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Al-Kadi v. Ramsey County

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

June 12, 2019

AIDA SHYEF AL-KADI, Plaintiff,
v.
RAMSEY COUNTY; RAMSEY COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE; and OFFICER JESSICA WALKER, OFFICER RITA BASKFIELD, SERGEANT LUGENE WERNER, OFFICER ALLISON SCHABER, and OFFICER DAN FRERICHS, in their official and individual capacities, Defendants.

          Caitlinrose H. Fisher and Virginia R. McCalmont, GREENE ESPEL PLLP, for plaintiff.

          Robert B. Roche and Kimberly R. Parker, RAMSEY COUNTY ATTORNEY for defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          JOHN R. TUNHEIM CHIEF JUDGE

         Plaintiff Aida Shyef Al-Kadi (“Al-Kadi”) brings this action against Ramsey County, the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office (“RCSO”), and numerous officers and a sergeant in their official and individual capacities (collectively “Defendants”). Al-Kadi alleges that she suffered religious discrimination by Defendants' during a brief detention at the Ramsey County Adult Detention Center (“ADC”) in August 2013. She brings claims under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”), Article I of the Minnesota Constitution, and the Minnesota Human Rights Act (“MHRA”). She claims that Defendants substantially burdened and interfered with her right to freely exercise her sincerely held religious beliefs by failing to accommodate her religious dress and subjected her to harsher treatment than other detainees based on her religion.

         The Court has before it Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, which the Court will grant in part and deny in part. No genuine dispute of material fact remains as to Al-Kadi's RLUIPA claim based on wearing a bedsheet, her Free Exercise claim, her Equal Protection Claim against the county defendants, and her claim for injunctive relief to the extent that it reaches any conduct beyond the booking photo. As such, the Court will grant Defendants' Motion on those issues. Because genuine disputes of material fact remain as to the remainder of Al-Kadi's RLUIPA Claim, her Equal Protection Claim against the individual defendants, her state law claims, and damages, the Court will deny Defendants' Motion on those issues.

         The Court also has before it Al-Kadi's Motion to Exclude the Expert Testimony of Odeh Muhawesh. Because all of Muhawesh's opinions are inadmissible or, alternatively, should be excluded under Federal Rule of Evidence 403, the Court will grant the motion.

         BACKGROUND

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         A. Al-Kadi's Religious Beliefs

         Al-Kadi is and has always been a practicing Muslim. (Aff. of Caitlinrose Fisher (“Fisher Aff.”) ¶ 3, Ex. 1 (“Al-Kadi Dep.”) at 15, Nov. 21, 2018, Docket No. 84.) She has even made the pilgrimage to Mecca. (Id. at 21-22.) As part of her religious beliefs, Al-Kadi practices hijab, which she describes as “coverage” or “wearing clothes that are modest.” (Id. at 16-17.) As part of the practice of hijab, Al-Kadi wears a hijab, which is a head scarf that covers her hair, neck, and shoulders. (Id. at 18-19.) According to Al-Kadi, a hijab need not be made of a particular fabric or pattern. (Id. at 20-21.) However, other limitations apply. (Id. at 19.) For example, a hijab cannot be see-through or a rug from the ground. (Id. at 19-21.) As part of the practice of hijab, Al-Kadi also wears an abaya, which is a loose-fitting garment worn to avoid showing the body's figure. (Id. at 17, 21.) Al-Kadi's faith requires her to wear a hijab and abaya in the presence of non-related males, when she goes out in public, and during prayer. (Id. at 21-22.) Medical reasons and emergencies (e.g., running out of a burning house) are the only exceptions of which Al-Kadi is aware. (Id. at 22-23.)

         B. Al-Kadi's Detention at the ADC

         On August 12, 2013, Al-Kadi self-reported to Hennepin County for outstanding warrants related to traffic violations. (See Id. at 36-37; Fisher Aff. ¶ 3, Ex. 2 at 254, Nov. 21, 2018, Docket No. 84.) She was transferred to the ADC because she also had an outstanding warrant in Ramsey County for driving after revocation. (See Fisher Aff. ¶ 3, Exs. 3-4 at 256-59.) The ADC is run by the RCSO. (Fisher Aff. ¶ 3, Ex. 5 (“1st Schaber Dep.”) at 262, Nov. 21, 2018, Docket No. 84.)

