Smith v. Williams

CourtUnited States District Courts. 10th Circuit. United States District Court of Colorado
Docket NumberCivil Action 20-cv-00841-WJM-NYW
Decision Date13 October 2021


Nina Y. Wang, United States Magistrate Judge

This matter comes before this court on two motions:

(1) CDOC Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(B)(1) and 12(B)(6) (the “CDOC Defendants' Motion to Dismiss) [Doc. 87 [2] filed March 18, 2021]; and (2) Defendants Dr. Muhammad Munir Chaudry and The Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Third Amended Prisoner Complaint (the IFANCA Defendants' Motion to Dismiss) [Doc 88, filed March 18, 2021] (collectively, the “Motions” or Motions to Dismiss).

This court considers the Motions pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b), the Order Referring Case dated September 8, 2020 [Doc. 19], and the Memorandum dated May 3, 2021 [Doc. 97]. This court concludes that oral argument will not materially assist in the resolution of these matters. Accordingly, upon review of the Motions, related briefing, and applicable case law, I respectfully RECOMMEND that (1) the CDOC Defendants' Motion to Dismiss be GRANTED in part and DENIED in part as set forth in this Recommendation, and (2) the IFANCA Defendants' Motion to Dismiss be GRANTED.


This court draws the following facts from Plaintiff's Amended Operative Complaint (the “Second Amended Complaint”) [Doc. 86][3] and presumes they are true for purposes of the instant Motions. Plaintiff Ray Anthony Smith (“Mr. Smith” or Plaintiff) is an inmate currently in the custody of the Colorado Department of Corrections (“CDOC”) and housed at the Arkansas Valley Correctional Facility (“AVCF”). [Doc. 86 at 2].[4] Mr. Smith is Muslim and has practiced Islam for 25 years. [Id. at 20 25]. Mr. Smith keeps a halal diet[5] for religious reasons, and his decision to keep a halal diet is motivated by his sincerely held religious beliefs. [Id. at 12, 20].

This case primarily concerns the allegedly wrongful revocation of Mr. Smith's halal diet. See generally [id.]. As an initial matter, Mr. Smith generally challenges the accuracy of the halal or non-halal designations of the food items on the CDOC's canteen list. See generally [id. at 20 (Plaintiff asserting that he cannot trust that what he orders from the canteen list is Halal.”)]. Food items on the canteen list are generally marked with the signifier (H) to indicate an item's compliance with the halal diet. [Id. at 7].[6] According to Mr. Smith, there are food items on the list “that are marked (H) for Halal that are not Halal, and items that are not marked (H) for Halal that are Halal.” [Id.]. For example, Mr. Smith alleges that shrimp bowl soup is marked on the canteen list as halal but “has no Halal logo on the label” and “has an ingredient ‘Powdered Chicken' which renders it not Halal certified.” [Id. at 11]. In addition, Plaintiff states that he “is accused of being in violation of the Religious Diet Participation Agreement [(‘RDPA')][7] for ordering” roast beef and gravy, which is not marked as halal, but asserts that the roast beef and gravy is, in fact, halal certified, and “even has the Halal logo on the package straight from the factory.” [Id.]. In addition, Mr. Smith alleges that Muslims may eat kosher foods and maintain compliance with their halal diet, see, e.g., [id. at 11, 12, 18], but asserts that he has been accused of violating the RDPA by ordering kosher-labeled foods. [Id. at 11].

Plaintiff asserts that his halal diet was wrongfully canceled due to his purchase and/or consumption of certain foods being erroneously deemed violations of the RDPA. See, e.g., [id. at 7]. Mr. Smith attributes the misclassification of foods, at least in part, to the CDOC's Service Operations Manager of Canteen Services, Defendant Ginger Middleton (Ms. Middleton). [Id. at 10]. Mr. Smith asserts that Ms. Middleton “committed fraudulent misrepresentation of a material matter when she failed to verify the items on the canteen list” and determine whether they were correctly marked or not marked as halal. [Id.].

Relevant to Plaintiff's claims here, on December 3, 2019, Mr. Smith received a letter from Defendant Charlene Crockett (“Ms. Crockett”), the Food Service & Laundry Program Administrator for the CDOC, concerning an alleged violation of Plaintiff's halal diet. [Id. at 9]. The letter stated that Plaintiff had violated the RDPA by ordering buffalo wing chips (which were marked as compliant with a kosher diet) and nacho tortilla chips (which were not marked for a specific diet). [Id.]. The letter stated that this was Mr. Smith's first violation of the RDPA and that a second violation within one calendar year would result in the cancellation of Mr. Smith's halal diet. [Id. at 10]. According to Plaintiff, prior to receiving this letter, [t]here was no [explanation] given as to the reason the said [food] items were not permitted . . . so that Plaintiff could avoid ordering items with whatever [ingredients] made those items prohibited.” [Id.].

