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Morris-Bey v. Liebel

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

September 19, 2019

DAVID LIEBEL, et al. Defendants.



         Plaintiff Kevin Morris-Bey, an inmate of the Indiana Department of Correction (“IDOC”), brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against David Liebel and Jeffrey Hinshaw alleging that the defendants violated his rights under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) and the First Amendment. The RLUIPA claim is proceeding against Mr. Liebel in his official capacity as a claim for injunctive relief. The First Amendment claims are proceeding against both defendants in their individual capacities. The defendants moved for summary judgment and Mr. Morris-Bey was directed to respond, and given ample time to do so, but he has not responded. The motion is therefore now ripe for ruling. For the following reasons, the motion for summary judgment is granted.

         I. Summary Judgment Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that summary judgment is appropriate “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” “Material facts are those that might affect the outcome of the suit under applicable substantive law.” Dawson v. Brown, 803 F.3d 829, 833 (7th Cir. 2015) (internal quotation omitted). “A genuine dispute as to any material fact exists ‘if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.’” Daugherty v. Page, 906 F.3d 606, 609-10 (7th Cir. 2018) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). The Court views the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and all reasonable inferences are drawn in the non-movant’s favor. Barbera v. Pearson Education, Inc., 906 F.3d 621, 628 (7th Cir. 2018). The Court cannot weigh evidence or make credibility determinations on summary judgment because those tasks are left to the fact-finder. Johnson v. Advocate Health and Hospitals Corp. 892 F.3d 887, 893 (7th Cir. 2018).

         The plaintiff failed to respond to the defendants’ summary judgment motion. Accordingly, facts alleged in the motion are deemed admitted so long as support for them exists in the record. See S.D. Ind. Local Rule 56-1 (“A party opposing a summary judgment motion must . . . file and serve a response brief and any evidence . . . that the party relies on to oppose the motion. The response must . . . identif[y] the potentially determinative facts and factual disputes that the party contends demonstrate a dispute of fact precluding summary judgment.”); Smith v. Lamz, 321 F.3d 680, 683 (7th Cir. 2003) (“[F]ailure to respond by the nonmovant as mandated by the local rules results in an admission”); Brasic v. Heinemanns, Inc., 121 F.3d 281, 285-286 (7th Cir. 1997) (affirming grant of summary judgment where the nonmovant failed to properly offer evidence disputing the movant's version of the facts). This does not alter the summary judgment standard, but it does “reduce the pool” from which facts and inferences relative to the motion may be drawn. Smith v. Severn, 129 F.3d 419, 426 (7th Cir. 1997).

         II. Statement of Facts

         At all times relevant to this lawsuit, Mr. Morris-Bey was confined at the Correctional Industrial Facility. Dkt. 44-1, p. 8. Mr. Morris-Bey has practiced Islamism since he was eight years old. Id. He uses religious oils five times a day during his daily prayers. Id., p. 11. Pursuant to IDOC policy, an inmate may possess up to two ounces of religious oils, regardless of religious preference or lack thereof. Dkt. 44-2, ¶ 4. However, IDOC policy states that religious oils may be purchased only through commissary. Id. This is to ensure that the oils do not come in glass bottles, are not flammable, and do not have strong scents because those scents could be used to mask the presence of contraband such as tobacco or marijuana and may be offensive to others or cause allergic reactions. Id. ¶ 5. IDOC has made great efforts to find religious oils that satisfy these concerns. Id., ¶ 6. The religious oils sold on commissary are packaged in clear plastic bottles and are designed for use in prison. Id., ¶ 7. The oil will char, but not burn. Id. And the oil contains no animal byproducts and is certified halal. Id.

         Before April 2017, Mr. Morris-Bey would buy religious oils from commissary every few months. Dkt. 44-1, p. 14. He was notified in April of 2017 that religious oils were unavailable from commissary. Id., p. 16. He was not able to purchase religious oils from commissary from April 2017 to approximately September 6, 2017. Dkt. 44-1, p. 16. This inability to purchase religious oils from commissary occurred because some of the oils were testing positive for synthetic marijuana, also known as K2 or spice, with the field tests used at the facilities. Dkt. 44-2, ¶ 9. From April to June 2017, the Deputy Chief Investigator of IDOC’s Division of Investigations and Intelligence tested various religious oils that were sold on commissary. Id., ¶ 10. Nine of the religious oils tested positive for K2. Id. The only religious oil that did not test positive was the unscented hypo-allergenic oil. Id. More formal lab results showed that these were false positives. Id., ¶ 11. Allowing an item known to trigger a positive result to be purchased from commissary could call into question any positive test. Id., ¶ 12. Additionally, inmates could use the oil containers to conceal liquid K2 and the investigators at the facility would not be able to determine if it was religious oil or actual K2. Id.

         In June 2017, Mr. Morris-Bey tried purchasing oils from an outside vendor called HalalCO. Dkt. 44-1, p. 18. The bottles that he purchased from the outside vendor were confiscated by the mailroom because the oils were not approved. Dkt. 44-1, p. 20.

         In May or June 2017, Mr. Morris-Bey spoke with Defendant Hinshaw about commissary not having any religious oils. Id., p. 23. Defendant Hinshaw is the chaplain at Correctional Industrial Facility. Id. p., 22. Defendant Hinshaw informed Mr. Morris-Bey that the religious oils were unavailable from commissary because the oils tested positive for a synthetic drug. Id., p. 24. Defendant Liebel is the Director of Religious Services at IDOC. Dkt. 44-2, ¶ 1. Mr. Morris-Bey’s only communication with Defendant Liebel about this issue was during the grievance appeal processes. Dkt. 44-1, p. 27-28.

         Mr. Morris-Bey believes the defendants should have provided some sort of accommodation such as releasing the confiscated oils or providing temporary religious oils to prevent interruption in his daily prayers. Dkt. 44-1, 26-27, 29.

         III. Discussion

         The defendants move for summary judgment on Mr. Morris-Bey’s ...

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