United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
A. TSUCHIDA UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
civil rights action brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983
and 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc- 1(a), plaintiff Tommie Slack,
proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, names as
defendants Michael Woodbury, Namon Merritt, Jr., Eliud
Rodriguez, Michael Browning, Cesar Garcia, David Knutzen,
Michael Preizz, and James Mattman, all employees of King
County at the time of the events giving rise to Mr.
Slack's claims. Mr. Slack alleges that defendants violated
his rights under 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-1(a) (the Religious
Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA)) and
Article I, section 11, of the Washington State Constitution,
by exposing him to pork or pork products, as a Muslim, while
he was working as an inmate trustee in the kitchen at the
King County Regional Justice Center (RJC). Dkt. 2, at 4-29.
He further alleges defendant Browning “used a
non-violent situation” about an alleged threat Mr.
Slack made against another inmate to infract him and that
defendant Merritt, as supervisor, upheld the infraction.
Id., at 25-27. He alleges he lost his custody status
and his job as an inmate trustee over “an alleged
threat that never happened” and appears to allege that
this was in retaliation for his complaints and grievances
related to his exposure to pork in the RJC kitchen.
Id. Mr. Slack's claims are brought against all
defendants in their individual capacities. Dkt. 2, at 8-10,
Dkt. 47, at 23.
relief Mr. Slack seeks: a “declaratory judgment”
stating that defendants' actions violated his rights
under RLUIPA and the Washington State Constitution; an
injunction ordering RJC “and their agents” to
stop storing, preparing, and cooking pork, pork products, or
pork bi-products in the jail; an injunction ordering food
services manager (non-defendant) “Mrs.
Hendershot” to provide Mr. Slack the food budget
record; punitive damages in the amount of $1, 000.00 against
defendant Preizz, $2, 500.00 against each of defendants
Woodbury, Merritt, and Rodriguez, and $5, 000.00 each against
defendants Mattman, Browning, and Garcia. Dkt. 2, at 27-28.
Defendants move for summary judgment. Dkt. 38. The Court
recommends that the defendants' motion for summary
judgment be GRANTED.
Slack was booked into the King County Correctional Facility
(“KCCF”) on February 27, 2018, and remained
through July 24, 2018. Dkt. 41, (Decl.of Andrea Williams) at
¶12. He was housed at the King County Regional Justice
Center (“RJC”). Id. At the time of his
initial booking in February of 2018, Mr. Slack's
classification status was medium security. Id., at
¶13 He was given an override and changed to minimum
security status on March 1, 2018. Id. All inmate
workers at the KCCF are required to have minimum security
status to work as a trustee. Dkt. 39, (Decl. of T. Shane
Harrison) at ¶ 4 and Ex. B, (Defendants' Request for
Admission) at 3. Mr. Slack began working as an inmate worker
in the RJC kitchen on March 6, 2018. Dkt. 40, (Decl. of
Sandra Courtway) at ¶7. He worked catching trays,
scooping rice, and putting sporks on trays until he was moved
to pots and pans on March 15, 2018. Id.
the time he was assigned to wash pots and pans, Mr. Slack
alleges he was exposed to pork or pork products.
Specifically, he states in April 2018, he discovered
defendants Mattman, Browning, Rodriguez, and Preizz were
cooking Campbell split pea soup, pork and bean soup, and pork
meat, along with preparing meals for the jail population.
Dkt. 2, at 11-16. The General Policy Manual for the King
County Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention (which
operates King County Correctional Facility and King County
Regional Justice Center) provides that “[n]o foods
containing pork, pork products, or pork by-products are
served to inmates.” Dkt. 41, at Exh. B (King County
Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention Adult Divisions
General Policy Manual, Policy 7.04.006 “Special
Slack states he asked these defendants if they were cooking
real pork and when this was confirmed asked if cooking these
products was allowed. Dkt. 2, at 11-16. Mr. Slack indicates
he voiced his concerns to the defendants about being in
contact with pork which is prohibited as a Muslim.
