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Fisherman v. Schaefer

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

January 16, 2019

Corey Edward Fisherman, Plaintiff,
Robert Schaefer, C. Officer, Defendant.

          Corey Edward Fisherman, #213394, (pro se Plaintiff); and

          Robert B. Roche, Ramsey County Attorney's Office, (for Defendant).


          Tony N. Leung, United States Magistrate Judge

         This matter comes before the Court, United States Magistrate Judge Tony N. Leung, on Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 16). This motion has been referred to the undersigned for a report and recommendation to the Honorable Donovan W. Frank, District Judge for the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota, under 28 U.S.C § 636 and D. Minn. LR 72.1. Based on all of the files, record, and proceedings herein, IT IS HEREBY RECOMMENDED that Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, (ECF No. 16), be GRANTED.


         On August 16, 2017, Plaintiff Corey Edward Fisherman filed a complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Corrections Officer Robert Schaefer. (ECF No. 1). Fisherman alleges that Schaefer violated Fisherman's rights under the First Amendment by failing to provide him vegan meals while he was in custody at the Ramsey County jail. He seeks a lien on Schaefer's home, cars, and, other property and $1.4 million in damages. Schaefer answered the complaint (ECF No. 13) and moved for summary judgment on June 26, 2018. (ECF No. 16). Schaefer argues that there is no material fact in dispute and that he is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fisherman did not respond to the motion for summary judgment.


         A. Legal Standard

         Under Rule 56(a), courts “shall grant summary judgment 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.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The movant “bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, ” and must identify “those portions of [the record] . . . which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). “Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); Torgerson v. City of Rochester, 643 F.3d 1031, 1042 (8th Cir. 2011) (en banc) (“The nonmovant ‘must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts,' and must come forward with ‘specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'”) (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986)). In considering such a motion, “facts must be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party only if there is a ‘genuine' dispute as to those facts.” Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)). But “[w]here the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there is no genuine issue for trial.” Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587 (quotation and citation omitted). Summary judgment is “properly regarded not as a disfavored procedural shortcut, but rather as an integral part of the Federal Rules as a whole, which are designed ‘to secure the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every action.'” Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 327 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 1); Torgerson, 643 F.2d at 1043.

         B. Facts

         Fisherman alleges that Schaefer, a Ramsey County Correctional officer, forced Fisherman to eat meals with meat in them from June 1, 2017 until June 23, 2017, despite the fact that Fisherman's religion required him to eat only vegan meals. (ECF No. 1). Fisherman submitted a Correctional Health Care Request Form (ECF No. 1-1) to Ramsey County officials on June 4, 2017, informing them that he was on a vegan diet. He did not claim that his diet was for religious purposes on that form. During the relevant time period of his complaint, Fisherman was in the custody of the Ramsey County Jail. (ECF No. 1).

         Schaefer served Fisherman requests for production of documents and requests for admission on March 9, 2018 and March 14, 2018 respectively. (ECF No. 19). In his requests for admission, Schaefer asked Fisherman to admit, among other things, that he never informed Schaefer of his religion, that he never informed Schaefer that his religion required him to follow a vegan diet, that Schaefer and other staff made a good-faith effort to accommodate his request for vegan meals, and that he received vegan meals until officials learned that he was trading those meals for items that contained meat. (ECF No.19-1). Fisherman responded to the requests for admission on July 18, 2018. (ECF No. 21). There, he stated that he did not have to tell Schaefer what his religion was or that his religion required him to eat a vegan diet. He also conceded that his request for vegan meals was granted for a short period of time but denied trading those meals for items with meat. He also claimed that Schaefer discriminated against him because he was Native American.

         C. Analysis

         Fisherman brings his claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Section 1983 provides that “[e]very person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State . . ., subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States . . . to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured.” 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The “purpose of § 1983 is to deter state actors from using the badge of their authority to deprive individuals of their federally guaranteed rights and to provide relief to victims if such deterrence fails.” Wyatt v. Cole, 504 U.S. 158, 161 (1992). Public officials may be sued under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in their official capacity, individual capacity, or both. Johnson v. Outboard Marine Corp., 172 F.3d 531, 535 (8th Cir. 1999) (citing Murphy v. Arkansas, 127 F.3d 750, 754 (8th Cir. 1997)). Fisherman contends that Schaefer deprived him of his right to practice his religion freely by denying him access to vegan meals. The Court reads Fisherman's claim to allege a violation of the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.[1] For this claim to succeed, Fisherman must show that Schaefer substantially burdened his ability to practice his religion. We ...

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