Mathis v. Brazoria Cnty. Sheriff's Office

CourtUnited States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Southern District of Texas
PartiesANTHONY BERNARD MATHIS, (Reg. #56231-179) Plaintiff, v. BRAZORIA COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE, et al., Defendants.
Docket NumberCIVIL ACTION NO. H-08-3703
Decision Date17 August 2011

ANTHONY BERNARD MATHIS, (Reg. #56231-179) Plaintiff,



Dated: August 17, 2011


The plaintiff, Anthony Bernard Mathis, is currently an inmate of the Federal Correctional Complex in Beaumont, Texas.1 Mathis sues under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that while incarcerated at the Brazoria County Jail from June 10 to September 29, 2008, he was denied a kosher diet, denied medical care, denied due process, and was subject to retaliation. Mathis, proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, sues the Brazoria County Sheriff's Office ("BCSO") and certain officers and employees: Charles S. Wagner, Sheriff; Straughter, a nurse; Mary Anguiano, a food-service supervisor; John Langley, a grievance officer; and Margie Alexander, an inmate trust fund bookkeeper.

On April 29, 2009, Mathis filed a more definite statement describing his claims. (Docket Entry No. 10). On August 10, 2009, this court instructed the District Attorney for Brazoria County

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to provide the administrative record of relevant medical and grievance records for Mathis from June 1 to September 30, 2008.2 (Docket Entry No. 11). The District Attorney's Office complied. (Docket Entry No. 13).

On July 20, 2010, this court ordered service on the BCSO, Sheriff Wagner, Nurse Straughter, Supervisor Anguiano, Officer Langley, and Deputy Alexander. (Docket Entry No. 21). The BCSO, Sheriff Wagner and Nurse Straughter, Supervisor Anguiano, Officer Langley, and Deputy Alexander ("the Straughter Defendants") filed motions to dismiss. (Docket Entry No. 33, 34, 35). On November 17, 2010, the BCSO, Sheriff Wagner, and the Straughter Defendants moved for summary judgment. (Docket Entry No. 37, 41). On December 15, 2010, this court granted Mathis an extension until January 31, 2011 to respond to the dispositive motions. (Docket Entry No. 45). Mathis has not responded.

Based on the pleadings, the motions, the summary judgment record, and the applicable law, this court grants the defendants' motions for summary judgment and denies their motions to dismiss as moot. Final judgment is entered by separate order. The reasons for these rulings are explained below.

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I. Mathis's Allegations

Mathis was confined at the BCSO from June 10 to September 29, 2008. He alleges that during that time, he was denied medical care and kosher meals. He claims that Sheriff Wagner implemented unconstitutional policies, Nurse Straughter denied him kosher meals, and Officer Langley failed to resolve grievances.

To support his allegations that BCSO officers and employees knew he needed a kosher diet, Mathis asserts that two BCSO officers transporting him from FCC-Beaumont Low to the BCSO on June 10, 2008 received his records from FCC-Beaumont Low. The records showed that Mathis required a kosher diet. Mathis also told the BCSO booking officer and Nurse Straughter of his need for a kosher diet. He alleges that Nurse Straughter told him: "we do not provide religious/kosher meals, just eat around the pork when it's on your tray." (Docket Entry No. 2, p. 4). Two officers told Mathis that he would need a court order to receive kosher meals. Mathis states that he was denied access to means of worship while at the BCSO and that he was prohibited from practicing his Jewish faith in his cell, although he offers no specifics other than the denial of kosher meals.

Mathis alleges that the denial of kosher meals violated his First Amendment right to free exercise of religion, his rights under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), and his right to equal protection.

Mathis also alleges that the defendants served him contaminated food and were deliberately indifferent to the serious medical needs that resulted. He alleges that on June 16, 2008, he became constipated because he was not provided with kosher meals. He was diagnosed with external hemorrhoids and chronic constipation. On July 24, 2008, Mathis complained of severe stomach pains caused by consuming outdated dairy products and nonkosher foods. He alleges that medical

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personnel did not take his medical history and conduct a physical examination each time he went to the clinic, and that he was not properly tested for food poisoning. Mathis acknowledges that he was prescribed treatment for his symptoms. He was given a suppository (although he asserts it took four weeks for that to occur). He was prescribed fiber tablets and Naproxen for the pain. He was also prescribed Dulcolax, milk of magnesia, Lactivo, and Metamucil to treat the constipation and stomach pain.

