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Hardeman v. Trammell

United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma

March 12, 2019

ANITA TRAMMELL and C. GUAY, Defendants.



         This action is before the Court on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss and Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. 26). The Court has before it for consideration Plaintiff's Petition (Dkt. 3), Defendants' motion (Dkt. 26), Plaintiff's Response to the motion (Dkt. 27), and a special report filed by the Oklahoma Department of Corrections (“DOC”) at the direction of the Court in accordance with Martinez v. Aaron, 570 F.2d 317 (10th Cir. 1978) (Dkt. 25).

         Plaintiff is a prisoner in the custody of the DOC. Plaintiff is incarcerated at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary (“OSP”) in McAlester, Oklahoma where he is serving a life sentence for Murder in the First Degree. Plaintiff claims Defendants violated his rights under the Oklahoma Constitution and Oklahoma's Religious Freedom Act. Plaintiff also alleges Defendants discriminated against him because he is transgender.


         A. Motion to Dismiss

         When a plaintiff proceeds in forma pauperis, a court must dismiss a complaint if it does not state a claim upon which a relief can be granted. 28 U.S.C. §1915(e)(2)(B)(ii). A plaintiff must give a “short plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief” under Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). This statement does not need to be a detailed list of factual allegations. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). However, to survive a motion to dismiss, the plaintiff cannot merely give broad “labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action, “but instead must plead a set of facts that at least makes the claims plausible, and raises the “right of relief above speculative level.” Id. While a court must accept allegations in a complaint as true, this principal does not apply to legal conclusions, conclusory statements, or recitals of the elements of a cause of action. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Courts will only give the presumption of truth to factual allegations, and will look to those allegations to determine whether the plaintiff has stated a plausible claim. Kan. Penn. Gaming, L.L.C. v. Collins, 656 F.3d 1210, 1219 (10th Cir. 2011).

         B. Motion for Summary Judgment

         Rule 56(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that “[t]he court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Summary judgment is not a disfavored procedural shortcut, but an integral part of the federal rules as a whole. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317 (1986).

         In Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986), the Supreme Court held that “there is no issue for trial unless there is sufficient evidence favoring the non-moving party for a jury to return a verdict for that party.” The Court further held that “if the evidence is merely colorable, or not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted.” Id. In addition, the Anderson Court stated that “the mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of a plaintiff's position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which a jury could reasonably find for the plaintiff.” Id. A movant's summary judgment burden may properly be met by reference to the lack of evidence in support of plaintiff's position. See Adler v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 144 F.3d 664, 671 (10th Cir. 1998) (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325).

         Furthermore, as described by the court in Cone v. Longmont United Hosp. Ass'n., 14 F.3d 526 (10th Cir. 1994), “Even though all doubts must be resolved in (the nonmovant's) favor, allegations alone will not defeat summary judgment.” Cone at 530 (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324). See also Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1111 (10th Cir. 1991); Roemer v. Pub. Serv. Co. of Colo., 911 F.Supp. 464, 469 (D. Colo. 1996). Moreover, “(i)n response to a motion for summary judgment, a party cannot rely on ignorance of facts, on speculation, or on suspicion, and may not escape summary judgment in the mere hope that something will turn up at trial.” Conaway v. Smith, 853 F.2d 789, 794 (10th Cir. 1988).


         Reviewing the evidentiary material submitted by the parties, the Court finds that there are no material disputes as to the following facts:

         In late May, or early June of 2015, Plaintiff was transferred to a new cell at OSP as a result of an assault investigation. It was determined that Plaintiff had paper material in excess of the amount allowed by policy, which is one cubic foot. Plaintiff was allowed to choose what property to keep and what property to give up, and was specifically advised on May 27, 2015, that pursuant to policy he could send the remainder of his excess property home, have it destroyed, or donated to the prison. Plaintiff was also notified that if he did not instruct the facility as to how his property should be handled, it would be destroyed, or donated within thirty (30) days. Although he filed numerous grievances, Plaintiff failed to timely provide instruction for the dispensation of his property.

         Despite Plaintiff's failure to meet the deadline for disposition of his property, Defendants did not dispose of Plaintiff's religious books. Plaintiff's religious ...

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