         1. Sally Port

         Al-Kadi was brought to the ADC by two “transport deputies, ” one male and one female. (See Aff. of Robert Roche (“Roche Aff.”) ¶ 4, Ex. C (“Baskfield Dep.”) at 27, May 31, 2018, Docket No. 68.) Transport deputies are responsible for transporting detainees between facilities. (Id.)[1] Al-Kadi arrived at the ADC with three other female detainees. (Roche Aff. ¶ 2, Ex. A (“Video”) - Open Booking SP at 00:34, [2] May 31, 2018, Docket No. 69.) She was first brought into the sally port of the ADC, where protocol requires staff to thoroughly pat-down all incoming detainees for safety reasons. (See id.; Roche Aff. ¶ 3, Ex. B (“Werner Dep.”) at 7-8.)

         Upon Al-Kadi's arrival in the sally port, Officer Rita Baskfield told her to remove her hijab and abaya. (Al-Kadi Dep. at 34, 102.) Al-Kadi told her she did not want to remove her hijab in front of males because she is Muslim. (Baskfield Dep. at 30.)

         The patdown requires detainees to remove headwear and outer layers. (Werner Dep. at 8-9.) If a detainee is being “confrontational, ” or resisting orders during the intake process, ADC staff separate the “confrontational” detainee from the others and move him or her to a smaller holding cell to conduct the patdown. (Id. at 9-10.) Defendants contend that Al-Kadi was being “noncompliant” because she refused to face the wall in the sally port in order to be searched. (Defs.' Mem. Supp. at 2-3, Oct. 30, 2018, Docket No. 67.)

         In her deposition, Al-Kadi acknowledges that, in the video, there is a moment when she is the only detainee not facing the wall. (Al-Kadi Dep. at 101.) However, she also states that Baskfield told her to turn around. (Id. at 114.) The video, which does not have sound, shows that Al-Kadi faced the wall at first, along with the other detainees. (Video - Open Booking SP at 1:15.) Baskfield put a hand on Al-Kadi's shoulder, and Al-Kadi turned around. (Id. at 1:25.) Al-Kadi and Baskfield spoke for about 20 seconds, and Al-Kadi repeatedly touched her hijab and shook her head. (Id. at 1:45-2:05.) Al-Kadi then briefly turned back to face the wall, Baskfield touched her arm or abaya, and Al-Kadi turned toward her again. (Id. at 1:45-1:48.) Al-Kadi and Baskfield appeared to disagree about something, and Baskfield grabbed Al-Kadi's arm and forcibly removed her from the sally port. (Id. at 1:50-1:58).

         While Baskfield forced Al-Kadi out of the sally port, Officer Dan Frerichs took Al-Kadi's other arm and appeared to speak to her. (Video - Open Booking Desk 1 at 1:58.) Baskfield then escorted Al-Kadi to a wall in the open booking area and held her against the wall. (Id. at 2:11.) Al-Kadi testified that, while she was being “pulled or yanked down the hall, ” a male officer-presumably Frerichs-told her that if she did not do what she was told, they would “take [her] down to a cell somewhere in the bottom of the hidden - the black cell, somewhere down there.” (Al-Kadi Dep. at 211-12.)

         2. Patdown in the Holding Cell

         Baskfield and Frerichs then escorted Al-Kadi to a holding cell. (See Video - Open Booking Desk 1 at 2:30.) According to Baskfield, they took Al-Kadi to the holding cell because she refused to follow directions and take off her hijab. (Baskfield Dep. at 28.) Baskfield said that Al-Kadi was not put in the holding room as punishment, but rather to calm down and “[f]or the safety of the other people out in the booking area.” (Id. at 29.)