Id. Mr. Slack alleges these defendants told him they
had been cooking pork before he arrived at RJC and if he had
a problem with it he could quit. Id. Mr. Slack
states he asked to see a rule or policy allowing cooking of
pork or pork products in the RJC kitchen. Id. He
alleges one of the kitchen staff called defendant Meritt and
complained. Id. Mr. Slack states defendant Meritt
told him that the kitchen staff had called him and that they
liked him and did not want to fire him for inciting or trying
to convert other inmates to Islam. Id. Mr. Slack
contends defendant Meritt also told him that if he was fired
he would lose his custody override and be demoted to closed
custody. Id. Mr. Slack states he wrote an inmate
classification kite explaining he is a Muslim and that pork
and pork products were being cooked in the RJC kitchen along
with inmate food. Id. Mr. Slack indicates that
classification told him he was following the correct
procedure but that if he was fired he would lose his
Slack states that on June 6, 2018, defendant Mattman was
cooking and separating a “very large brisket of
pork” and was using the same pots and pans as were used
for inmate meals. Id. Mr. Slack states he confirmed
with defendant Mattman that the meat was pork. Id.
Mr. Slack indicates he was assigned to wash pots and pans, as
well as dishes from the “blue room” used by
correctional staff and other employees working at the jail.
Id. Mr. Slack indicates due to his Muslim beliefs he
decided not to wash pots and pans or dishes from the blue
room that were contaminated with pork. Id.
Slack filed a grievance indicating that he had observed pork
meat being cooked in the RJC main kitchen and had voiced his
concerns about being Muslim. Dkt. 40, at 5-6. The grievance
indicates that his “concerns over this has me feeling
threatened to lose my job and classification …I'm
not trying to convert other inmates to become muslims, nor
incite them against staff over my ambivalence being forced to
smell pork, wash pots or pans or staff dishes that once
contained pork or the stress of losing my job and
classification over pork being cooked along with inmate
meals.” Id. The grievance goes on to state
that he wants to remain a P.M. kitchen worker and wants to
understand if there is a concession in the rules allowing
staff to cook pork in the main kitchen at RJC. Id.
The initial response to the grievance, which appears to be
issued by defendant Knutzen, states “we do cook pork in
the RJC kitchen from time to time, however we do not service
pork to inmates. As far as washing pots and pan or dishes
that may have contained pork, you will no longer be assigned
to the dish washing area.” Id. Mr. Slack
appealed the grievance stating that “pork steam like
second hand smoke settles on inmates food, clothes, hair and
skin … [and] Islamic inmates are unaware they are
eating pork off contaminated trays of food.”
Id. The final response to Mr. Slack's grievance
states “no pork is served to population therefore not
on trays.” Id.
Slack also alleges, on June 7, 2018, while working in the RJC
kitchen, he was given pork and beans on his tray. Dkt. 2, at
15-17. Mr. Slack indicates he showed defendant Merritt the
pork and beans on his tray and defendant Merritt told him the
pork and beans were not real. Id. Mr. Slack
indicates he asked officer Perkin to “google
Cambel” and see if they made imitation pork and bean
soup and learned it is made with real pork fat. Id.
Mr. Slack filed a grievance with respect to this incident
requesting to see a rule or regulation “that moots 42
U.S.C.A. 200-1” and stating that staff were aware he
was a Muslim. Id; Dkt. 40, at 9-10 (Grievance Report
Marked “Received” June 15, 2018). The initial
response to Mr. Slack's grievance states that “as
per kitchen staff - inmates do not get Cambells brand.
Inmates get the “pork beans” that is made with
non-pork meat. If you received the Cambells brand then you
should have not taken it. That brand is only reserved for the
officers.” Id. Mr. Slack appealed the decision
asking again for a rule or regulation “that moots 42
U.S.C.A. 200-1” and that there is “no such meal
made as fake pork and beans, please provide the name of the
product.” Id. The final response to Mr.
Slack's grievance, dated June 19, 2018, from defendant
Woodbury states “pork and beans are not served in this
facility. If you were given soup with beans it would be beans
and bacon. If you were given this soup you were told it
contains pork products. If you ate this soup you did so with
full knowledge of its contents.” Id.
