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Mares v. LePage

United States District Court, D. Colorado

March 13, 2018

FRAN LEPAGE, Defendant.


          R. Brooke Jackson United States District Judge

         This matter is before the Court on defendant Fran LePage's motion to dismiss, ECF No. 34, and Magistrate Judge Nina Y. Wang's report and recommendation, ECF No. 54. Judge Wang recommended that this Court grant Ms. LePage's motion to dismiss, and Mr. Mares timely objected to Judge Wang's recommendation. ECF Nos. 54, 60. After reviewing the briefing and relevant law, I find that the motion to dismiss must be GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Magistrate Judge Wang provided a detailed summary of the procedural and factual background of this case in her Recommendation. See ECF No. 54 at 1-14. To briefly highlight the relevant facts, Mr. Mares is an inmate under the supervision of the Colorado Department of Corrections (“CDOC”), and Ms. LePage is a Program Manager at the Pueblo County Detention Center, a CDOC facility. ECF No. 15. Mr. Mares filed a complaint asserting, among other claims and against additional defendants, that Ms. LePage wrongfully violated his rights under the First Amendment and Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”) when she denied his request to change his religion to Judaism and thus receive kosher diet meals. ECF No. 15. Mr. Mares later asserted that Ms. LePage also failed to provide him with a personal copy of the Torah and failed to facilitate the visitation of a rabbi to the detention center. ECF No. 39. Following the screening process undertaken pursuant to § 1915(e)(2), Judge Babcock of this Court dismissed all of Mr. Mares' claims except for the First Amendment and RLUIPA claims and dismissed all defendants other than Ms. LePage. Judge Babcock also noted that the Eleventh Amendment disallowed Ms. LePage from being liable in her official capacity for any monetary damages. ECF No. 12 at 13. The case was then assigned to this Court and Magistrate Judge Wang. Ms. LePage filed the pending Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. ECF No. 34. Magistrate Judge Wang reviewed the motion to dismiss and recommended that it be granted, ECF No. 54. Mr. Mares timely objected to her recommendation. ECF No. 60.


         A. Magistrate Judge Wang's Recommendation.

         When a magistrate judge makes a recommendation on a dispositive motion, the district court “must determine de novo any part of the magistrate judge's disposition that has been properly objected to.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3). An objection is sufficiently specific if it “focus[es] the district court's attention on the factual and legal issues that are truly in dispute.” United States v. 2121 E. 30th St., 73 F.3d 1057, 1060 (10th Cir. 1996). In the absence of a timely and specific objection, “the district court may review a magistrate's report under any standard it deems appropriate.” Summers v. Utah, 927 F.2d 1165, 1167 (10th Cir. 1991).

         Mr. Mares timely objected to Magistrate Judge Wang's recommendation. ECF No. 60. Specifically, Mr. Mares objects to Magistrate Judge Wang's findings with regard to the First Amendment claim. It does not appear that Mr. Mares objects to Magistrate Judge Wang's recommendations as to the RLUIPA claim. See Id. However, in the interests of thoroughness and finality, I will review both the First Amendment and the RLUIPA claim de novo.

         B. Rule 12(b)(6) - Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim.

         To survive a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the complaint must contain “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ridge at Red Hawk, L.L.C. v. Schneider, 493 F.3d 1174, 1177 (10th Cir. 2007) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). While the Court must accept the well-pleaded allegations of the complaint as true and construe them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, Robbins v. Wilkie, 300 F.3d 1208, 1210 (10th Cir. 2002), purely conclusory allegations are not entitled to be presumed true, Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 681 (2009). However, so long as the plaintiff offers sufficient factual allegations such that the right to relief is raised above the speculative level, he has met the threshold pleading standard. See Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556. “The court's function on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion is not to weigh potential evidence that the parties might present at trial, but to assess whether the plaintiff's complaint alone is legally sufficient to state a claim for which relief may be granted.” Sutton v. Utah State Sch. for Deaf & Blind, 173 F.3d 1226, 1236 (10th Cir. 1999) (quoting Miller v. Glanz, 948 F.2d 1562, 1565 (10th Cir. 1991)).

         III. ANALYSIS

         Mr. Mares seeks both damages and injunctive relief for the alleged First Amendment and RLUIPA violations in this case. See ECF No. 10 at 18 (noting that he seeks damages in the amount of $300, 000 and injunctive relief from Ms. LePage's alleged wrongdoing). However, I find that Mr. Mares' prayer for injunctive relief is moot because he is no longer housed at the Pueblo County Detention Center (where the alleged wrongs occurred), he presents no evidence that he will be housed there again, and he admits that Ms. LePage in fact permitted him to change his religion and receive kosher meals prior to his transfer away from the Pueblo County Detention Center. See ECF No. 39 at 4-5. Therefore, there is no “continuing injury” and this Court lacks jurisdiction concerning his request for an injunction. See Jordan v. Sosa, 654 F.3d 1012, 1024 (10th Cir. 2011) (holding that a prisoner's claim for injunctive relief is moot if he or she is no longer subjected to the conditions complained of in the pleading).

         In addition, Judge Babcock dismissed any claims for monetary relief against Ms. LePage in her official capacity based on the Eleventh Amendment. ECF No. 12 at 13. Therefore, the only form of relief that Mr. Mares can receive is monetary relief for claims against Ms. LePage in her individual capacity. Because the Tenth Circuit has determined that “[t]here is no cause of action under RLUIPA for individual-capacity claims, ” Stewart v. Beach, 701 F.3d 1322, 1335 (10th Cir. 2012), I can quickly determine that Mr. Mares' RLUIPA claim against Ms. LePage fails and must be dismissed. As such, the only remaining claim is Mr. Mares' First Amendment claim against Ms. LePage in her individual-capacity.

         In her motion to dismiss, Ms. LePage argues that Mr. Mares' First Amendment claim fails for two reasons. First, she argues that Mr. Mares' pleadings about his religious beliefs are vague, conclusory, and fail to meet the required pleading standards. ECF No. 34 at 5. Second, she argues that Mr. Mares' allegations about Ms. LePage's conduct fall short of establishing the personal ...

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