Ford v. Bureau of Prisons, No. 3:CV-12-0873

CourtUnited States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Pennsylvania
Writing for the CourtNealon
PartiesEDWARD J. FORD, Plaintiff v. THE BUREAU OF PRISONS, et al., Defendants
Decision Date11 October 2013
Docket NumberNo. 3:CV-12-0873

EDWARD J. FORD, Plaintiff
v.
THE BUREAU OF PRISONS, et al., Defendants

No. 3:CV-12-0873

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA

Dated: October 11, 2013


(Judge Nealon)

MEMORANDUM

Plaintiff, Edward J. Ford, Jr., an inmate formerly confined in the Schuylkill Federal Correctional Institution, Minersville, Pennsylvania ("FCI-Schuylkill"), filed the above captioned action on May 10, 2012. (Doc. 1, Complaint). Defendants are the following Federal Bureau of Prisons ("BOP") Employees: Warden Howard Hufford, Associate Warden Patricia Rodman, Associate Warden Jorge Castandea, Capt. Brent Taggart, Chaplain Patricia Weidman, Lt. Todd Hansel, Lt. Thomas Reisinger, Case Manager Ronald Scandle, and National Administrative Remedy Coordinator Harrell Watts. Id. In addition, Ford names unknown employees at the BOP's Northeast and Southeast Regional Office, and the Federal Bureau of Prisons, its Northeast Regional Office and its Southeast Regional Office. Id.

Ford alleges violations of his constitutional rights when he was allegedly retaliated and conspired against, denied due process for filing appeals and grievances, denied equal protection lights as a Nation of Islam member, and denied freedom to practice his choice of religion under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act ("RFRA") and the Religious Land Use of Institutionalized Persons Act ("RLUIPA"). (Doc. 1, complaint at 3-4). Further, Ford alleges deliberate indifference and a violation of his due process rights under the Administrative Procedure Act ("APA"). Id. at

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6-8. For relief, Ford seeks compensatory and punitive damages, as well as injunctive and declaratory relief. Id. at 39-41.

Presently pending is Defendants' motion to dismiss, or the alternative, for summary judgment. (Doc. 28). The parties have fully briefed the issues and the motion is now ripe for disposition. For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant Defendants' motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment.

I. Standards of Review

A. Motion to Dismiss

The Court in Williams v. Hull, 2009 WL 1586832, *2-*3 (W.D. Pa. 2009), set forth the motion to dismiss standard of review, as annunciated by the Supreme Court in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, (2007), and as refined in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), as follows:

The issue is not whether the plaintiff will prevail at the end but only whether he should be entitled to offer evidence to support his claim. Neitzke: Scheuer v. Rhodes, 419 U.S. 232 (1974). A complaint must be dismissed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) if it does not allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007) (rejecting the traditional 12(b)(6) standard set forth in Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957)). See also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, ---U.S. ----, ----, 129 S.Ct. 1937, ----, 173 L.Ed.2d 868, ----, 2009 WL 1361536 (May 18, 2009) (specifically applying Twombly analysis beyond the context of the Sherman Act). The court must accept as true all allegations of the complaint and all reasonable factual inferences must be viewed in the light most favorable to plaintiff. Angelastro v. Prudential-Bache Securities. Inc., 764 F.2d 939, 944 (3d Cir.1985). The Court, however, need not accept inferences drawn by plaintiff if they are unsupported by the facts as set forth in the complaint. See California Pub. Employee Ret. Sys. v. The Chubb Corp., 394 F.3d 126,143 (3d Cir.2004) citing Morse v. Lower Merion School Dist, 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir.1997). Nor must the court accept legal conclusions set forth as factual allegations. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556, citing Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286, 106 S.Ct. 2932, 92 L.Ed.2d 209 (1986). "Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556. Although

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the United States Supreme Court does "not require heightened fact pleading of specifics, [the Court does require] enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face."

Id. at 570. In other words, at the motion to dismiss stage, a plaintiff is "required to make a 'showing' rather than a blanket assertion of an entitlement to relief." Smith v. Sullivan, 2008 WL 482469, *1 (D. Del. 2008) (quoting Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d Cir. 2008)). "This does not impose a probability requirement at the pleading stage, but instead simply calls for enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of the necessary element." Phillips, 515 F.3d at 232, quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556 n.3.

B. Summary Judgment

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) "[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." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). "[T]his standard provides that the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby. Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986).

A disputed fact is "material" if proof of its existence or nonexistence would affect the outcome of the case under applicable substantive law. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; Gray v. York Newspapers. Inc., 957 F.2d 1070, 1078 (3d Cir. 1992). An issue of 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 257; Brenner v. Local 514, United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, 927 F.2d 1283, 1287-88 (3d Cir. 1991).

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When determining whether there is a genuine issue of material fact, the court must view the facts and all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. Moore v. Tartler, 986 F.2d 682 (3d Cir. 1993); Clement v. Consolidated Rail Corporation, 963 F.2d 599, 600 (3d Cir. 1992); White v. Westinghouse Electric Company, 862 F.2d 56, 59 (3d Cir. 1988). In order to avoid summary judgment, however, parties may not rely on unsubstantiated allegations. Parties seeking to establish that a fact is or is not genuinely disputed must support such an assertion by "citing to particular parts of materials in the record," by showing that an adverse party's factual assertion lacks support from cited materials, or demonstrating that a factual assertion is unsupportable by admissible evidence. FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c)(1); see Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324 (requiring evidentiary support for factual assertions made in response to summary judgment). The party opposing the motion "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio, 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Parties must produce evidence to show the existence of every element essential to its case that they bear the burden of proving at trial, for "a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial." Celotex, 477 U .S. at 323; see also Harter v. G.A.F. Corp., 967 F.2d 846, 851 (3d Cir. 1992). Failure to properly support or contest an assertion of fact may result in the fact being considered undisputed for the purpose of the motion, although a court may also give parties an opportunity to properly provide support or opposition. FED. R. CLV. P. 56(e).

II. Statement of Facts

Due to the voluminous allegations contained within the complaint, the Court will dispense with a separate statement of facts and, instead, will apply the undisputed facts to each of Plaintiff's

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individual claims as they are derived from the pleadings, declarations, and exhibits submitted therewith.

III. Discussion

A. RLUIPA Claims

Under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act ("RLUIPA"), "government" is defined as "a State, county, municipality, or other governmental entity created under the authority of a state," and "any branch, department, agency, instrumentality or official," thereof, and "any other person acting under color of State law." 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-5(4). Accordingly, federal courts have held that RLUIPA "only applies to state and local governments, not a federal prison." Pineda-Morales v. DeRosa, 2005 WL 1607276, *4 (D.N. J. 2005). See also Navaio Nation v. U.S. Forest Service, 535 F.3d 1058 (9th Cir. 2008). Because Plaintiff is a federal inmate, all RLUIPA claims will be dismissed.

B. RFRA Claims

The First Amendment provides that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; ..." U.S. Const. Amend. I. It is undisputed that prisoners do not entirely forfeit all constitutional guarantees by reason of their conviction and confinement. Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 545 (1979). Prisoners, as is well recognized, must be afforded "reasonable opportunities" to exercise their religious freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment. Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319, 322 n.2 (1972).

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