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Kemp v. Liebel

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

January 20, 2017

LARRY KEMP and BRIAN WOODRING, Plaintiffs,
v.
DAVID LIEBEL, Indiana Department of Correction, Director of Religious Services, in his individual capacity, Defendant.

          ORDER ON CROSS MOTIONS FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          SARAH EVANS BARKER, JUDGE

         This matter comes before us on cross Motions for Partial Summary Judgment filed by Plaintiffs Larry Kemp and Brian Woodring and by Defendant David Liebel. Dkt. Nos. 48 and 57, respectively. Plaintiffs, prisoners within the Indiana Department of Correction ("DOC"), seek an award of nominal and punitive damages against Mr. Liebel in his individual capacity for allegedly violating their First Amendment right to practice their religion through services and study for a period of time following their transfers from one DOC correctional facility to another. For the following reasons, we GRANT Defendant's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment and DENY the Motion for Partial Summary Judgment filed by Plaintiffs Larry Kemp and Brian Woodring.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         The parties stipulate that there are no contested issues of material fact in this case. Mr. Kemp and Mr. Woodring are Jewish. They were formerly confined at the Pendleton Correctional Facility and, since April 2014, have been housed at the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility in Carlisle, Indiana.

         DOC inmates who adhere to certain religions, including Judaism, are permitted to pray and worship as a group. Pursuant to DOC policy, "[o]ffenders shall be free to practice and adhere to the requirements of a personal religious belief within the limitations of [Department] policy and administrative procedure." DOC Policy and Administrative Procedure, Dkt. No. 17-4 at 2. Regarding Judaism specifically, the DOC Handbook of Religious Beliefs and Practices recognizes the importance of congregate worship and study to its adherents. DOC Handbook of Religious Beliefs and Practices, Dkt No. 17-3 at 5. "Jewish services may be led by trained lay persons as well as by Rabbis, teachers of Judaism and spiritual leaders of congregations, " though Jewish services need not necessarily be led by a rabbi or other religious leader. Id. at 3, 6.

         DOC administrative policy provides that "[t]o protect the integrity and authenticity of belief and practice, Chaplains, religious specialists or qualified volunteers, shall provide leadership of religious programs whenever possible." DOC Policy and Administrative Procedure at 3. The DOC employs chaplains at its various facilities. On a regular basis, the chaplains lead Christian services, but they do not do so for other religious traditions. In the case of services for other religious traditions,

[w]hen a staff Chaplain is not empowered to conduct a religious program or ceremony according to the tenants of a particular faith or custom, and there is sufficient offender interest, the Chaplain or the Community Involvement Coordinator may seek to recruit appropriate individual(s) from the community.

Id. at p. 3. When a suitable leader is not available, the facility's superintendent or designee may select an offender to facilitate the group's religious services. Id. However, "[w]hen possible, facilities shall consult with outside authorities before selecting offender facilitators." Id.

         Wabash Valley imposes an additional requirement for inmates to lead or facilitate services where a chaplain or an outside volunteer is not available to do so. Before leading such services, an inmate must have been certified by an outside religious authority as sufficiently knowledgeable to conduct a service. Further, any offender serving as a leader of religious services must also have resided at the facility for a certain length of time under good behavior and be approved by the Security Threat Group Coordinator.

         At Pendleton Correctional Facility Mr. Kemp and Mr. Woodring along with other offenders attended weekly services and study for Jewish prisoners. They and other offenders who participated in Jewish services and study were visited once a month by rabbis from the Lubavitch of Indiana, a group of Orthodox Jewish practitioners, who had contracted with Pendleton and three additional DOC correctional facilities. Offenders led other services and study sessions for Jewish adherents.

         In addition to attending Jewish services and study sessions at Pendleton Correctional Facility, Mr. Kemp, Mr. Woodring, and certain other offenders were authorized to receive kosher meals beginning in 2010.[1]When DOC first offered kosher meal service, the food was pre-packaged in the style of TV dinners. In 2013, DOC created what it describes as separate kosher kitchens in four of its facilities, including Wabash Valley. This decision was made because preparing meals certified as kosher by appropriate religious authorities selected by DOC in one of the special kosher kitchens is less expensive than providing pre-packaged meals. Several DOC officials, including Defendant Liebel, were involved in or consulted about the creation of the kosher kitchens.

