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Jackmon v. NJ Department of Corrections

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

November 6, 2019

MORRIS A. JACKMON, Plaintiff,
v.
NJ DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, Defendant.

          OPINION

          Hon. Kevin McNulty United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Morris Jackmon, a state prisoner at East Jersey State Prison, filed a civil rights complaint against the New Jersey Department of Corrections ("Department") alleging violations of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act ("RLUIPA"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc et seq. (DE 1-1). Currently pending before this Court is Jackmon's motion for a temporary restraining order ("TRO") or preliminary injunction. (DE 31). For the following reasons, Jackmon's motion is DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. The Complaint and the Motion to Dismiss

         In October 2017, Jackmon filed a complaint in New Jersey state court, alleging violations under RLUIPA and seeking injunctive relief against the Department. On January 5, 2018, the Department filed a notice of removal to the United States District Court. (DE 1).

         In his complaint, Jackmon alleges that he is a sincere member of the Nation of Gods and Earths ("Nation"). (DE 1-1 at 2.) As a member of the Nation, Jackmon states that he is compelled to practice various religious activities, including:

(a) teaching others about the knowledge of who God is, (b) study the Supreme Mathematics, Supreme Alphabets, 120 Degrees, Universal Flag, monthly National Statements, and "The Five Percenter" newspaper periodicals, (c) observe holy days, which include the anniversaries of the birth and death of our founder, Clarence 13X Smith, also known as Father Allah, and the birthdays of Elijah Muhammad and Fard Muhammad, (d) conduct Civilization Classes, in which senior members educate newer members about the lessons and how they can be applied, and (e) gather monthly for "Parliaments" and "Rallies", during which members make collective decisions and help one another learn their lessons.

(Id. at 3-4).

         Jackmon explains that in 1998 the Department enacted a policy that designated the Nation as a Security Threat Group ("STG). (Id. at 5). According to Jackmon, activities of all designated STGs are restricted:

These activities include but are not limited to: Possession of STG literature such as, lessons, membership lists, manuals and artwork; Possession of STG paraphernalia such as[] beads, artwork, medallions and clothing articles; Observation by staff of known STG hand-signs and/or signals; Participation in STG related assaults, disturbances, meetings, gatherings, incidents and events; Sending or receiving STG related correspondence; Recruiting of other inmates to join an STG.

(Id. at 4).

         Jackmon alleges that because of this designation he is unable to exercise his religious beliefs and that the Department has substantially burdened his religious exercise. [Id. at 5). Jackmon seeks injunctive relief requiring the Department to remove the Nation from the list of STGs and to permit him and others to engage in its religious practice. (Id. at 6).

         On January 25, 2018, the Department filed a motion to dismiss the complaint under Rule 12(b)(6), arguing that Jackmon failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. (DE 3). I denied that motion on July 20, 2018 (DE 15), finding "that Jackmon ha[d] pled facts sufficient to show that the Department's policy substantially burdens his sincerely held religious beliefs," (id. at 6), and that "his burden [was] only to plead sufficient factual matter to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face," (id. at 7).

         B. The Amended Complaint and the Temporary Restraining Order

         On November 5, 2018, Jackmon moved to amend his complaint. (DE 27). The Court granted this motion on March 21, 2019, giving Jackmon ten days to file the amended complaint. (DE 34). Jackmon has not yet filed an amended complaint. However, he filed a proposed amended complaint alongside the November 5, 2018 motion. (DE 27-2).

         In his proposed amended complaint, Jackmon again alleges that the Department's designation of the Nation as an STG violates RLUIPA. (Id. at 1-8). He reiterates his request that this Court require die Department to remove the STG stigma from the Nation and to "permit plaintiff and other Nation adherents to practice, without impunity, the [Nation's] theological activities." (Id. ¶ 18).

         On March 8, 2019 Jackmon moved for a TRO. (DE 31). He alleges the following additional facts and ...


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