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Duncan v. Johnson

United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Pine Bluff Division

July 22, 2019

MICHAEL A. DUNCAN ADC #111386 PLAINTIFF
v.
ARKEAMA JOHNSON DEFENDANT

          PROPOSED FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION

         INSTRUCTIONS

         The following Recommendation has been sent to United States District Judge James M. Moody Jr. You may file written objections to all or part of this Recommendation. If you do so, those objections must: (1) specifically explain the factual and/or legal basis for your objection, and (2) be received by the Clerk of this Court within fourteen (14) days of this Recommendation. By not objecting, you may waive the right to appeal questions of fact.

         DISPOSITION

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff Michael A. Duncan filed this pro se 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action alleging that he was denied access to the chapel library, that he was forced to attend a chapel service not of his faith, and that he was unable to practice his religion while confined at the Pine Bluff Unit of the Arkansas Department of Correction (ADC) (Doc. Nos. 2, 4 & 24). Duncan has since been released. See Doc. No. 43. Duncan's claims against Wendy Kelley, Gaylon Lay, and Dexter McDonell were previously dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. See Doc. Nos. 53 & 55. The only remaining defendant is Lt. Arkeama Johnson.

         Before the Court is a motion for summary judgment and related pleadings filed by Johnson (Doc. Nos. 65-67). Duncan filed a response (Doc. No. 69), and Johnson filed a reply (Doc. No. 70). For the reasons described herein, the undersigned recommends that Johnson's motion for summary judgment be granted.

         II. Legal Standard

         Under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary judgment is proper if “the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Celotex v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 321 (1986). When ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court must view the evidence in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Naucke v. City of Park Hills, 284 F.3d 923, 927 (8th Cir. 2002). The nonmoving party may not rely on allegations or denials, but must demonstrate the existence of specific facts that create a genuine issue for trial. Mann v. Yarnell, 497 F.3d 822, 825 (8th Cir. 2007). The nonmoving party's allegations must be supported by sufficient probative evidence that would permit a finding in his favor on more than mere speculation, conjecture, or fantasy. Id. (citations omitted). An assertion that a fact cannot be disputed or is genuinely disputed must be supported by materials in the record such as “depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials . . .”. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A). A party may also show that a fact is disputed or undisputed by “showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(B). A dispute is genuine if the evidence is such that it could cause a reasonable jury to return a verdict for either party; a fact is material if its resolution affects the outcome of the case. Othman v. City of Country Club Hills, 671 F.3d 672, 675 (8th Cir. 2012). Disputes that are not genuine or that are about facts that are not material will not preclude summary judgment. Sitzes v. City of West Memphis, Ark., 606 F.3d 461, 465 (8th Cir. 2010).

         III. Undisputed Facts

         Duncan is of the Messianic faith. Doc. No. 2 at 3. On September 9, 2017, Duncan went to Chapel Call expecting to go to the Pine Bluff Unit Chapel Library. Doc. No. 2 at 3; Doc. No. 61 at 1 (Duncan's Response to Request for Admission No. 1). While at Chapel Call, a chapel service began. Doc. No. 2 at 3. Lt. Johnson informed Duncan that he could not go to the Chapel Library during services but must go either before or after the services. Doc. No. 61 at 2 (Duncan's Response to Request for Admission No. 4); Doc. No. 2 at 3. The Pine Bluff Unit Chapel Rules provide that no inmate may be in the Chapel Library or other offices while a service is in progress. Doc. No. 65-2 (Pine Bluff Unit Chapel Rules); Doc. No. 61 at 2 (Duncan's Response to Request for Admission No. 4). Lt. Johnson informed Duncan that he could not sit in the library due to security reasons. Doc. No. 2 at 9. Duncan told Lt. Johnson that he wanted to go to the Chapel Library because the services were not Messianic, and his request was denied. Doc. No. 2 at 3. Duncan also asked to return to his barracks but was told he must go to the chapel service or be locked up. Id.

         Duncan remained in the chapel for the duration of the chapel service. Id. The chapel service lasted no longer than one hour. Doc. No. 61 at 2 (Duncan's Response to Request for Admission No. 8). Duncan's only participation in the chapel service was his physical presence in the chapel. Doc. No. 61 at 3 (Duncan's Response to Request for Admission No. 9).

         After the incident occurred, Chaplain Dexter McDonnell informed Duncan that the “good order of the institution” requires that inmates cannot “simply go back to the barrack” if they come to chapel services. Doc. No. 2 at 6. In September 2017, ADC Policy 120 governed the general conduct of religious services within ADC Units. Doc. No. 65-1 (ADC Policy 120). ADC Policy 120 states that “[i]t is the policy of the [ADC] to provide those incarcerated in its care the greatest amount of freedom and opportunity to pursue individual religious beliefs and practices as is consistent with the safety of inmates and staff alike, the good order of the institution and accepted correctional practices.” Id.

         IV. Discussion

         A. ...


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