United States District Court, D. Minnesota
Marvin Munt, pro se,
Lindsay LaVoie, Minnesota Attorney General's Office, for
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
RICHARD NELSON, United States District Judge
matter is before the Court on the Report and Recommendation
(“R & R”) of Magistrate Judge Steven E. Rau
dated January 27, 2017 [Doc. No. 52]. In the R & R,
Magistrate Judge Rau recommended that Plaintiff Joel Marvin
Munt's First Motion for Temporary Restraining Order
(“Motion for TRO”) [Doc. No. 3] and First Motion
for Expedited Preliminary Relief (“Motion for Expedited
Relief”) [Doc. No. 5] (collectively, “Motions for
Injunctive Relief”) be denied by this Court. In the R
& R, Magistrate Judge Rau also recommended that
Plaintiff's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings [Doc.
No. 38] be denied. Finally, before the Court is Munt's
Motion to Appoint Counsel [Doc. No. 49].
filed timely objections to the R & R, (Pl.'s Obj.
[Doc. No 54]), to which Defendants responded. (Def.'s
Obj. Resp. [Doc. No. 58]). Pursuant to federal law, the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and local rules, the Court
must perform a de novo review of any portion of the
magistrate judge's opinion to which objections are made.
28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3); D.
Minn. L.R. 72.2(b)(3). Based on that de novo review, the
Court adopts the R & R as modified, denies
Plaintiff's Motions for injunctive relief, and denies
without prejudice Plaintiff's Motion to Appoint Counsel.
is an inmate currently incarcerated at the Minnesota
Correctional Facility (“MCF”)-Stillwater.
(R&R of July 30, 3015 at 2 [Doc. No. 74].) Plaintiff
asserts a claim under U.S.C. § 1983, against the
Minnesota Department of Corrections (“DOC”) and
Tom Roy, Gloria H. Andreachi, Bruce Julson, Steven Hammer,
and Bruce Reiser (collectively, “Defendants”),
all of whom are alleged to be employees of the DOC. (Compl.
at 1-4 [Doc. No. 1].) Munt contends that Defendants violated the
Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000
(“RLUIPA”) and article 1, section 16 of the
Minnesota Constitution by failing to accommodate his
religious beliefs. (Id. at 1). Specifically,
Plaintiff asserts that his “deeply held”
Christian “religious beliefs include a prohibition
against indecent displays, ” including “exposure
that results from changing clothes in a public area, sharing
a cell with someone, using the toilet in a public area, and
showering in a public area.” (Id. at 4).
Plaintiff complains of inadequate privacy at the shower
facilities at MCF-Stillwater, notwithstanding their
designation as “individual occupancy showers” and
therefore refrains from showering, instead resorting to
“bird baths” because he is “totally exposed
to anyone looking down” on him. (Id. at 4-6).
Because he refrains from showering, Plaintiff believes that
he is “denied the same level of services as other
inmates.” (Id. at 6). Additionally, because
MCF-Stillwater corrections officers can ordinarily view
inmates in their cells, Plaintiff hangs a privacy sheet when
changing his clothing, taking a “bird bath, ” or
using the toilet. (Id. at 4-6). According to
Plaintiff, MCF-Stillwater “inmates frequently hand
[sic] things in their cells for privacy. This usually goes
unpunished” and often does not elicit comments from
guards. (Id. at 6). Plaintiff also states that the
lack of privacy at MCF-Stillwater forces him “to choose
between potential discipline and adhering to his
religion.” (Id. at 5). He understands that
hanging a privacy sheet violates MCF-Stillwater policy
against hanging such objects in cells, and he fears
retaliation for the exercise of his religious beliefs by
doing so. (Id. at 12-13.)
January and March 2016-and prior to filing this
lawsuit-Plaintiff filed several kites, one grievance, and a
subsequent grievance appeal with various Defendants in order
to address his privacy concerns and fear of retaliation.