Slack alleges on June 8, 2018, he was taking the label off a
large can of Campbel pork and bean soup when defendant Garcia
the baker alleged Mr. Slack was stealing his property. Dkt.
2, at 17-18. Mr. Slack alleges defendant Garcia was
attempting to achieve an aggressive response from him to use
as grounds to terminate him and that he fabricated the soup
being his property. Id. Mr. Slack alleges that May
22, 2018, was the start of Ramadan and that “humidity
from cooking pork settled on the muslim community's
Ramadan food, sacks that [were] being prepared less than 10
feet away.” Dkt. 2, at 17-20. Mr. Slack alleges
defendant Rodriguez attempted to get the inmate kitchen
workers to convince him to stop complaining by informing them
that due to Mr. Slack's complaints they would no longer
be able to get leftover food from what the jail employees
brought in addition to their regular inmate food.
Slack alleges defendant Browning was aware of his complaints
and would follow him around the kitchen pretending not to
listen to his conversations while defendants Mattman or
Rodriguez would prepare pork food behind Mr. Slack's
back. Id., at 20. Mr. Slack alleges defendant
Knutzen “reprimanded” him for filing grievances
stating that since he was Muslim and concerned about pork
contaminating everything he would have to remove him from
washing pots and pans. Id., at 21. Mr. Slack
indicates he inquired of defendant Woodbury personally if
pork was allowed to be cooked in the RJC kitchen and
defendant Woodbury responded that it was not. Id.,
Slack indicates that on June 11, 2018, another inmate named
“Fahey”, was upset over Mr. Slack pressing the
pork issue and when Mr. Slack approached screamed for at him
to “get away.” Id., at 24-26. Mr. Slack
claims he walked away without responding. Id. Mr.
Slack contends defendant Browning asked Fahey what had
happened and then reported that Fahey had told him Mr. Slack
had threatened him. Id. Mr. Slack denied threatening
Fahey. Id. Mr. Slack states he called the kitchen
staff cowards for their mistreatment of Muslim observance of
Ramadan. Id. Mr. Slack indicates that defendant
Browning infracted him for this and defendant Merritt
approved the infraction. Id. Mr. Slack states
defendant Browning told him to sit and eat but that Officer
Keller was telling him “let's go” and that
Browning then added a “refusing a direct order”
to the alleged threat infraction. Id., at 24-26.
infraction report contains a description of the incident by
defendant Browning which states:
I C/B/ Browning on 6/11/18 on or around 1700 hrs heard inmate
Fahey say ‘get away from me'. I went up to inmate
Fahey and asked him what was going on, he told me that
‘inmate slack threatened him and they were arguing
M-207, Inmate Slack was still in the area. I asked inmate
Slack if he threatened inmate Fahey and he said ‘no I
did not'. I saw officer Keller walking bye and asked her
to remove Slack and Fehey. She entered the kitchen asked the
inmates to ‘hurry up and eat your food.' As me and
officer Keller were standing there inmate Slack called me a
“coward” G-301, officer Keller instructed him to
be quiet and inmate Slack responded “I don't have
to be quiet” G-301, G-302. I request that inmates Slack
and Fahey don't come back to AM or PM crews in RJC or
Dkt. 40, at Exh. B (Inmate Infraction Report).
Slack denies threatening inmate Fahey but does not deny
calling defendant Browning a coward or refusing to comply
with Officer Keller's order to be quiet.
held a disciplinary hearing on June 13, 2018, related to the
infraction before Hearing Officer Tomasini (who is not named
as a defendant). Dkt. 40, at Exh. B (Inmate Infraction
Report). Classification sanctioned Mr. Slack to removal from
inmate worker status based on a guilty finding for Nuisance
Activity (G309), related to calling defendant Browning a
coward, and Refusing Orders (G302), for refusing to obey
Officer Keller's order that he be quiet in a timely
manner. Id. The decision of the disciplinary hearing
officer indicates Mr. Slack was found not guilty of M-207, as
this violation does not exist, and that the report narrative
did not provide enough information to support a ...