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Harris v. Ellis

United States District Court, E.D. California

April 8, 2014

OTIS HARRIS, Plaintiff,
v.
BERNIE ELLIS, Defendant.

ORDER

FRANK R. ZAPATA, District Judge.

Pending before the Court is Defendant's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings filed pursuant to Rules 12(c) and 12(h)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure on the basis Plaintiff's claims for injunctive relief are moot and monetary damages cannot be sought against the Defendant in his official and individual capacities under 42 U.S.C. ยง 2000cc-1, the Religious Land Use an Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 ("RLUIPA").

Factual and Procedural History

Plaintiff Otis Harris is a federal prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil action filed pursuant to RLUIPA against Defendant Bernie Ellis, the former Warden of Taft Correctional Institute in Taft, California. This action is proceeding against Defendant Ellis, now retired, on Plaintiff's amended complaint, filed October 26, 2006.

Plaintiff alleges that the Defendant, in offering to serve a "symbolic" portion of lamb to the Muslim community in response to Plaintiff's request of the annual ceremonial Eid-ul-Adha meal, central and important to Plaintiff's practice of his Islamic faith, imposed a substantial burden on Plaintiff's free exercise of religion without a compelling justification.

Plaintiff claims that, at all times relevant to this action, he was a practicing Muslim and that pursuant to his religious beliefs he participated in consuming "ceremonial" meals for the Islamic holiday of Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Adha. Plaintiff further alleges that observance of these holidays entails the consumption of lamb, goat, cattle, and other food slaughtered in the name of Allah by, and prepared by, a Muslim believer, known as "halal" meat.

On or about November 26, 2005, Plaintiff submitted a written inquiry to the Chaplin of Taft Correctional Institute asking if "halal" meat would be provided to the Muslim community within the institution to celebrate Eid-ul-Adha.

On or about January 6, 2006, following a limited administrative review process, Plaintiff was informed in a letter from Defendant, then Warden of the facility, that symbolic portions of lamb would be made available to him for his ceremonial meal with respect to Eid-ul-Adha. Plaintiff chose not to accept the symbolic portion of lamb made available to him.

Plaintiff and another federal prisoner, John McFarland, filed this action on February 24, 2006.

Plaintiff was transferred from Taft Correctional Institute in March 2006.

The Court issued an Order severing the claims on October 5, 2006 and Plaintiff was directed to file an Amended Complaint.

The operative Amended Complaint was filed on October 26, 2006 against multiple Defendants, asserting a cause of action under RLUIPA.

Following the Court's statutory screening of the Amended Complaint, all causes of action and Defendants were dismissed, except the RLUIPA claim ...


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