Mathis alleges that on July 25, 2008, Anguiano, the food service supervisor, said that the BCSO was not equipped to provide inmates with religious diets such as kosher meals. On July 28, 2008, Anguiano went to a grocery store and purchased food to accommodate Mathis's request for a kosher diet. Mathis claims that the foods she purchased were not properly kosher. Mathis also alleges that immediately after he ate the items, he again started having sharp stomach pains.

Mathis alleges that on August 10, 2008, defendant Alexander told him that the BCSO had the authority to deduct funds from Mathis's inmate account. On September 23, 2008, Alexander told Mathis that she had confiscated $9.93 from his inmate account. He alleges that he was denied due process of law because the funds were withdrawn without his permission.

Mathis alleges that on August 25, 2008, defendant Anguiano retaliated against him for filing a grievance when Anguiano told Mathis that the BCSO would not provide his kosher meals.

Mathis filed a grievance about the denial of kosher meals. Langley responded to the grievance as follows: "An investigation has been conducted into the allegations contained in your complaint. Your allegations were found to be: Unfounded . . . Comments: Absent a court order requiring kosher food, you are being served regular inmate food with the exception for pork, which is not being served to you." (Docket Entry No. 10, Plaintiff's More Definite Statement, p. 8).

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Mathis alleges that on August 22, 2008, he filed an Inmate Grievance Form alleging that he had been given spoiled milk. In his response dated August 26, 2008, Langley stated: "An investigation has been conducted into the allegations contained in your complaint. Your allegations were found to be: . . . Substantiated and appropriate action was taken . . . Comments: The jail kitchen has been notified to inspect for out-of-date dairy products in the future." (Docket Entry No. 10, Plaintiff's More Definite Statement, p. 17).

Mathis seeks the following relief:

A. a declaratory judgment that the defendants violated the United States Constitution and state law;
B. compensatory damages of $1,000,000 against each of the defendants;
C. punitive damages of $1,000,000 against each of the defendants; and
D. "nominal" damages of $1,000,000 against each of the defendants.

II. The Motion for Summary Judgment

A. The Legal Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate if no genuine issue of material fact exists and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c). "The movant bears the burden of identifying those portions of the record it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Triple Tee Golf, Inc. v. Nike, Inc., 485 F.3d 253, 261 (5th Cir. 2007) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-25 (1986)). If the burden of proof at trial lies with the nonmoving party, the movant may satisfy its initial burden by "'showing' - that is, pointing out to the district court - that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case." See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325. While the party moving for summary judgment must demonstrate the

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absence of a genuine issue of material fact, it does not need to negate the elements of the nonmovant's case. Boudreaux v. Swift Transp. Co., 402 F.3d 536, 540 (5th Cir. 2005) (citation omitted). "A fact is 'material' if its resolution in favor of one party might affect the outcome of the lawsuit under governing law." Sossamon v. Lone Star State of Tex., 560 F.3d 316, 326 (5th Cir. 2009) (quotation omitted). "If the moving party fails to meet [its] initial burden, the motion [for summary judgment] must be denied, regardless of the nonmovant's response." United States v. $92,203.00 in U.S. Currency, 537 F.3d 504, 507 (5th Cir. 2008) (quoting Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994) (en banc)).

When the moving party has met its Rule 56(c) burden, the nonmoving party cannot survive a summary judgment motion by resting on the mere allegations of its pleadings. The nonmovant must identify specific evidence in the record and articulate how that evidence supports that party's claim. Baranowski v. Hart, 486 F.3d 112, 119 (5th Cir. 2007). "This burden will not be satisfied by 'some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts, by conclusory allegations, by unsubstantiated assertions, or by only a scintilla of evidence.'" Boudreaux, 402 F.3d at 540 (quoting Little, 37 F.3d at 1075). In deciding a summary judgment motion, the court draws all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Connors v. Graves, 538 F.3d 373, 376 (5th Cir. 2008).

B. The Summary Judgment Evidence


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