United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Central Division
FERNANDO J. GAITAN, Jr., District Judge.
Pending before the Court are (1) State Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 52); (2) Defendant Vicki Salsbury's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 59); (3) Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File Surreply to Defendant Salsbury's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 64); and (4) Motion for Leave to File Supplemental Authority in Opposition to the State's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 66). As an initial matter, plaintiff's motions for leave to file surreply and supplemental authority (Doc. Nos. 64 and 66) will be GRANTED, and the Court will treat the proposed surreply and supplemental authority (Doc. Nos. 64-1 and 66-1) as properly filed. The Court considers the motions to dismiss, below.
Plaintiff filed the pending action on January 6, 2012. On April 9, 2012, the Court dismissed plaintiff's pro se complaint. On appeal, on March 28, 2014, the Eighth Circuit vacated the Court's order dismissing this case, and remanded for further consideration. Counsel entered an appearance on behalf of plaintiff on June 27, 2014. On August 15, 2014, plaintiff filed his First Amended Class Action Complaint (Doc. No. 42).
In his First Amended Class Action Complaint (Doc. No. 42), plaintiff alleges that he is an atheist inmate held at the Missouri Department of Corrections ("MDOC") from 2006 to 2008, and again from 2011 to the present date. (Doc. No. 42 at ¶¶ 26, 38, 50, 93, 105). Plaintiff was required to participate in substance abuse treatment programs provided by MDOC under the terms of his sentences for his convictions for driving while intoxicated. (Doc. No. 42 at ¶¶ 41, 42, 96, 97). In particular, these programs at the MDOC include Alcoholics Anonymous ("AA"), which requires its participants to recognize and rely upon a "Higher Power" to remedy their problems with alcohol. (Doc. No. 42 at ¶¶ 52-68, 151). Plaintiff objects to participating in these programs, as they are incompatible with his atheist beliefs. (Doc. No. 42 at ¶¶ 73-74, 107, 150). Plaintiff has also sought to list his religion as atheism on the facesheet to his prison file, but MDOC has denied this request, responding that atheism is a philosophy, not a religion. (Doc. No. 42 at ¶¶ 48, 129-130).
Plaintiff makes claims on behalf of himself and a putative class under both (1) 42 U.S.C. § 1983, through the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution; and (2) the Religious Land Use Institutionalized Persons Act ("RLUIPA"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-1. For both, plaintiff claims that his and the putative class members' rights were violated by (1) not being allowed to declare atheism as their religion on their inmate facesheets; and (2) being forced to participate in substance abuse treatment programs that are based on a belief in a deity.
Defendants in this matter are (1) Douglas A. Worsham, the Supervisor of Religious/Spiritual Programming within the Division of Human Services for the MDOC; (2) Larry Crawford, the Director of the MDOC when plaintiff was incarcerated at MDOC's Western Reception, Diagnostic, and Correctional Center ("WRDCC") in St. Joseph, Missouri; (3) Martha V. Nolin, the Assistant Division Director, Substance Abuse Services in the Division of Offender Rehabilitative Services; (4) Alan Earls, Deputy Director of the Division of Adult Institutions; (5) Cyndi Prudden, Deputy Director, Division of Adult Institutions; (6) Vicki Salsbury, Director of the Drug Rehabilitation Program at MDOC's WRDCC in St. Joseph, Missouri; (7) Isaac "Sonny" Collins, Warden at Maryville Treatment Center; (8) Gateway Foundation, Inc., also known as Gateway Foundations Correction, an Illinois corporation that has contracted with MDOC to design and operate MDOC's drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs; and (9) Dwayne Cummins, Gateway Foundation Corrections' Program Director at MDOC's Ozark Correctional Center ("OCC"). All except for Vicki Salsbury, Gateway Foundation, Inc., and Dwayne Cummins (who do not appear to be state employees or entities) are sued in their individual and official capacities.
Defendants George A. Lombardi, Douglas A. Worsham, Martha V. Nolin, Alan Earls, Cyndi Prudden, and Isaac "Sonny" Collins (collectively "State Defendants") move for dismissal of plaintiff's First Amended Class Action Complaint (Doc. No. 42) under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b) for failure to state a claim. State Defendants assert that (1) the statute of limitations bars all of plaintiff's claims; (2) sovereign immunity bars plaintiff's claims for monetary damages to the extent he is suing them in their official capacities; (3) plaintiff's Section 1983 claims against State Defendants in their official capacities are futile because they are not "persons" within the meaning of Section 1983; (4) plaintiff's RLUIPA claims against State Defendants in their individual capacities are futile because those individuals are not "governments" within the meaning of RLUIPA; (5) plaintiff's claims against Nolin, Earls, Prudden, and Collins fail because plaintiff has not sufficiently alleged their personal involvement in the events giving rise to his claims, nor has he alleged they approved a policy giving rise to his claims; (6) plaintiff's inability to declare atheism as his religion on his facesheet fails to state a claim because there is no evidence that this substantially burdened his ability to exercise his religion; and (7) State Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity on plaintiff's Section 1983 claim that his inability to list his religion as atheism on his facesheet violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.
Defendant Vicki Salsbury also moves to dismiss. Salsbury indicates that (1) the statute of limitations has lapsed on plaintiff's claims against her; and (2) because she is not a state employee, she cannot be liable under RLUIPA.
When ruling on a defendant's motion to dismiss, a judge must accept as true all of the factual allegations in the complaint. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007). A plaintiff need not provide specific facts in support of his allegations. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93-94 (2007). But the plaintiff must include sufficient factual information to provide grounds on which the claim rests, and to raise a right to relief above a speculative level. Schaaf v. Residential Funding Corp., 517 F.3d 544, 549 (8th Cir. 2008). A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). This requires a plaintiff to plead more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of the cause of action will not do. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. A complaint must contain either direct or inferential allegations respecting all the material elements necessary to sustain recovery under some viable legal theory. Id. at 562 (quoted case omitted). The standard simply calls for enough fact to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of the claim. Id. at 556.
III. State Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 52)
State Defendants move to dismiss on numerous bases, listed above. In response to the State Defendants' motion to dismiss, plaintiff concedes that he cannot sue the State Defendants in their official capacities for monetary damages, and that he cannot sue the State Defendants in their individual capacities under RLUIPA. Therefore, those claims are DISMISSED as to the State ...