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Shakur v. Ryan

United States District Court, D. Arizona

May 23, 2019

Amin Abd. Rahman Shakur, Plaintiff,
Charles L. Ryan, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff Amin Abd. Rahman Shakur ('Shakur") has filed an Amended Complaint. The Court will order Defendants Ryan and Herman to answer Counts One and Two of the Amended Complaint, will order Defendant Ryan to answer Count Four of the Amended Complaint, and will dismiss the remaining claims and Defendants without prejudice. A Motion for Status (Doc. 10) is also pending before the Court.

         I. Statutory Screening of Prisoner Complaints

         As the Court has previously advised Shakur, the Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or an officer or an employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if a plaintiff has raised claims that are legally frivolous or malicious, that fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1)-(2).

         II. Amended Complaint

         In his four-count Amended Complaint, Shakur asserts that his rights under the Eighth Amendment, the First Amendment's Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses, the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses, and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) are being violated. He names Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) Director Charles L. Ryan, ADC Pastoral Administrator Kenneth Herman, Corizon Healthcare Inc., and Nurse Practitioner Carol Holmden as Defendants.

         In Count One, Plaintiff alleges that his rights under RLUIPA, the First Amendment's Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses, and the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause were violated when Defendants Ryan and Herman denied his request for a halal diet. Although Shakur has been receiving a kosher diet, he is being subjected to mental, physical and spiritual hardship by the interference with his sincerely held religious beliefs and practices. Shakur asserts that, by refusing to offer a halal diet, Defendants Ryan and Herman are favoring Jewish prisoners over Muslims by allowing them to practice their religious dietary law. Shakur also asserts he is subject to the authority and decision-making of a Jewish rabbi who is offended that Muslims receive a kosher diet.

         In Count Two, Shakur asserts that Defendants Ryan and Herman are violating his rights under RLUIPA, the First Amendment's Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses, and the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause by failing to provide hot food trays to Muslim prisoners during Ramadan, a month-long holiday observed by fasting from sun-up to sundown. Shakur asserts that general population inmates receive 62 hot meals in a 30 day period, while Muslims only receive eight. Shakur asserts this discriminatory policy mentally and physically affects him and interferes with his sincerely held religious beliefs. Shakur states this is blatant discrimination, especially as compared to Jewish prisoners whose holidays and religious observances are recognized to provide special foods.

         In Count Three, Shakur alleges that he has received inadequate medical care in violation of the First Amendment's Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses and the Eighth Amendment. Shakur alleges he began to experience testicular pain in April or May of 2017 and he submitted a Health Needs Request ("HNR"). After being examined by Holmden, Holmden informed Shakur that it was probably caused by too much masturbation. Shakur found the remark to be inappropriate, unprofessional, and offensive. Shakur subsequently requested he be provided an examination performed by a male provider as being evaluated by a female provider is against his religion. Defendants informed Shakur a female provider is sufficient; Shakur was also informed that Corizon does not weigh religious beliefs in the treatment of prisoners. However, Defendants also asked Shakur to provide documentation, which Shakur provided.[1] Upon Shakur's notification to the unit administrator of Holmden's remarks, the prison administration informed Shakur that it agreed the remarks were inappropriate and it would confer with the Healthcare Administrator; Shakur alleges the Healthcare Administrator did not take any action.

         Shakur again complained of continued pain and discomfort and was subsequently examined by a male doctor, who recommended Shakur see a urologist. This recommendation was initially denied, but subsequently approved. Shakur later learned the medical director noted a hernia, of which he had not informed Shakur.[2] Several months later, Shakur was taken to a urologist and prescribed medication and an athletic supporter; Shakur was to have a follow-up appointment after three months. Shakur alleges the medication has been ineffective and, although Shakur has notified Defendants that he is still experiencing pain and a nurse practitioner continues to make consult requests, Defendants have not provided follow-up care. Additionally, Shakur has not been provided with an athletic supporter.

         Shakur alleges Corizon has a pattern of abuse and has an ongoing policy and custom of denying specialist/recommended care, which amounts to deliberate indifference. Shakur also alleges that, despite a contract with Corizon, Defendant Ryan is aware of ongoing problems with Corizon and is ultimately responsible for Shakur's care and treatment.

