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Poullard v. Federal Bureau of Prisons

March 6, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: John D. Bates United States District Judge


For the reasons stated below, the Court will transfer this action to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.


Plaintiff currently is serving a prison sentence in the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons ("BOP") at the Federal Correctional Institution in Beaumont, Texas ("FCI Beaumont"). See Compl. ¶ 4. He is a member of the Ifa faith group. See id. ¶ 6 & Ex. A (September 24, 2004 letter approving plaintiff's request to introduce Ifa at FCI Beaumont).

The Court has reviewed plaintiff's Complaint and Amended Complaint, keeping in mind that pleadings prepared by a pro se litigant are held to a less stringent standard than is applied to formal pleadings drafted by a lawyer.*fn2 See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972); Richardson v. United States, 193 F.3d 545, 548 (D.C. Cir. 1999). The Court may, and does, consider both his pleadings in order to understand the nature and basis of plaintiff's claims. See Gray v. Poole, 275 F.3d 1113, 1115 (D.C. Cir. 2002) (citing Richardson, 193 F.3d at 548). Taken together, the Court construes plaintiff's pleadings as alleging violations of: (1) his right to the free exercise of his religion, (2) his right to equal protection of the laws, and (3) the Religious Freedom Restoration Act ("RFRA"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb et seq. Compl. ¶¶ 1, 6, 23; Amd. Compl. ¶¶ 1, 8, 20. The sole defendant is the BOP.

Plaintiff alleges that the BOP "insolently 'renamed' plaintiff's religion in an attempt to force it into a religious category that is already established within the federal prison system." Compl. ¶ 6. In this way, the BOP allegedly denies plaintiff and other members of the Ifa faith group "many of the materials and accommodations necessary for the practice of their approved religious beliefs." Amd. Compl. ¶ 7. According to plaintiff, the BOP uses the terms "Yoruba/Santeria, General Yoruban Program, Yoruba/Ifa, and Yoruba" instead of "Ifa" alone, and thus "has treated plaintiff's religion with disgust and disdain." Compl. ¶ 6. "This ongoing disparag[e]ment" of the Ifa religion, plaintiff alleges, "violates his constitutionally protected religious freedoms and it evidences a campaign of religious discrimination on the part of the defendant." Id.

Both the Complaint and Amended Complaint describe an incident which occurred on July 19, 2006 and resulted in a Disciplinary Hearing Officer ("DHO") Report and disciplinary sanctions. FCI Beaumont staff found so many books and personal papers of plaintiff's in the cell he shared with two other inmates that staff directed him "to move all his personal papers and books to the units [sic] center storage." Id., Ex. E (Incident Report No. 1491830 dated July 20, 2006). Plaintiff responded that "he needed to have all this [sic] items in his cell due to his ongoing legal battle with the BOP and that all his books were all religious materials" Id. Plaintiff claimed that he did not have sufficient space in his locker to store his books and papers because he used his locker for religious offerings. See id., Ex. F-G (memoranda supporting Incident Report). Staff opened plaintiff's locker, noticed a "foul smell" emanating from the locker, and inside "discovered several food items that were in decomposing state," id., Ex. E, which evidently were plaintiff's "religious food offerings." Id. When plaintiff refused to clean his area and store his books and papers in his locker as directed, staff escorted him to the Special Housing Unit. See id., Ex. E-G.

The July 19, 2006 incident apparently is but one example of the BOP's alleged "disrespect" for plaintiff's Ifa faith. For instance, plaintiff alleges that Ifa followers must wear Ides (beaded bracelets) and Ilekes (beaded necklaces) at all times. Plaintiff's Motion Requesting Permission To Supplement Original Pleading In Response To Defendant's Motion to Dismiss ("Pl.'s Mot. to Supplement") at 2. He states that BOP does not provide these items, forcing plaintiff and others to make their own Ides and Ilekes "[u]sing hobby craft beading materials."

Id. Plaintiff alleges that he was denied a visit with his father on July 23, 2007 because he refused to remove his religious beads, see id. at 3-4, and that he was denied a visit with his sister on August 7, 2007 because plaintiff refused to remove one of the two sets of beaded necklaces he wore. Plaintiff's Motion Requesting A Standing Order From The Court at 1-2. Further, he alleges that the BOP has denied him religious materials, outdoor worship space, and other accommodations (such as a designated locker for storing religious supplies and literature) for the practice of his faith. See, e.g., Pl.'s Mot. to Supplement, Ex. (Remedy ID # 354786-F1 and attachments).

As a result of the BOP's actions, plaintiff alleges that he has "lost his natural rest and sleep, suffered pain and emotional trauma, depression, humiliation, anxiety and apprehension, and was made to feel that his sincerely held religious beliefs were inferior to the religious beliefs of others." Compl. ¶ 21. For defendant's alleged disparagement of plaintiff's religion and the "wrongful additional punishment [imposed] on the plaintiff without due process," id. ¶ 23, plaintiff demands damages of $22 million. Id. ¶ 24. In addition, plaintiff seeks injunctive relief to include certain accommodations for his religious practice. Amd. Compl. ¶ 21.


A. Plaintiff's Motion to Supplement

Plaintiff moves for leave to file a supplemental pleading. See Pl.'s Mot. to Supplement. In the Court's discretion, see Banks v. York, 448 F. Supp. 2d 213, 214 (D.D.C. 2006), a party may file a supplemental pleading "setting out any transaction, occurrence, or event that happened after the date of the pleading to be supplemented." Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(d). Leave to file a supplemental pleading should be "freely granted . . . where such supplementation will promote the economic and speedy disposition of the controversy between the parties, will not cause undue delay of trial [or] inconvenience and will not prejudice the rights of any other party." Wells v. Harris, 185 F.R.D. 128, 132 (D. Conn. 1999) (citations omitted). Such a filing may be allowed "even though the original pleading is defective in stating a claim or defense." Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(d).

It appears that plaintiff intends to supplement his complaint by alleging facts pertaining to an incident on July 23, 2007 when staff at FCI Beaumont denied him a visit with his father because plaintiff refused to remove the religious beads worn by Ifa followers. Pl.'s Mot. to Supplement at 3-4. However, plaintiff's proposed supplemental pleading merely sets forth allegations pertaining to the July 19, 2006 incident which are substantially similar to those set forth in the original Complaint. See Compl. ¶¶ 7-17; Amd. Compl. ¶¶ 9-19. The main differences between the two pleadings are plaintiff's newfound reliance on the Administrative Procedure Act, see 5 U.S.C. § 702, as a basis for this Court's jurisdiction and the inclusion of a claim under RFRA. See Amd. Compl. ¶¶ 1-2, 20. ...

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