United States District Court, D. Delaware
Shamsidin Ali a/k/a Robert Saunders, James T. Vaughn
Correctional Center, Smyrna, Delaware. Pro Se
Thomas Lees, III, Deputy Attorney General, Delaware
Department of Justice, Wilmington, Delaware. Counsel for
NOREIKA, U.S. District Judge
Shamsidin Ali a/k/ Robert Saunders (“Plaintiff), an
inmate at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center
(“JTVCC”) in Smyrna, Delaware, filed this lawsuit
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Religious Land Use
and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”), 42
U.S.C. § 2000cc et seq. (D.I. 2). He appears
pro se and has paid the filing fee. Defendants Robert
Coupe (“Coupe”), David Pierce
(“Pierce”) and Ronald Hosterman
(“Hosterman”)(“Defendants”) move for
summary judgment. (D.I. 61). Plaintiff opposes. The matter
has been fully briefed.
along with nine other inmates, file an action in this Court
on February 3, 2010, against former Delaware Department of
Correction (“DOC”) Commissioner Carl Danberg
(“Danberg”), then JTVCC Assistant Warden Pierce,
Hosterman, and several other individuals alleging violations
of RLUIPA and raising claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
See Cole v. Danberg, CA. No. 10-088-CFC (“2010
action”); (D.I. 62-1 at 3-11). The claims raised in the
2010 action included the denial of pre-Ramadan meals; the
denial of halal meals; disparate treatment because Jewish
inmates received halal (kosher) meals; and the denial of two
feasts, the feasts of EID al-Fatr and EID Al-Adha.
(Id.). Plaintiff who has “three strikes”
under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g) was ordered to pay the
required filing fee and, when he did not, his claims in the
2010 action were dismissed without prejudice on February 24,
2010. (D.I. 62-1 at 13-22).
commenced this action in November 2015. (See D.I.
2). The instant Complaint names former DOC Commissioner
Coupe, Pierce (who had been promoted to warden), and
Hosterman and raises claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983,
RLUIPA, and other Constitutional and state law claims. The
Complaint alleges the denial of halal meals (D.I. 2, ¶
12); the denial of the feasts of EID al-Fatir and EID Al-Adha
(D.I. 2, ¶ 13); and disparate treatment because Jewish
inmates received halal (kosher) meals (D.I. 2, ¶¶
14, 15). Upon screening, the Court dismissed the claims
against the DOC, the official capacities claims against
Defendants under 42 U.S.C § 1983, the Delaware
constitution claims that sought injunctive relief, and the
RLUIPA claims that sought monetary damages. (D.I. 10 at 6-7).
The remaining claims are: individual capacity damages claims
under 42 U.S.C § 1983; official capacity injunctive
relief claims under 42 U.S.C § 1983; individual capacity
damages claims under Delaware's constitution; and
official capacity injunctive relief claims under RLUIPA.
for admissions were served upon Plaintiff on December 10,
2018. (D.I. 44). Plaintiff belatedly responded to the
requests for admissions on February 1, 2019, without seeking
or receiving an extension of time from the Court. (D.I. 53).
Plaintiff was deposed on March 27, 2019. (D.I. 57; D.I. 62-1
at 24). At his deposition Plaintiff clarified his responses
to the requests for admissions and testified that many of his
responses should have been deemed admitted. (See
D.I. 62-1 at 81-82, 84-100, 103-106, 236-243).
has been incarcerated more than 40 years and has been housed
at the JTVCC, Howard R. Young Correctional Institution
(“HRYCI”), Sussex Correctional Institution
(“SCI”), and correctional facilities in Florida
and Pennsylvania. (D.I. 62-1 at 32-34). Plaintiff was housed
at SCI from July 2001 until he returned to JTVCC in June
2005. (Id. at 50-52).
converted to Islam in 1961 and is a practicing Muslim.
(Id. at 48-49). Pork products have not been served
at the JTVCC since 1977. (Id. at 53). Plaintiff is a
diabetic and testified that he had been receiving the kosher
meal plan for approximately a year and a half. (Id.
at 54). In 2006, Plaintiff submitted a grievance over the
issues of the kosher meal plan, halal foods, and disparate
treatment of Islamic inmates. (Id. at 56, 86-88,
236-243). Plaintiff testified that he first requested the
kosher meal plan in 2007-2008 because that meal was
considered halal under the tenets of Islam, but his request
was denied. (Id. at 55). Muslim inmates began
receiving kosher meals during the first quarter of 2016.
(Id. at 59).
testified that the general meal plan is not haram
(i.e., forbidden by Islamic law). (Id. at
59). He testified that the kosher meal plan offered at JTVCC
satisfies Islamic dietary requirements, as does the
vegetarian meal plan. (Id. at 66). Plaintiff has no
information on the cost of providing halal meat at JTVCC, no
information if it is more expensive to provide halal meat,
and no information on the DOC food services budget for JTVCC.
(Id. at 66).
testified that when he began his incarceration at JTVCC in
1976 and through the early 2000's, both the EID al-Fatir
and EID al-Adha feasts were offered. (Id. at 70-71).
Inmates were allowed to have outside family members bring in
food and attend the feasts. (Id. at 71). Plaintiff
had been housed at SCI, and when he returned to JTVCC in
2005, the feast celebrations with family members in
attendance and outside food had stopped and those who wished
to celebrate the two feasts were allowed cake and juice.
(Id. at 72-73). The feasts with cake and juice
stopped in the latter part of 2006. (Id. at 72).
was part of a group that appealed the discontinuance of the
feasts in 2006. (Id. at 74). In 2009, Plaintiff was
part of a group who wrote to then JTVCC Warden Perry Phelps
(“Phelps”) about the feasts. (Id. at
74-75). Inmate Donald Cole (“Cole”), who remains
a plaintiff in the pending 2010 action, was part of that
group. (Id. at 75).
questioned about the 2010 action, Plaintiff admitted in
responses to requests for admission and during his
deposition, that he signed the 2010 Complaint. (Id.
at 76, 247 at Nos. 1-5). The claims Plaintiff asserted in the
2010 action included denial of halal food; providing Jewish
inmates, but not Muslim inmates, with halal food; denial of
pre-Ramadan meal; and denial of EID al-Fatir and EID al-Adha
feasts. (Id. at 77-78, 247-248 at Nos. 9-13).
Plaintiff testified that the claims in paragraphs 2(a) and
2(b) of the instant Complaint are the same halal food claims
and EID al-Fatir and EID al-Adha feasts claims raised in the
2010 action. (Id. at 78). Plaintiff testified that
at the time of the filing of the 2010 Complaint, he was aware
the feasts with outside food and family had stopped sometime
prior to 2005 as he discovered upon his transfer from SCI to
JTVCC in 2005 and, while housed at JTVCC when the feasts with
cake and juice stopped in 2006. (Id. at 78-79, 83).
deposition, Plaintiff provided testimony and compared the
alleged actions of Defendants in 2010 Complaint with the 2015
Complaint. (Id. at 106-116). Plaintiff testified
that the 2015 Complaint “does not include any new or
additional claims beyond those previously asserted in
2010.” (Id. at 130). He testified that he sued
Pierce in 2010, because of Pierce's alleged involvement
in denying halal food, denying the two feasts, and different
treatment of Muslim inmates compared to Jewish inmates.
(Id. at 108-109). Plaintiff testified ...