         In the holding cell, after more than a minute of back-and-forth with the officers, Al-Kadi removed her hijab. (Video - Open Booking HR 5 at 1:00-1:30.) Throughout all of this, Frerichs stood inside the holding cell with Baskfield, facing Al-Kadi. (See id.) Frerichs observed Al-Kadi for approximately 34 seconds with her hijab off. (See id.; Al-Kadi Dep. at 126.) Before Al-Kadi fully removed her abaya, Frerichs moved into the doorway of the cell, where he could not see Al-Kadi. (Video - Open Booking HR 5 at 2:04.) Al-Kadi removed her abaya, and Baskfield searched her. (Id. at 2:36.) After the patdown, Baskfield returned Al-Kadi's abaya and hijab to her. (Id. at 4:00.)

         To Baskfield's recollection, she was the only female officer on the first floor when Al-Kadi arrived, although there were five or six officers in the booking unit. (Baskfield Dep at 30.) Defendants claim that the other female ADC officers that interacted with Al-Kadi did not come on duty until later that afternoon. (Defs.' Mem. Supp. at 3.)

         Defendants contend that Frerichs had to remain in the holding cell with Baskfield and Al-Kadi while Al-Kadi removed her hijab and abaya because, for safety reasons, two officers must always be in a holding room with a detainee. (Baskfield Dep. at 31.) Baskfield noted that the safety risk was greater because Al-Kadi outweighed her by more than 70 pounds. (Id.) Nevertheless, Baskfield testified that she asked Frerichs to step out of the room before Al-Kadi removed her abaya because Al-Kadi “was being compliant at that time.” (Id. at 32.) But Frerichs remained in the doorway so that the door would not shut and lock Baskfield in. (Id. at 33.)

         Al-Kadi claims that Frerichs's viewing of her without her hijab violated her religious beliefs and deeply humiliated her. Al-Kadi maintains that she was respectful and never aggressive towards the officers during any of this time. (Al-Kadi Dep. at 80, 108-111, 115.)

         After her initial patdown, Al-Kadi spent more than two hours alone in the holding cell. (Id. at 145.) While there, she wore her hijab and abaya. (Id. at 142, 146.) She also prayed and performed a religious ablution. (Id. at 142-44.)

         3. Intake and Booking

         Al-Kadi left the holding cell briefly for an intake interview with Frerichs, and she was allowed to wear her religious apparel even though others were not wearing outer garments in the booking area. (See id. at 134-38.) Frerichs did not check the “not cooperative” box on Al-Kadi's intake form. (Fisher Aff. ¶ 3, Ex. 7 at 297, Nov. 21, 2018, Docket No. 84.) Likewise, Baskfield did not file an incident report because she felt there was no reason to do so. (Fisher Aff. ¶ 3, Ex. 6 at 293, Nov. 21, 2018, Docket No. 84.)

         Later in the afternoon, Al-Kadi was taken out of the holding cell and continued through the rest of the booking process. She argues that Sergeant Lugene Werner treated her differently than other detainees during this process by standing behind her while she was at the booking counter and following her to the booking station. (Pl.'s Mem. Opp. at 6; see also Video - Open Booking ID Interview part 1.)

         4. Booking Photo

         Al-Kadi was told to remove her hijab for her booking photo.[3] (Al-Kadi Dep. at 72-75; see generally Video - Open Booking ID Photo at 10:27-13:30.) Al-Kadi was hesitant to do so. (Roche Aff. ¶ 7, Ex. F (“2d Schaber Dep.”) at 94.) Al-Kadi told Officer Allison Schaber that she did not want to remove her hijab because there were men in the open booking area. (1st Schaber Dep. at 269.) Schaber perceived Al-Kadi as being “uncooperative by not complying with the identification process, specifically the photographing” and testified that she was “refusing the directives for the photograph.” (Id. at 266-67.)

         To accommodate Al-Kadi, the officers locked up all the male detainees so that Al-Kadi could remove her hijab without them seeing. (2d Schaber Dep. at 96-97.) The female officers also told the male officers to leave the area. (Id. at 97.) Al-Kadi claims that she was told the photo would never be released or shown to men, so she removed her hijab for the photo. (Fisher Aff. ¶ 3, Ex. 9 (“2d Al-Kadi Dep.”) at 398-99, 400, Nov. 21, 2018, Docket No. 84.)

