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Woodring v. Liebel

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

September 14, 2016



          Hon. Jane Magnus-Stinson, Judge United States District Court

         Plaintiff Brian Woodring alleges that defendants David Liebel, Robert Bugher, and David Smith are liable to him because they retaliated against him in violation of his First Amendment rights.[1] Specifically, Mr. Woodring alleges that these defendants either initiated or failed to stop his transfer from Correctional Industrial Facility (“CIF”) to Pendleton Correctional Facility (“Pendleton”) in retaliation for his participation in a 2011 contempt action. The defendants seek summary judgment on the claims alleged against them. They argue that they are entitled to summary judgment because Mr. Woodring was transferred so that he could receive certain Jewish services and not for an improper purpose.

         For the reasons explained below, the defendants' motion for summary judgment [dkt. 90] is granted in part and denied in part. The motion is granted as to defendants Robert Bugher and Chaplain David Smith. These defendants are entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The motion is denied as to defendant David Liebel because there are material facts in dispute regarding whether he retaliated against Mr. Woodring for exercising his First Amendment rights.

         I. Standard of Review

         Summary judgment should be granted “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). When evaluating this inquiry, the Court must give the non-moving party the benefit of all reasonable inferences from the evidence submitted and resolve “any doubt as to the existence of a genuine issue for trial ... against the moving party.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 331 (1986); see also Ault v. Speicher, 634 F.3d 942, 945 (7th Cir. 2011). The key inquiry, is whether admissible evidence exists to support a plaintiff's claims, not the weight or credibility of that evidence, both of which are assessments reserved to the trier of fact. See Schacht v. Wis. Dep't of Corrections, 175 F.3d 497, 504 (7th Cir. 1999). Judgment as a matter of law cannot be granted on an issue that turns on witness credibility. See Burger v. Int'l Union of Elevator Constructors Local No. 2, 498 F.3d 750, 753 (7th Cir. 2007).

         II. Factual Background

         The following factual background is evaluated pursuant to the standards set forth above. That is, this statement of facts is not necessarily true, but as the summary judgment standard requires, the undisputed facts and the disputed evidence are presented in the light reasonably most favorable to Mr. Woodring as the non-moving party with respect to the motion for summary judgment. See Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Products, Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000).

         Mr. Woodring identifies himself as Jewish.

         Mr. Woodring requested and was denied a kosher diet at CIF. This Court previously held in Maston Willis v. Commissioner, IDOC, 1:09-cv-815 JMS-DML (dkt. 103), that the Indiana Department of Correction's (“DOC”) termination of kosher diets violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-1(a). The Willis litigation was brought on behalf of a class of individuals who self-identified as requiring a kosher diet to properly exercise their religious beliefs. On December 22, 2011, class counsel filed a motion to intervene for the purpose of seeking contempt remedies on behalf of Mr. Woodring and three other members of the class in Willis. (See docket number 146). That motion was voluntarily dismissed on March 12, 2012, for procedural reasons. In September 2012, the parties reached an agreement in principle to resolve the issues related to the motion to intervene. Out of this agreement a new procedure concerning the provision of kosher diets was created. At some point in February or March of 2013, Mr. Woodring began receiving his kosher diet.

         On January 19, 2012, Defendant David Liebel, then Deputy Director of Religious and Volunteer Services, drafted an email in which he reported being approached by Mr. Woodring (one of the four offenders involved in the Willis contempt case) while at CIF. The email stated that Mr. Woodring asked why there weren't Jewish services at CIF and whether it is true that anyone who asked for them would be transferred. In response, Mr. Liebel stated that it is a combination of a lack of volunteers and a lack of demand from CIF and that if an inmate wanted to participate in Jewish services, the quickest and easiest way would be to write Dr. Hall, the Director of Religious and Volunteer Services, to request a move for religious purposes. Dkt. 108-7 at p. 21. Mr. Woodring testified that he did not demand services be provided at CIF and that he “advised Liebel I did not want to be transferred.” Dkt. 108-1 at p. 14.

         In September 2012, Mr. Woodring's mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

         On September 26, 2012, Mr. Woodring requested an enhanced kosher fasting sack to break his fast surrounding the Jewish High Holy day of Yom Kippur. Mr. Woodring only received a sack dinner that was not kosher. Unhappy, Mr. Woodring filed a grievance complaining of mistreatment and discrimination against him and Jewish prisoners in general by Chaplain Smith. He wrote:

This facility has a history (the chapel and chaplains that is) of discriminating against Jews and this is yet another example of such. The chaplains refuse services for Jews/Hebrews/Israelites and inmates who choose ‘other' for religious preferences. We are not supplied Jewish Literature, Jewish Kippahs, Jewish Calendars of Holidays, nothing.

Dkt. 108-6 at p. 20. Mr. Woodring requested a meeting with the grievance specialist, Chaplain Smith and all Jewish inmates at the facility to address these concerns. As a result of this grievance, a meeting was reportedly scheduled for October 27, 2012. Dkt. 108-2 at p. 31-32 (grievance response).

         On October 19, 2012, Chaplain David Smith emailed David Liebel asking for help.

         Chaplain Smith stated that he had responded to a grievance from Mr. Woodring about the lack of corporate Jewish services at CIF and had also found a flyer in a housing unit soliciting requests for Jewish services. In response, Mr. Liebel recalled his earlier (January 19, 2012) conversation with Mr. Woodring and suggested initiating a lateral transfer so that Mr. Woodring could receive Jewish services at another facility.

         That same day, Mr. Liebel emailed legal counsel (not including defendant Mr. Bugher) stating that unless they had an objection he would like to initiate a lateral move for Mr. Woodring. Dkt. 108-7 at p. 28.

         On October 23, 2012, counsel for the DOC[2] contacted counsel for the plaintiff class in Willis to ask if there were any legal impediments or consequences to transferring Mr. Woodring.


Brian Woodring, DOC # 110925, one of the four named in the Willis contempt petition, is advocating for Jewish services at GIF, which are not currently offered and which no one else there has asked for. So the Department is contemplating sending him to Pendleton, Miami or the Prison, all of which have active Jewish services. He is a level 3, as are those facilities. I advised that l don't see any relationship between the contempt proceedings in Willis and moving an offender so he can have a ...

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