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Arafat v. United States Department of Justice

United States District Court, Eighth Circuit

November 8, 2013

Sheikh Bilaal Muhammad Arafat, formerly known as Mark Edward Wetsch, Plaintiff,
v.
United States Department of Justice, Defendant.

Sheikh Bilaal Muhammad Arafat, formerly known as Mark Edward Wetsch, pro se.

Lonnie F. Bryan, Esq., United States Attorney's Office, Minneapolis, MN, on behalf of Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

ANN D. MONTGOMERY, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter is before the undersigned United States District Judge for a ruling on Magistrate Judge Franklin L. Noel's August 22, 2013 Report and Recommendation [Docket No. 27] ("R&R"). Both Plaintiff Sheikh Bilaal Muhammad Arafat[1] and Defendant the Department of Justice ("DOJ" or the "Government") object to the R&R in part [Docket Nos. 28, 31]. In the R&R, Judge Noel recommends granting in part and denying in part the DOJ's Motion to Dismiss the Complaint [Docket No. 12]. After a thorough de novo review of the record and for the reasons stated below, the R&R is adopted.

II. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff is in the custody of the United States Marshal, at the Sherburne County Jail in Minnesota, pending the resolution of his criminal case. Am. Compl. [Docket No. 4]. As a practicing Muslim, Arafat must adhere to a halal diet. Am. Compl. ¶ 8. In his criminal case, Magistrate Judge Jeanne J. Graham required the United States Marshal to provide Arafat with a diet that adhered to his religious beliefs. Order, Sept. 12, 2012 [Crim. Docket No. 73]. In subsequent orders, Judge Graham directed the Government to use good faith efforts to comply with Plaintiff's dietary requirements, and noted that the Government had begun ordering frozen halal meals [Crim. Docket Nos. 130, 191]. In his Amended Complaint ("Complaint") and memoranda, Arafat alleges he receives a few halal meals each week but primarily receives vegetarian meals, despite the Government's representations. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 13-14.

Arafat filed this action on December 26, 2012, alleging violations of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act ("RFRA") and the First Amendment. As relief, Arafat seeks an order compelling the DOJ to ensure he receives halal meat-based meals in equal proportion to other inmates. He also requests $20 per day in damages, starting from September 12, 2012, the date of Judge Graham's initial order. Am. Compl. The DOJ moved to dismiss on April 8, 2013.

On August 22, 2013, Judge Noel agreed in part with the Government's arguments, concluding the Government had not waived sovereign immunity under the RFRA. Judge Noel further concluded Arafat's Bivens action under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment could not stand, as Arafat had failed to name an individual defendant. Thus, Judge Noel recommends dismissing these two claims. However, to the extent the DOJ sought to dismiss Arafat's request for injunctive relief under the RFRA, Judge Noel recommends denying the DOJ's motion and allowing this request to survive. Both parties object to the R&R.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Standard of Review

In reviewing a magistrate judge's report and recommendation, the district court "shall make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C); see also D. Minn. L.R. 72.2(b). A district judge "may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge." Id.

B. Motion to Dismiss Standard

Rule 12 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure states that a party may move to dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). The court construes the pleadings in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, and the facts alleged in the complaint must be taken as true. Hamm v. Groose , 15 F.3d 110, 112 (8th Cir. 1994) (citation omitted). The court may not consider matters outside the pleadings at this stage. But, "documents necessarily embraced by the ...


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