some time to put together updated count letters [DE 120-1 at 3]. Manges, again, filed a grievance [DE 120-15 at 9].
Mercifully, that appears to be the last of Manges' conflicts with ISP chaplains. There is one final incident at issue in this suit. In March 2012, ISP Superintendent William Wilson recommended Manges' transfer from ISP to his current facility, Pendleton [DE 139-3 at 21]. Manges claims Wilson did this in retaliation for this lawsuit and Manges' past grievances.
Manges filed this lawsuit, pro se, in LaPorte County Circuit Court in June 2011, alleging ISP officials violated his federal and state constitutional rights by failing to ensure that he could practice his religion [DE 1]. Defendants removed the case to federal district court, and, in January 2012, Manges filed an amended complaint that dropped his state law claims [DE 2: DE 12]. The amended complaint alleged, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, that ISP officials violated Manges' civil rights by denying his freedom to exercise his religion and by retaliating against him for filing grievances.
Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, I screened the amended complaint for frivolous or inadequate claims [DE 18]. I dismissed the RLUIPA claims, but ultimately granted leave to proceed on nine § 1983 claims against six Defendants. The six Defendants are ISP chaplain Terry Harman, ISP chaplain David Rogers, ISP assistant superintendent Dan McBride, ISP assistant superintendent Ron Neal, ISP superintendent William Wilson, and Westville Correctional Facility superintendent Mark Levenhagen. Defendants are sued in their personal, rather than official, capacity.
As for the claims, Manges alleges six violations of the First Amendment's free exercise clause. Count One is based on the inadvertent removal of Manges from the Eastern Orthodox count letter in September 2009. Count Two is based on Manges' October 2009 suspension from religious activities after he allegedly threatened Chaplain Harman. Counts Four and Five are based on the June 2010 cancellations when Bylen couldn't make it to the prison. Count Seven is based on the fact that there were no services between May 2011 and mid-June 2011 due to construction on the Religious Center roof and cancellations by Bylen. And Count Nine concerns the period in August and September 2011 when services were cancelled as the chaplains updated count letters.
In addition, Manges has alleged four retaliation claims. Count Three alleges Harman retaliated against Manges for filing a grievance by reporting that Manges had threatened him. Count Six alleges Harman, aided by McBride and Wilson, retaliated against Manges by restricting him to essential activities in April 2011. And Count Eight alleges Harman, again aided by McBride and Wilson, retaliated against Manges by threatening him at a June 2011 meeting. In addition, Manges has filed a supplementary retaliation claim against Wilson, alleging Wilson retaliated against him by having Manges transferred out of ISP [DE 34-1].
Defendants have now moved for summary judgment, arguing that Manges has not come forward with sufficient evidence to support any of his claims [DE 119]. Manges has likewise moved for summary judgment. He argues that the undisputed facts show he is entitled to judgment on the retaliation ...