(See id. at 7-11). In each of the aforementioned
communications, Plaintiff stated his religious beliefs
prohibit “indecent displays.” Id.
response to his grievances, Defendants offered alternatives
consistent with safety and security concerns at
MCF-Stillwater (e.g., compliance with the Prison Rape
Elimination Act “PREA”). (See, e.g.,
id. at 10) (proposing that Plaintiff use a towel to
address privacy concerns when using the toilet). In the final
disposition of Plaintiff's grievance, Defendant Reiser
dismissed the appeal. (Id. at 11.) He indicated that
Plaintiff's “religious beliefs are being
accommodated, ” citing considerations of staff and
inmate safety, noting previous suggestions to address
Plaintiff's privacy concerns, and stating that
“showers are considered single occupancy and have
curtains or doors that cover the body's
basis of the aforementioned facts, Plaintiff filed suit on
May 9, 2016, alleging violations of RLUIPA and article 1,
section 16 of the Minnesota Constitution due to
Defendants' alleged failure to accommodate his religious
beliefs. Defendants filed an answer in their official
capacities on September 19, 2016. (See Answer of
Defs. Minn. DOC, Gloria Andreachi, Bruce Julson, Steve
Hammer, Bruce Reiser, and Tom Roy) [Doc. No. 19 at 1, n.1]
(“Answer”).) Among their responses to the Complaint,
Defendants also assert various defenses. (See id. at
¶¶ 45-54.) For example, Defendants contend that
their “conduct was authorized by law, was reasonable,
and was taken in good faith” and they also claim
entitlement to qualified, official, or discretionary
immunity. (Id. ¶¶ 46-47).
filed his Motions for Injunctive Relief concurrently with the
Complaint on May 9, 2016. The Motions for Injunctive Relief
seek to enjoin Defendants from taking any disciplinary
measures against Plaintiff for observing his religious belief
in the prohibition of “indecent displays.”
(See Mot. for TRO at 3; Mot. for Expedited Relief at
2.) Munt explains that the Motion for TRO was filed as a
provisional measure while the Court evaluated the Motion for
Expedited Relief. (See Mot. for TRO at 1.) However,
both the Motion for TRO and the Motion for Expedited Relief
rest on the same factual allegations and are
indistinguishable with respect to the relief Plaintiff seeks.
(Compare, e.g., Mot. for TRO at 3 with Mot.
for Expedited Relief at 2.) Both seek to enjoin Defendants
from disciplining Plaintiff for hanging a privacy sheet,
confiscating Plaintiff's privacy sheet, forcing Plaintiff
to shower, or moving Plaintiff to a double occupancy cell.
(See Mot. for TRO at 3; Mot. for Expedited Relief at
purposes of responding to Plaintiff's motions, Defendants
do not dispute the sincerity of Plaintiff's religious
beliefs. (Defs.' Opp'n Mem. at 8 [Doc. No. 27].)
However, they contend that they have not substantially
burdened Plaintiff's religious practice, and that even if
they did, their policies are narrowly tailored to achieve a
compelling governmental interest. (Id. at 8-9.)
reply memorandum, Munt raises a new issue, asserting a lack
of access to a law library and also argues that
Defendants' multiple answers were not authorized under
the law, that Defendants' factual assertions and
affidavits are untruthful, that Defendants' arguments are
not properly pleaded as affirmative defenses and are
therefore waived, and that there cannot be a compelling
security interest when other inmates also use privacy sheets.
(Reply at 1-3, 5-7, 11, 15 [Doc. No. 37].)
The Magistrate Judge's Findings and
magistrate judge first noted that many of the arguments that
Munt raised in his reply were unrelated to either the
Defendants' response in opposition to Munt's motions
or Munt's Complaint. (R&R at 4.) Because they were
not properly before the Court, the magistrate judge declined
to consider them. (Id. at 6.) The magistrate judge
also rejected Munt's contention that Defendants'
arguments raised in opposition to his motions were waived
because they were not raised as affirmative defenses.