Plaintiff asserts that, after receiving the December 3, 2019 letter, he “inquired in the dining hall to Lt. Trujillo, Kitchen Lieutenant, ” (“Lieutenant Trujillo”)[8] and that Lieutenant Trujillo “returned with a print-out of four items that [Plaintiff] ordered from [the canteen] ¶ 12/18/2019 and said [that] ‘this was the reason that [Plaintiff's] diet was [canceled].' [Id. at 16]. More specifically, Mr. Smith asserts that on January 21, 2020, he “went to the chow hal[l] for dinner and was informed by staff that [his] halal diet had been cut off” because the CDOC's Food Service Supervisor, Defendant Carlos Lopez (Sergeant Lopez), had reported to Ms. Crockett that Plaintiff had violated his halal diet by ordering buffalo wing chips, hot pepper cheese, “Sizzlin Sweet Mix, ” kettle corn, and chocolate caramels. [Doc. 6 at 2].[9] Mr. Smith then filed an Informal Grievance Form (the “Informal Grievance”) on January 23, 2020, explaining that the Qur'an forbids only certain foods in an attempt to demonstrate that the buffalo wing chips or nacho chips “have nothing to do with violating the Halal diet.” [Doc. 86 at 16]. Lieutenant Trujillo responded to Plaintiff's Informal Grievance by generally setting forth the requirements of the halal diet. [Id.].

Mr. Smith then filed a Step 1 Grievance on an unknown date, which included verses from the Qur'an. [Id.]. An individual named Captain Wiggins, who is not a named Defendant in this matter, responded to the Step 1 Grievance, stating that the Central Office had “investigated . . . and found you to be in violation of your canteen purchased with [respect] to your religious diet.” [Id. at 17]. Captain Wiggins reminded Mr. Smith that “the canteen listing is clearly marked which items are halal and which [are] not, ” and also wrote that, because “this [was] [Mr. Smith's] second violation, [Mr. Smith's] [halal] diet was [canceled].” [Id.]. Plaintiff's Step 1 Grievance was denied. [Id.].

Plaintiff then filed a Step 2 Grievance on an unknown date, “quot[ing] the same scripture from the Holy Qur'an as before.” [Id.]. Plaintiff received a response from an individual named Denny Stangier (“Mr. Stangier”).[10] [Id.]. Mr. Stangier acknowledged that he had “received [Mr. Smith's] Step 1 and Step 2 Grievances and [his] requested remedy to have [his] Halal religious diet reinstated, ” but denied the Grievance on March 11, 2020 on the basis that Mr. Smith had “violated the expectations of maintaining [Plaintiff's] religious diet.” [Id.]. Mr. Stangier informed Mr. Smith that he could reapply for reinstatement of the halal diet after January 21, 2021. [Id.]. That same day, Mr. Smith received another letter from Ms. Crockett informing Plaintiff that Sergeant Lopez had reported Plaintiff for violating his gastroesophageal reflux disease (“GERD”) medical diet “by ordering foods with spices in them.” [Id. at 13]. Mr. Smith asserts that Sergeant Lopez's report was made in retaliation for Plaintiff's filing the Step 1 and 2 Grievances. [Id.]. Plaintiff asserts that “medical [did not] discontinue [his GERD] diet” because the items he had ordered were halal, such as halal sausage, which is “hot and spicy, ” as well as chili and spicy vegetable ramen noodle soups, “the only halal soups the canteen sells.” [Id.].

Plaintiff then filed a Step 3 Grievance on March 13, 2020. See [id. at 18]; see also [Doc. 6 at 2 (Plaintiff's Step 3 Grievance)]. In the Step 3 Grievance, Plaintiff requested that his halal diet be “restored immediately” and requested that Sergeant Lopez “stop harassing” him. [Doc. 6 at 2]. The Step 3 Grievance was reviewed by non-Defendant Marshall Griffith (“Mr. Griffith”), who denied the Grievance on the basis that Mr. Smith's halal diet “ha[d] been [canceled] due to canteen violations, ” the first on December 4, 2019 and the second on January 21, 2020. [Doc. 86 at 18].[11] Mr. Griffith stated that [c]anteen items are clearly marked for those items that are halal” and informed Mr. Smith that he could apply for reinstatement of his halal diet on January 21, 2021.[12] [Id. (emphasis omitted)]; see also [Doc. 6 at 2].

Plaintiff alleges that, because his halal diet has been canceled, he has been required to eat “substitute meals” without red meat or poultry. [Id. at 12]. Plaintiff asserts that the substitute meals “consist of peanut butter, or boiled eggs, or cheese slices ([processed]), or beans that are never fully cooked (partially raw).” [Id.]. He asserts that the consumption of “any Halal food, including red meat (or fish or strawberries or any other Halal food God has provided)...

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