         In Count Four, Shakur alleges the ADC has established a Security Threat Group ("STG") policy in an attempt to control prison gang activity. Shakur has been validated as a member of STG Mau Mau. Shakur denies he is a member of Mau Mau or any other gang. Although Mau Mau has since been decertified as an STG, Shakur continues to be considered as a validated member of Mau Mau and is subject to the same restrictions as a validated member of a certified STG. For example, Shakur's ability to obtain jobs, visitations, and an early release date is restricted due to his validated status. While Shakur has completed a step down program, which has permitted his transfer from maximum custody to a close custody unit, ADC does not have a means for Shakur to completely remove the validation regarding the now de-certified Mau Mau gang other than provide information (i.e., snitch). Shakur asserts he is subject to greater restrictions than those prisoners who are validated members of informal (non-certified) STG's. Shakur alleges ADC has not certified another African group and uses Mau Mau as a means to provide statistical racial representation. Shakur disputes ADC's stated reason that removal of the validation will permit recruitment and the resurrection of Mau Mau is not valid as Shakur is permitted to be housed with other general population prisoners who are not validated as members of an STG.

         III. Civil Rights Claims

         To prevail in a § 1983 claim, a plaintiff must show that (1) acts by the defendants (2) under color of state law (3) deprived him of federal rights, privileges or immunities and (4) caused him damage. Thornton v. City of St. Helens, 425 F.3d 1158, 1163-64 (9th Cir. 2005) (quoting Shoshone-Bannock Tribes v. Idaho Fish & Game Comm 'n, 42 F.3d 1278, 1284 (9th Cir. 1994)). In addition, a plaintiff must allege that he suffered a specific injury as a result of the conduct of a particular defendant and he must allege an affirmative link between the injury and the conduct of that defendant. Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362, 371-72, 377 (1976).

         IV. Counts One and Two

         A. Free Exercise Clause/RLUIPA

         In order to state a First Amendment, free-exercise claim, a plaintiff must allege that a defendant "substantially burdened" the practice of his religion by preventing him from engaging in a sincerely held religious belief and that the defendant did so without any justification reasonably related to legitimate penological interests. Shakur v. Schriro, 514 F.3d 878, 884-85 (9th Cir. 2008). Similarly, a plaintiff proceeding under RLUIPA bears the initial burden of demonstrating a prima facie claim that the challenged state action constitutes a substantial burden on the exercise of his religious beliefs. Warsoldier v. Woodford, 418 F.3d 989, 994 (9th Cir. 2005).

         The free-exercise and RLUIPA substantial burden tests are analyzed under the same jurisprudential framework. See Int'l Church of Foursquare Gospel v. City of San Leandro, 673 F.3d 1059, 1067 (9th Cir. 2011) ("Generally, the term 'substantial burden' in RLUIPA is construed in light of federal Supreme Court and appellate jurisprudence involving the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment prior to the Court's decision in Emp't Div. Dep 't of Human Res. of Oregon v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872, 878-82 (1990)); Guru Nanak Sikh Soc. of Yuba City v. Cty. of Sutter, 456 F.3d 978, 988 (9th Cir. 2006) ("The Supreme Court's free exercise jurisprudence is instructive in defining a substantial burden under RLUIPA.") A substantial burden is one that is "'oppressive' to a 'significantly great' extent. That is, a 'substantial burden' on 'religious exercise' must impose a significantly great restriction or onus upon such exercise." Warsoldier, 418 F.3d at 995 (quoting San Jose Christian Coll. v. City of Morgan Hill, 360 F.3d 1024, 1034 (9th Cir. 2004)). A substantial burden is "more than an inconvenience; the burden must be substantial and an interference with a tenet or belief that is central to religious doctrine." United States v. Turnbull, 888 F.2d 636, 639 (9th Cir. 1989) (internal citation omitted).

         Shakur has failed to state a claim under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment or RLUIPA because he has not sufficiently alleged that the lack of a halal diet and hot meals during Ramadan impose a substantial burden on his religious practice. Shakur does not claim that the kosher diet he is receiving fails to conform to the dietary requirements of Islam. See e.g. Smith v. Cty. of Nassau, No. 12-CV-4344 SJF GRB, 2014 WL 2862849, at *5 (E.D.N.Y. June 18, 2014) (citing Perez v. Westchester Cnty. Dep't of Corr., 587 F.3d 143, 144 n. 1 (2d Cir. 2009) ("Halal and Kosher standards may not be identical, but the standards used to prepare a Kosher meal also satisfy the Halal standards because the former is more restrictive."). Further, Shakur does not identify any diet-related disputes that were resolved or would have been subject to resolution by a rabbi. With regard to the temporary deprivation of hot meals during Ramadan, Shakur does not allege any facts to show that this condition amounts to anything more than an inconvenience. Accordingly, Counts One and Two will be dismissed insofar as Plaintiff has alleged a violation of the Free Exercise Clause and RLUIPA.

         B. Establishment Clause

         Liberally construed, Shakur has stated claims against Defendants Ryan and Herman under the ...

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