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Nance v. Miser

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

November 27, 2013

Keith P. Nance, Plaintiff,
Allen Miser, et al. Defendants.


ROBERT C. BROOMFIELD, Senior District Judge.

Defendants move for reconsideration of this Court's Order entered on October 7, 2013. (Doc. 71.) The Court denies the motion.

Plaintiff Keith P. Nance, an inmate confined by the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC), filed this pro se civil rights action alleging denial of a Halal diet with meat and denial of a shaving waiver, in violation of his religious exercise rights. (Doc. 9.) Plaintiff also asserted an Equal Protection claim. Defendants moved for summary judgment. (Doc. 54.) The Court dismissed the damage claims under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) and denied the motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 69.)

Defendants now seek reconsideration, alleging that the Court committed clear error because (1) it shifted the burden to Defendants without requiring Plaintiff to meet his initial burden to submit evidence regarding a substantial burden to his religious belief, and (2) it denied Defendants qualified immunity. (Doc. 71.) The Court will deny the Motion because the Court did not commit clear error, and Defendants' motion is nothing more than disagreement with the Court's decision.

In addition Plaintiff moves for appointment of counsel; the Court will deny the motion. (Doc. 70.)

II. Defendants' Motion for Reconsideration

A. Legal Standard

Motions for reconsideration should be granted only in rare circumstances. Defenders of Wildlife v. Browner, 909 F.Supp. 1342, 1351 (D. Ariz. 1995). Mere disagreement with a previous order is an insufficient basis for reconsideration. See Leong v. Hilton Hotels Corp., 689 F.Supp. 1572, 1573 (D. Haw. 1988). Rather, reconsideration is appropriate only "in the face of the existence of new evidence, an intervening change in the law, or as necessary to prevent manifest injustice." Navajo Nation v. Confederated Tribes of Yakama Indian Nation, 331 F.3d 1041, 1046 (9th Cir. 2003). A motion for reconsideration "may not be used to raise arguments or present evidence for the first time when they could reasonably have been raised earlier in the litigation." Kona Enters., Inc. v. Estate of Bishop, 229 F.3d 877, 890 (9th Cir. 2000). Nor may a motion for reconsideration repeat any argument previously made in support of or in opposition to a motion. Motorola, Inc. v. J.B. Rodgers Mech. Contractors, Inc., 215 F.R.D. 581, 586 (D. Ariz. 2003).

B. Discussion

1. Sincerely Held Belief and Substantial Burden

In its Order, the Court stated that under both the RLUIPA and First Amendment analysis, Plaintiff must initially show that the religious practice at issue-consuming a Halal diet that includes Halal meat-satisfies two criteria: (1) the proffered belief must be sincerely held, and (2) the claim must be rooted in religious belief and not purely secular philosophical concerns. (Doc. 69 at 7, citing Malik v. Brown, 16 F.3d 330, 333 (9th Cir. 1994).) If the inmate makes his initial showing, he must establish that prison officials substantially burden the practice of his religion by preventing him from engaging in conduct which he sincerely believes is consistent with his faith. (Doc. 69 at 10, citing Shakur v. Schriro, 514 F.3d 878, 884-85 (9th Cir. 2008).)

It is undisputed that Defendants do not offer a Halal diet with meat; rather they offer a Kosher diet and a vegetarian diet. Plaintiff asserted that he defiles himself eating non-halal meats, which interfere with his spirituality and prayer life, and that he believes that the practice of eating Halal meats is a part of worship to Allah as established in the Qur'an. (Doc. 59 at 5.) He asserted that the standard and Kosher diets are haram (not permitted) and the vegetarian and vegan diets require that he forgo Halal slaughtered meat, which he believes he is commanded to eat. ( Id. at 5-6.)

Defendants claim that under the Court's Order, all an inmate needs to do is profess what his sincere religious belief requires and that the failure of prison officials to provide the item he wants pressures him to abandon his beliefs. (Doc. 71 at 3-4.) They object to the lack of a requirement for documentation supporting his entitlement or that no organized or recognized religious support or affiliation is required. ( Id. at 4.) But as this Court stated in the Order, the right to religious practice "is not limited to beliefs which are shared by all of the members of a religious sect." Thomas v. Review Bd. of Ind. Employment Sec. Div., 450 U.S. 707, 715-16 (1981). Plaintiff is therefore not required to show that consuming a Halal diet that includes meat is mandated as a part of the Islamic religion; rather, he is required to show that he sincerely believes that eating such a diet is consistent with his faith. Shakur, 514 F.3d at 884-85; see Parks v. Brooks, 302 Fed. Appx., 611, 612 (9th Cir. 2008) (unpublished) (reversing a grant of summary judgment on a RLUIPA claim because the Ninth Circuit concluded that the sincerity of the plaintiff's alleged religious belief in the need for a Kosher diet could not be determined without a trial).

Defendants offered little or no evidence that Plaintiff's belief was not a sincerely held religious belief, and they cite no cases requiring documentation of such beliefs. In EEOC v. Union Independiente de la Autoridad de Acueductos y Alcantarillados de Puerto Rico, the First Circuit Court of Appeals found that the sincerity of a Seventh-Day Adventist's beliefs were suspect because he lied on an employment application, was divorced, worked five days a week instead of six, and took an oath before a notary public-actions inconsistent with his professed religious beliefs. 279 F.3d 49, 56-57 (1st Cir. 2002). But the court held only that the defendant had raised a triable issue of fact. Id. at 57. The court also noted that the finding of sincerity generally depends on the factfinder's assessment of the plaintiff's credibility and that "[c]redibility issues such as the sincerity of [a plaintiff's] religious belief are quintessential fact questions. As such, they ordinarily should be reserved for the factfinder at trial, not for the court at summary judgment.'" Id. at 56 (internal citations omitted). Likewise, in Patrick v. LeFevre, the Second Circuit reasoned that "[s]crutiny of a prisoner's sincerity is often essential in differentiating between beliefs that are held as a matter of conscience and those that are animated by motives of deceptions and fraud.'" 745 F.2d 153, 157 (2d Cir. 1984). The court emphasized that courts are "singularly ill-equipped to sit in judgment on the verity of an adherent's religious beliefs" and held that summary judgment was ...

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