         Mr. Liebel is DOC's Director of Religious and Volunteer Services. In this capacity, he-in cooperation with the Superintendents of each correctional facility-is responsible for ensuring, consistent with DOC policy, that religious programming is offered to inmates at DOC facilities. Generally speaking, Mr. Liebel's duties include the establishment of the contours of religious programming in DOC institutions, and the management of religious services, programs, and DOC staff. Mr. Liebel determines standards for religious services programs and DOC's chaplaincy staff; works with DOC policy staff to determine the frequency and under what circumstances religious groups meet; provides guidance regarding religious programming, including development and management; assists facilities in recruiting volunteers, and prepares and updates the DOC's Handbook of Religious Beliefs and Practices. Mr. Liebel, however, does not directly supervise chaplains at DOC facilities and is not involved in any day-to-day activities or operations occurring at that level. The recruitment of volunteers is conducted at the facility level, with no involvement by Mr. Liebel. Similarly, it is the role of facility officials, not Mr. Liebel, to address issues concerning whether a particular religious group is allowed to meet together within the facility or whether certain religious meetings must be suspended.

         In July 2013, Mr. Liebel became involved in the initial discussions surrounding DOC's creation of kosher kitchens. DOC had determined that inmates who were eligible for and who wished to maintain a kosher diet would be housed in facilities where the new kitchens that were capable of serving kosher meals had been installed. This required certain inmates at the Pendleton Correctional Facility to be moved to the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility. During the process of certifying the kitchens as kosher, DOC informed offenders then receiving kosher meals that they would be moved to Wabash Valley or another properly equipped facility in order to continue their kosher diets. All offenders eligible for transfer to a facility that would accommodate their kosher diet requirements received a notice from Mr. Liebel to that effect and were given the choice of whether to move to the new location in order to continue access to the diet or to remain at a location where kosher diets would not be available. Some offenders at Pendleton chose to withdraw their requests for kosher diet rather than be transferred to another facility. Mr. Kemp and Mr. Woodring accepted transfers to Wabash Valley so that they could continue to receive kosher meals.

         The decision regarding which offenders were to be transferred to which facility was a classification decision involving, among other things, considerations of security, medical and mental health issues, programming, and the need to separate certain prisoners, in addition to their kosher diet preferences. Accordingly, the final decision as to the housing of prisoners was made by the DOC Commissioner. Mr. Liebel did not know to which facility each offender would be moved, and he had no control over that process. Apparently, however, Mr. Liebel was aware that no religious services and study were available at Wabash Valley and that Jewish prisoners housed there had been upset over the lack of these programs. Mr. Liebel apparently did have the authority to delay the transfers of Jewish prisoners, including Mr. Kemp and Mr. Woodring, by requesting such by DOC's classification department.

         In early 2014, Mr. Liebel arranged for the visit of an Orthodox Jewish rabbi to each facility's kitchen to ensure that the DOC kitchens were certified as kosher. Thereafter, offenders were transferred to facilities where they could avail themselves of a kosher diet. Mr. Kemp and Mr. Woodring were transferred to Wabash Valley in April 2014. Three other offenders who adhered to a kosher regimen remained at Pendleton because they had been placed in special housing for reasons unrelated to their religious preferences, i.e., mental health treatment, disciplinary reasons, and restrictive house status. DOC eventually discontinued the provision of kosher meals at Pendleton Correctional Facility.

         Before April 2014, Jewish inmates were housed at Wabash Valley, some of whom received a kosher diet, but no Jewish services or group meetings were available prior to the arrivals of Mr. Kemp and Mr. Woodring. Wabash Valley prisoners were not authorized to serve as leaders of Jewish services and study pursuant to DOC policy because there had been no contact with or approval from an outside religious authority- DOC had been unsuccessful in its attempts since December 2013 to recruit any outside authority to come to Wabash Valley to evaluate, and ideally to certify, prisoners who could lead Jewish services and study. ...


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