The opinion of the court was delivered by: JAMES McCLURE, Senior District Judge
On February 18, 2004, plaintiff Kevin Bowman, a prisoner
confined at SCI-Frackville, Frackville, Pennsylvania, filed suit
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Religious Land Use and
Institutionalized Persons Act, ("RLUIPA"),
42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-2(a), in the United States District Court for the Eastern
District of Pennsylvania. On May 12, 2004, defendants filed a
motion to dismiss or in the alternative to transfer venue. After
the matter was fully briefed and a hearing was held, on September 23, 2004, the district court transferred the
matter to the Middle District of Pennsylvania. At that time the
court denied defendant's motion to dismiss based on venue, but
stayed for our determination the substantive grounds of
defendants' motion to dismiss. The matter has proceeded in an
orderly pre-trial course before United States Magistrate Judge
Malachy E. Mannion. No new dispositive motions have been filed
since the initial original motion to dismiss; the court now
addresses defendants' motion to dismiss plaintiff's claims on the
grounds not addressed by the Eastern District Court.
For the following reasons the court will partially grant
I. Motion to Dismiss Standard
When considering a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the court must view all allegations
stated in the complaint as true and construe all inferences in
the light most favorable to plaintiff. Hishon v. King &
Spaulding, 467 U.S. 69
, 73 (1984); Kost v. Kozakiewicz,
1 F.3d 176
, 183 (3d Cir. 1993). In ruling on a motion to dismiss the
court primarily considers the allegations of the pleading, but is
not required to consider legal conclusions alleged in the
complaint. Kost, 1 F.3d at 183. At the motion to dismiss stage,
the court considers whether plaintiff is entitled to offer
evidence to support the allegations in the complaint. Maio v. Aetna, Inc., 221 F.3d 472
, 482 (3d Cir.
2000). A complaint should be dismissed only if the court, from
evaluating the allegations in the complaint, is certain that
under any set of facts relief cannot be granted. Conley v.
Gibson, 355 U.S. 41
, 45-46 (1957); Morse v. Lower Merion School
Dist., 132 F.3d 902
, 906 (3d Cir. 1997); Markowitz v. Northeast
Land, Co., 906 F.2d 100
, 103 (3d Cir. 1994).
The failure-to-state-a-claim standard of Rule 12(b)(6)
"streamlines litigation by dispensing with needless discovery and
factfinding." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 326-27 (1989).
A court may dismiss a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) where there is a
"dispositive issue of law." Id. at 326. If it is beyond a doubt
that the non-moving party can prove no set of facts in support of
its allegations, then a claim must be dismissed "without regard
to whether it is based on an outlandish legal theory or on a
close but ultimately unavailing one." Id. at 327.
II. Plaintiff's Complaint
Plaintiff is a prisoner currently detained at SCI-Frackville.
The factual allegations that form the basis of his complaint
against the Department of Corrections, however, occurred while he
was detained at SCI-Mahoney and then at SCI-Somerset. Plaintiff
contends that he was discriminated against by the staff of
SCI-Mahoney and SCI-Somerset on the basis of his Muslim religion. The complaint makes several allegations involving conduct by
defendants directed at both Bowman and other Muslim inmates.
Plaintiff has asserted that defendants refused to allow plaintiff
and other inmates of the Muslim faith to conduct services and
classes which reflect their fundamental religious beliefs. Bowman
asserts that he was mistakenly labeled an Islamic extremist, was
accused of participating in an "unauthorized group activity", and
was punished for other inmates' written requests to have classes
in Aqeeda and Salat (faith and prayer), which were not being
taught by the approved faith group leader for all Muslims at
SCI-Mahoney. Defendants demanded that Bowman and other Muslims
shave their beards to less than three inches, in violation of
their Islamic beliefs. Defendants also allegedly demanded that
Bowman and other Muslims roll down their pant legs, in violation
of their Islamic beliefs.
Bowman was allegedly punished by being placed in the restricted
housing unit, being issued several misconducts for not shaving
his beard less than three inches and for refusing to roll down
his pant legs, both in violation of his Islamic beliefs, and then
being transferred twice to different prisons. Then, at
SCI-Somerset, the prison to which he was first transferred,
Bowman remained in restricted housing.
First, we note that this is not a class action. Bowman is the
only named plaintiff, and the court will only entertain an active case or
controversy as to grievances of the named plaintiff.
The complaint asserts that defendants' conduct toward plaintiff
and his fellow Muslims violated his constitutional rights,
providing a cause of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and RLUIPA,
42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-2(a). The complaint does not specifically
identify what constitutional rights were allegedly violated by
defendants, but we infer from the complaint that plaintiff is
bringing a retaliation claim based on his First Amendment right
to the free exercise of Islam and a Fourteenth Amendment due
process claim based on his placement in restrictive housing.
Plaintiff seeks declaratory relief pursuant to
28 U.S.C. §§ 2201 and 2202. Specifically, Bowman seeks:
1. Declaratory judgment for plaintiff declaring that
the defendants' acts, policies and practices
described herein and as expounded upon during the
course of discovery in this action violate
plaintiff's rights under the United States
2. A preliminary and permanent injunction which:
a) Prohibits the defendants, their successors in
office, agents and employees and all other persons in
active concert and participation of them from
harassing, threatening, punishing, or retaliating in
any way against any plaintiff because he filed this
action, or against any inmate because that inmate
submitted an affidavit or otherwise testified in this
case on behalf of plaintiff; b) Prohibits the defendants from transferring
plaintiff to any other institution, without express
consent, during the pendency of this action;
c) Requires the defendants to remove from the
plaintiff's prison files and records any references
to any events described herein or to the fact that
plaintiff filed this suit;
d) Requires the defendants to allow plaintiff and
other Muslim inmates to:
1) engage in any oral or written communication which
is reasonably related to the conduct of this suit,
including the preparation of affidavits on behalf of
2) to allow plaintiff to confer with his counsel and
to prepare legal papers and do anything else,
consistent in prison security, which is reasonably
connected with the conduct of this suit.
3. Compensatory damages from the defendants, jointly
and severally, to the plaintiff for the conduct
complained of herein;
4. Punitive damages from the defendants, jointly and
severally, to plaintiff;
5. A jury trial on all issues triable by jury.
6. Plaintiff's costs of this suit and his attorney's
7. Such other and further relief as this Court deems
just, proper and equitable.
III. Section 1983 and RLUIPA
Plaintiff has brought a civil rights action under
42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging violations of his constitutional rights by the defendants.
Section 1983 provides:
Every person who, under color of any statute,
ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State
. . . subjects, or causes to be subjected, any
citizen of the United States or other person within
the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any
rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the
Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party
injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other
proper proceeding for redress . . .
42 U.S.C. § 1983.
In order for a plaintiff to prevail under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 he
must establish two elements: 1) that the conduct complained of
was committed by a person acting under color of state law; and 2)
that the conduct deprived a person of rights, privileges, or
immunities secured by the ...