         Werner testified that Al-Kadi had to remove her hijab for the photo “for identification” throughout the facility. (Fisher Aff. ¶ 3, Ex. 8 (“2d Werner Dep.”) at 347, Nov. 21, 2018, Docket No. 84.) Booking photos are put on detainees' wristbands. (Id.) When asked whether officers gave Al-Kadi the option of taking two photos, one wearing the hijab and one with the hijab removed, Werner testified that, “back then - I think we only took . . . the one photo.” (Id. at 365-66.) Werner also confirmed that ADC policy requires that the photo be placed on the wristband, that the wristband remain on the inmate the entire time that they are detained, and that the photo be visible. (Id. at 366-67.)

         5. Bedsheet

         After the officers took her booking photo, they gave Al-Kadi a bedsheet to replace her hijab. (Video - Open Booking ID Photo at 15:20; Al-Kadi Dep. at 92.) Al-Kadi felt humiliated, because “[a] bed sheet belongs on a bed . . . not a human being.” (Id. at 92, 184-85.) The ADC does not allow detainees to wear scarves because they can be used to choke others. (2d Schaber Dep. at 98.) Schaber said that the bedsheet was not deemed “better” than the hijab, it was simply “what [the ADC] had to accommodate her request” and what the ADC had “done for other inmates.” (Id.)

         Werner testified that, when a Muslim women wearing a hijab went through booking, the ADC would give the woman a scarf or sheet to use. (2d Werner Dep. at 332-33, 340-41.) She stated that the bedsheets were what ADC officers were “using at the time for headgear” because they did not allow people to keep their own headgear or outer clothing on. (Id. at 340-41.) Werner stated that, “policy-wise, ” she could not allow Al-Kadi to wear her own hijab. (Id. at 346-47.)

         6. Change of Clothes

         Eventually Al-Kadi was also told to remove her abaya and change into a prison uniform. (Al-Kadi Dep. at 78-79.) The uniform was not loose fitting. (Id. at 78.) When she changed, two female officers were in the room with her and they did not allow her to use the dressing room. (Id. at 195.) Al-Kadi was forced to walk naked across the room in front of them. (Id.) She felt that this was humiliating and violated her religion. (Id. at 195-96.) The officers told her that she was being disrespectful and purposefully changing at a slow place. (Id. at 197.)

         Ramsey County policy provides that “misdemeanor inmates, ” such as Al-Kadi, “will not be viewed without clothing.” (Fisher Aff. ¶ 3, Ex. 10 at 413, Nov. 21, 2018, Docket No. 84.)

         7. 23-Hour “Lock In”

          One of the officers that interacted with Al-Kadi, Officer Jessica Walker (previously Hejny), wrote a report several hours after Al-Kadi's booking photo was taken. (2d Werner Dep. at 375-76; Fisher Aff. ¶ 3, Ex. 12 (“Incident Report”) at 423, Nov. 21, 2018, Docket No. 84.) The report stated that, “[f]or her failure to comply with [ADC staff's] directives and for the disrespect to staff, ” Al-Kadi was placed in a 23-hour “lock in.” (Incident Report at 424.) A lock in is when a detainee is locked in his or her cell for 23 hours, sometimes alone and sometimes with a roommate. (2d Werner Dep. at 383.) The detainee is not allowed to mingle in open space. (Id.) In Al-Kadi's case, the lock in was a punishment for her “argumentative behavior and not following the . . . process.” (Id. at 384.)

         C. Public Release of Al-Kadi's Booking Photo

          Al-Kadi originally insisted that she saw her Ramsey County booking photo online on a website called mugshots.com. (Al-Kadi Dep. at 39.) However, the photo and information shown on that website were from Hennepin County, not Ramsey County. (Id. at 44-45.) The Council on American Islamic Relations (“CAIR”) of Minnesota petitioned mugshots.com to have the photo removed. (Id. at 42-43.)