(Id. at 7-10.) As to the Motions for Injunctive
Relief, Magistrate Judge Rau applied the factors set forth in
Dataphase Systems v. CL Systems, Inc., 640 F.2d 109,
113 (8th Cir. 1981) (commonly referred to as the
“Dataphase factors”). Because he found that all
four Dataphase factors weighed in favor of
Defendants, he recommended the denial of the motions.
(R&R at 10-17.) The magistrate judge also recommended the
denial of Plaintiff's Motion for Judgment on the
Pleadings, finding that Defendants' Answer raised issues
of fact. (Id. at 18-19.)
raises numerous objections to the R&R, which the Court
generally categorizes as follows: (1) disagreement with the
magistrate judge's determinations that the pleading
requirements of Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662
(2009), and Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544 (2007) (“Iqbal/Twombly”), are
inapplicable to affirmative defenses and that Defendants'
defenses were appropriately raised and not waived; (2) a
related objection to the magistrate judge's determination
regarding Plaintiff's Motion for Judgment on the
Pleadings; (3) concerns regarding access to legal research;
and (4) disagreement with the magistrate judge's analysis
and assessment of the Dataphase factors.
also filed two self-styled Supplements to Plaintiff's
Objections (“Supplements”) that essentially
provide updated factual information. (See Pl.'s
Supp. to Obj. [Doc. No. 56]; Pl.'s Second Supp. to Obj.
[Doc. No. 59].) Because it appeared from the Supplements that
changes had been made to the shower facilities since the
initial round of briefing, the Court directed Defendants to
submit a supplemental affidavit addressing the new facts in
Plaintiff's Supplements. (Order of March 6, 2017 at 3
[Doc. No. 61].) Defendants filed the Affidavit of John Quist
[Doc. No. 63] in response to the Court's directive.
Shortly thereafter, Munt objected to the filing of the Quist
Affidavit (Obj. to Quist Aff. [Doc. No. 64]) and submitted
his own affidavit (Munt Aff. [Doc. No. 65].) In light of the
updated facts and the Court's directive to the Defendants
to provide a supplemental affidavit, the Court has reviewed
the supplemental submissions, including the Munt Affidavit
and Munt's Objections to the Quist Affidavit.
Affirmative Defenses/Adequacy of Defendants'
Defenses and Waiver
contends that the magistrate judge erred in permitting
Defendants to assert certain arguments in response to
Plaintiff's motions, specifically arguments regarding
Defendants' interests in the safety and security of
inmates. (Pl.'s Obj. at 1-2.) Munt argues that because
Defendants did not raise these specific arguments as
affirmative defenses in their Answer, Defendants waived them.
The Court disagrees.
prohibits federally-funded correctional institutions from
placing a substantial burden on a prisoner's religious
exercise, unless the government can demonstrate that the
burden furthers a compelling governmental interest and is the
least restrictive means of doing so. 42 U.S.C. §
2000cc-1(a). The Act defines “religious exercise”
to include “any exercise of religion, whether or not
compelled by, or central to, a system of religious
belief.” § 2000cc-5(7)(A). A “substantial
burden exists if the prison policy significantly inhibits or
constrains religious conduct, meaningfully curtails an
inmate's ability to express adherence to his faith, or
denies an inmate reasonable opportunities to engage in
fundamental religious activities.” Jihad v.
Fabian, 680 F.Supp.2d 1021, 1026 (D. Minn. 2010) (citing
Van Wyhe v. Reisch, 581 F.3d 639, 656 (8th Cir.
2009)). This protection “extends even to religious
practices that are not ‘compelled by, or central to,
' a certain belief system.” Van Wyhe, 581
F.3d 639, 656 (8th Cir. 2009) (citation omitted). Thus, the
court does not inquire as to whether a particular religious
belief or practice is central to a ...