United States District Court, District of Columbia
J. NICHOLS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Russell Simpson seeks equitable relief and damages for
Defendants' alleged violations of his religious civil
rights occurring while he has been incarcerated at several
federal prison facilities. See generally Compl., ECF
No. 1. Simpson alleges that he practices Orthodox Therian
Shamanism-a religion that requires him to “wear an
imitation [w]olf tail” at all times and “meditate
regularly around imagery of [w]olves, ” id. at
4-and that Defendants violated his right to freely practice
the religion, id. at 2-3. Simpson asserts various
claims against the Bureau of Prisons and twenty-two
individual defendants, in both their official and individual
capacities, for the alleged violations.
reasons that follow, the Court will dismiss certain of the
official-capacity claims, transfer others to the Western
District of Pennsylvania, and retain certain of the
is a prisoner currently incarcerated at Federal Correctional
Institution (“FCI”) Loretto in Pennsylvania.
See Id. at 9-10. Prior to being transferred to FCI
Loretto, Simpson was housed at FCI Danbury in Connecticut,
transferred to FCI Morgantown in West Virginia, and
temporarily held at Federal Transfer Center
(“FTC”) Oklahoma City in Oklahoma and U.S.
Penitentiary (“USP”) Canaan in Pennsylvania.
See Id. at 4-10.
October 21, 2019, Simpson filed this lawsuit alleging past
and ongoing violations of his religious civil rights under
the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the
Constitution, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act
(“RFRA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000bb to
2000bb-4 (2018), the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized
Persons Act (“RLUIPA”), id. §§
2000cc to 2000cc5, and Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents
of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971).
See generally Compl. Simpson claims to practice
Orthodox Therian Shamanism, a religion “with similar
beliefs to many Native American and Animism religions.”
Id. at 4. He asserts that, to comply with the tenets
of this religion, he must “wear an imitation [w]olf
tail” at all times and “meditate regularly around
imagery of [w]olves.” Id. According to
Simpson, failing to practice his religion in this way
subjects him to “punishment of eternal
sues twenty-three federal Defendants, including the Bureau of
Prisons and various federal employees in both their
individual and official capacities for preventing him from
practicing Orthodox Therian Shamanism while incarcerated.
See Id. The same day he filed his Complaint, Simpson
moved for either a temporary restraining order (TRO) or a
preliminary injunction permitting him “to purchase,
make, or otherwise obtain an imitation [w]olf tail, ”
permitting him “to possess books, imagery, and other
literature featuring [w]olves, ” and preventing
Defendants from harassing, intimidating, retaliating, or
otherwise targeting him as a result of this lawsuit. Mot. for
TRO & Prelim. Inj. at 1, ECF No. 2.
after Simpson moved for the preliminary equitable relief, the
U.S. Attorney's Office of the District of Columbia
appeared on behalf of the Bureau of Prisons
(“BOP”) and the federal employees with respect to
the official-capacity claims asserted against them (the
“Official-Capacity Claims”). Notice of
Appearance, ECF No. 3. Service has not yet been effected with
respect to the individual-capacity claims against the
individual defendants (the “Individual-Capacity
Claims”). See Simpkins v. D.C. Gov't, 108
F.3d 366, 369 (D.C. Cir. 1997) (adopting the rule that
“defendants in Bivens actions must be served
as individuals, pursuant to Rule 4(e)”). In other words,
the claims against BOP and the Official-Capacity Claims are
the only claims properly before the Court at this time.
November 19, 2019, Defendants filed their opposition to
Simpson's request for preliminary equitable relief in
which they move to dismiss, or alternatively, for summary
judgment on Simpson's claims. Mem. in Supp. of Opp'n
to Mot. for TRO & Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss, or Alt.,
for Summ. J., or Alt. to Transfer (“Defs.'
Opp'n & Mot.”), ECF No. 7-1. Simpson's and
the Defendants' Motions are now ripe. See Mot.
for TRO & Prelim. Inj.; Defs.' Opp'n & Mot.;
Mem. in Supp. of Pl.'s Mot & Reply to Def.'s
Resp. (“Pl.'s Reply”), ECF No. 13-2; Reply in
Supp. of Mot. to Diss, or, Alt., for Summ. J., or Alt., to
Transfer, ECF No. 15.
seeks both damages and equitable relief under the
Constitution, RLUIPA, RFRA, and Bivens. Mot. for TRO
& Prelim. Inj. at 1-4 (seeking a TRO and a preliminary
injunction); Compl. at 97-98 (seeking compensatory damages,
punitive damages, declaratory judgment, and a permanent
injunction). Defendants move to dismiss the claims that are
presently before the Court, either under Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) because the claims are moot or
Defendants have immunity from suit, under Rule 12(b)(6)
because Simpson fails to state a claim, or under Rule
12(b)(3) because venue is improper. See generally
Defs.' Opp'n & Mot.
cannot maintain RLUIPA claims against any of the Defendants.
RLUIPA “does not create a cause of action against the
federal government or its correctional facilities.”
Jackson v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, No. 06-592, 2006
WL 2434938, at *3 (D.D.C. Aug. 22, 2006) (first citing
Ish Yerushalayim v. U.S. Dep't of Corr., 374
F.3d 89, 92 (2d Cir. 2004)); then citing Sample v.
Lappin, 424 F.Supp.2d. 187, 192 n.3 (D.D.C. 2006); other
citations omitted). Simpson's RLUIPA claims-including the
Individual-Capacity and Official-Capacity RLUIPA Claims- are
therefore dismissed against all Defendants for failure to
state a claim.