United States District Court, D. Colorado
BROOKE JACKSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on several pretrial motions. By
this order the Court (1) denies plaintiff's motion for
partial summary judgment; (2) grants in part and denies in
part defendant's motion for summary judgment; (3) denies
plaintiff's motion for reconsideration of an earlier
order concerning transporting him to Colorado for trial; (4)
denies without prejudice plaintiff's motion to exclude
certain expert testimony; and (5) denies plaintiff's
motion in limine.
background of this dispute has been extensively addressed.
See, e.g., ECF No. 97 at 2-9; ECF No. 111 at 2-3;
ECF No. 135 at 1-2. I'll briefly review those facts that
are relevant to the motions before the Court. Mr. Ajaj has
been in BOP custody for 25 years. He initiated this lawsuit
in 2015 while housed at the BOP's ADX facility in
Florence, Colorado. In January 2018, BOP transferred Mr. Ajaj
to a different BOP facility located in Indiana, the USP Terre
Ajaj's claims center around BOP's alleged
infringement on his Sunni Muslim religious beliefs. After my
prior orders eliminating claims and the parties'
Stipulation to Dismiss, ECF Nos. 111, 135, 211, the remaining
claims allege that BOP has violated and continues to violate
Mr. Ajaj's rights under the Fifth Amendment and the
Religious Freedom Restoration Act (“RFRA”). The
RFRA claim consists of four discrete components: (1)
BOP's failure to accommodate Mr. Ajaj's observance of
sunnah fasts; (2) BOP's failure to provide a halal diet;
(3) BOP's failure to provide meaningful access to an
imam; and (4) BOP's refusal to allow Mr. Ajaj to engage
in congregate prayer. See ECF No. 212 at 2.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Court may grant summary judgment if “there is no
genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(a). The moving party has the burden to show that there is
an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's
case. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325
(1986). The nonmoving party must “designate specific
facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.”
Id. at 324. A dispute about a fact is material
“if under the substantive law it is essential to the
proper disposition of the claim.” Adler v. Wal-Mart
Stores, Inc., 144 F.3d 664, 670 (10th Cir. 1998) (citing
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248
(1986)). A dispute about a material fact is genuine if
“the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could
return a verdict for the nonmoving party.”
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. The Court will examine
the factual record and make reasonable inferences therefrom
in the light most favorable to the party opposing summary
judgment. Concrete Works of Colo., Inc. v. City
& Cnty. of Denver, 36 F.3d 1513, 1517 (10th Cir.
Mr. Ajaj's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment [ECF
Ajaj seeks summary judgment on one aspect of his RFRA claim,
namely BOP's failure to provide meaningful access to an
imam. He alleges that during his time at ADX and now at USP
Terre Haute, BOP has allowed him little to no access to speak
with an imam despite his frequent requests to do so. In his
motion, Mr. Ajaj argued that his religious beliefs regarding
meeting with an imam on a regular basis are sincere, and he
also argued that the BOP burdened these religious beliefs.
I find that there is good cause to deny Mr. Ajaj's
motion. First, BOP has represented that by the time I issue
this order, it is very likely that USP Terre Haute-
particularly the Life Connections Program in which Mr. Ajaj
participates-will have hired an imam who will work 30 hour
per week. ECF No. 232 at 1. At the time the BOP filed its
response, July 3, 2018, the imam candidate was apparently
undergoing a background check “in anticipation of
beginning work as early as mid-July.” Id.
Because the presence of an imam would moot Mr. Ajaj's
claim, I find it prudent to wait until our August 9 trial
preparation conference for an update as to the imam
this motion must be denied as there is a fact dispute
regarding Mr. Ajaj's ability to utilize the
“Minister of Record” procedure apparently
available to all BOP inmates. Under this policy, inmates are
permitted to identify a spiritual leader, such as an imam,
with whom they can communicate subject to BOP approval. ECF
No. 232 at 11. BOP contends that Mr. Ajaj has had this
Minister of Record procedure available but he has declined to
invoke it. Mr. Ajaj responds that this argument is an attempt
by BOP to “shift its statutorily-mandated obligation to
provide pastoral care to ministers, ” but he admits
that “the Minister of Record opinion technically
exists.” ECF No. 242 at 10 n.4. The relief Mr. Ajaj
requests in his motion- weekly in-person, telephonic, or
video meetings with an imam-is apparently precisely what Mr.
Ajaj would be provided under the Minister of Record
expressed concern that if the Court were to grant Mr.
Ajaj's requested relief at this time, Mr. Ajaj's
safety and that of the facility at large could be put at risk
because other prisoners would see Mr. Ajaj's
individualized and weekly access to a spiritual leader as
preferential treatment. If this risk can be eradicated by Mr.
Ajaj's using a pre-existing BOP policy it should be, but
at present I do not have enough information regarding this
procedure to make a decision on these grounds. As such, I
will wait for further fact development on this procedure and
thus DENY Mr. Ajaj's motion for partial summary judgment.
BOP's Motion for Summary Judgment, to Dismiss as
Moot, and to Dismiss for ...