United States District Court, D. Minnesota
Maikijah Ha'Keem, Roy Hughes, Jimmy Booker, and Jacquard Larkin, Plaintiffs,
Chad Mesojedec, Rehabilitation Therapist Director, Steve Sayovitz, Security Manager, Elizabeth Wyatt, Security Counselor, Kevin Schleret, Property Personnel, Many Torgerson, Property Supervisor, Kevin Moser, MSOP-Moose Lake Facility Director, Nick Lammi, Rehabilitation Counselor, Scott Benoit, Program Manager-MSOP-Moose Lake, Terry Kneisel, Assistant Facility Director MSOP-Moose Lake, and Peter Puffer, Clinical Director MSOP-Moose Lake, Defendants.
N. ERICKSEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on a Report and Recommendation
(“R&R”) issued by the Honorable Steven E.
Rau, United States Magistrate Judge, on January 16, 2019. ECF
No. 55. The R&R recommends dismissing this action because
Plaintiffs' claims are implausible as plead and certain
claims are additionally barred by qualified immunity.
Id. Plaintiffs objected. ECF No. 56. Defendants
responded. ECF No. 58. The Court conducted a de novo review
of the record. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1);
Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3); D. Minn. LR 72.2(b)(3). For the
reasons set forth below, the Court sustains in part and
overrules in part Plaintiffs' objections. Accordingly,
Defendants' motion to dismiss is granted in part and
denied in part.
Maikijah Ha'Keem, Roy Hughes, Jimmy Booker, and Jacquard
Larkin are Muslims civilly committed in the Minnesota Sex
Offender Program (“MSOP”) in Moose Lake,
Minnesota. They initiated this lawsuit on February 10, 2016,
alleging that Defendants' policies and practices
regarding the use of prayer oils violates their right to
freely exercise their faith. Specifically, Plaintiffs claim
that the following “new procedures significantly burden
[their] ability to conform to the commandments of [their]
faith.” Am. Compl. ¶ 20. First, Plaintiffs claim
that MSOP policy prohibits them from keeping prayer oil in
their rooms. Second, Plaintiffs allege that although prayer
oil is at times dispensed by Defendants, prayer oil is
dispensed in a limited manner “so as not to overwhelm
peers utilizing the Volunteer Services/Education area.”
Am. Compl. ¶ 11. Third, Plaintiffs allege that
Defendants do not provide prayer oil during daily personal
prayer in the spiritual rooms.
moved to dismiss the complaint on various grounds and the
Court permitted Plaintiffs to file an amended complaint.
Plaintiffs filed their amended complaint on March 8, 2017.
Defendants again moved to dismiss, but the case was stayed as
it was sufficiently related to the ongoing litigation of
Karsjens, et al. v. Piper, et al., No. 11-cv-3659.
ECF No. 49. After the stay was lifted, ECF No. 50, the Court
permitted the parties an opportunity to file supplemental
briefing addressing any changes in law that may affect the
Court's analysis of Defendants' motion to dismiss. On
January 16, 2019, the Magistrate Judge recommended dismissing
this action with prejudice.
district court reviews de novo those portions of the R&R
to which an objection is made. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).
When doing so, the court “may accept, reject, or
modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations
made by the magistrate judge.” Id.;
accord Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b)(3); LR 72.2(b)(3).
object to the R&R's conclusion that they failed to
state a Free Exercise claim. ECF No. 56 at 8. Specifically,
Plaintiffs disagree that Hodgson v. Fabian, 378
Fed.Appx. 592, 593 (8th Cir. 2010) forecloses their claim
that the Defendants' policies and practice regarding the
use of prayer oils violates their constitutional rights.
Court agrees with Plaintiffs that Hodgson is
inapposite. First, the Eighth Circuit in Hodgson
more narrowly concluded that the plaintiff failed to
establish that “his inability to keep prayer oils in
his cell . . . substantially burdened his religion.”
Id. Here, Plaintiffs not only contest the
prohibition of prayer oils in cells, but also the manner in
which prayer oil is dispensed in religious areas. Second,
Hodgson was decided on summary judgment and involved
a different correctional facility and policy. At this stage
in the litigation, the Court cannot conclude whether
Defendants' policies and practice pose a substantial
burden on Plaintiffs' religious beliefs or whether these
policies further MSOP's “legitimate institutional
and therapeutic interests.” Karsjens v. Piper,
336 F.Supp.3d 974, 992 (D. Minn. 2018) (quoting Ivey v.
Mooney, Civ. No. 05-2666, 2008 WL 4527792, at *5, *10
(D. Minn. Sept. 30, 2008)).
prayer oils claim survives Defendants' motion to dismiss
as long as Plaintiffs' allegations “plausibly give
rise to an entitlement to relief.” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 664 (2009). Here, Plaintiffs have
plausibly alleged that Defendants' policies and practice
regarding prayer oil substantially burdens their religious
practice. Accordingly, the Court rejects the Magistrate
Judge's recommendation to dismiss the prayer oils claim.
the Court rejects the Magistrate Judge's recommendation
that Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity on the
prayer oils claim. Because Plaintiffs plausibly allege that
Defendants violated their clearly established constitutional
rights, the Court concludes that Defendants are not
“entitled to qualified immunity ‘on the face of
the complaint, '” Stanley v. Finnegan, 899
F.3d 623, 627 (8th Cir. 2018). For these reasons, the Court
denies Defendants' motion to dismiss as to the prayer
oils claim only.
the Court overrules Plaintiffs' remaining objections for
the reasons set forth in the R&R and adopts the R&R
in all other respects. See 28 U.S.C. §
636(b)(1); D. Minn. LR 72.2.
IT IS ORDERED THAT:
Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation [ECF No. 55]
is REJECTED as to Plaintiffs' prayer oils ...