         In May 2018, Al-Kadi conducted a web search of herself and found the Ramsey County booking photo on a website called bustedmugshots.com. (Roche Aff. ¶ 10, Ex. I at 140-42.) She does not know when the photo first appeared or how many people may have viewed it. (2d Al-Kadi Dep. at 397, 402.) Al-Kadi's disclosure of this website was after discovery, at which time the RCSO searched the website and found no evidence that Al-Kadi's photo was there. (Aff. of John Eastham ¶ 4, Oct. 30, 2018, Docket No. 71.)

         The RCSO does not post booking photos online; however, it is legally obligated to release booking photos to members of the public upon request. (Id. ¶ 2.) A member of the public, Kyle Prall, submitted such a request on November 8, 2013. (Id. ¶ 3.) He requested a large batch of data including booking photos and information for dates covering Al-Kadi's booking. (Id.) RCSO records show that staff worked on compiling data responsive to that request but do not confirm that the data was actually produced by Ramsey County or collected by Prall. (Id.) Prall is known to collect booking data and publish it on bustedmugshots.com. (See generally Fisher Aff. ¶ 3, Exs. 25-27, Nov. 20, 2018, Docket No. 82.)

         II. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Al-Kadi filed this case on August 4, 2016. (Compl., Aug. 4, 2016, Docket No. 1.) She filed the Second Amended Complaint on June 15, 2018. (2d Am. Compl., June 15, 2018, Docket No. 60.) Defendants filed the present Motion for Summary Judgment on October 30, 2018. (Mot. for Summ. J., Oct. 30, 2018, Docket No. 65.) Al-Kadi then filed a motion to exclude the expert testimony of defense witness Odeh Muhawesh. (Mot. to Exclude, Nov. 1, 2018, Docket No. 73.)

         DISCUSSION

         I. DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

         A. Standard of Review

          Summary judgment is appropriate where there are no genuine issues of material fact and the moving party can demonstrate that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A fact is material if it might affect the outcome of the suit, and a dispute is genuine if the evidence is such that it could lead a reasonable jury to return a verdict for either party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The Court must view the facts in the light most favorable to Al-Kadi, the nonmoving party, and give her the benefit of all reasonable inferences to be drawn from those facts. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). The Court may not “weigh the evidence, make credibility determinations, or attempt to determine the truth of the matter.” Quick v. Donaldson Co., 90 F.3d 1372, 1376-77 (8th Cir. 1996).

         B. RLUIPA

         The Court will deny Defendants' Motion for summary judgment as to Al-Kadi's RLUIPA claim to the extent that it is based on forcing her to remove her hijab in front of Frerichs, forcing her to take a booking photo without her hijab, and the cumulative effects of Defendants' policies. However, it will grant the motion as to the RLUIPA claim to the extent that it is based on providing Al-Kadi with a bedsheet in place of her hijab.

         Congress adopted RLUIPA “in order to provide very broad protection for religious liberty.” Holt v. Hobbs, 135 S.Ct. 853, 860 (2015) (quoting Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., 573 U.S. 682, 694 (2014)). RLUIPA prohibits the government from “impos[ing] a substantial burden on the religious exercise of a person residing in or confined to an institution, . . . even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-1(a). Imposition of the burden does not violate RLUIPA if the government can show that it “(1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.” Id.

         As a preliminary matter, RLUIPA does not authorize individual-capacity claims. See, e.g., Brooks v. Roy, No. 12-CV-316 SRN/JSM, 2014 WL 127024, at *16 (D. Minn. Jan. 14, 2014) (collecting cases), aff'd on other grounds, 776 F.3d 957 (8th Cir. 2015). Al-Kadi clarifies that her RLUIPA claims are against Ramsey County, the RCSO, and the individual defendants in their official capacities.

         Actions against county departments-and individuals in their official capacity-are actions against the county itself. See Flores v. United States, 689 F.3d 894, 899 n.4 (8th Cir. 2012) (noting that “Ramsey County Sheriff's Department, the Ramsey County Adult Detention Center, and the Ramsey County Department of Public Health were dismissed because they are not legal entities capable of being sued.”); Hafer v. Melo, 502 U.S. 21, 25 (1991) (noting that “the real party in interest in an ...


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