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Eakle v. Palakovich

March 21, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Jones


Charles Eakle, an inmate formerly confined in the Smithfield State Correctional Institution ("SCI-Smithfield"), in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.*fn1 Plaintiff alleges that Defendants violated his right to exercise his religious beliefs because they refused to grant him a hair length exemption to the Department of Corrections' Grooming Policy. Named as Defendants are the following SCI-Smithfield employees: Superintendent John A. Palakovich; Chaplains David Bowen and Robert Shehan; Hearing Examiner Robert Norris; Corrections Officer Grove; and Lisa Hollibaugh, Assistant to the Superintendent and Grievance Coordinator.

Presently pending before the Court are the parties' Motions for Summary Judgment. (Rec. Docs. 15, 37). Defendants argue, inter alia, that Eakle has failed to exhaust available administrative remedies. Because Defendants' argument that Plaintiff has failed to exhaust administrative remedies is case dispositive, Defendants' other arguments will not be addressed. For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment will be granted.

I. Standard of Review

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c) requires the court to render summary judgment " . . . forthwith if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). "[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) (emphasis in original).

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).

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, the nonmoving party may not rest on the unsubstantiated allegations of his or her pleadings. When the party seeking summary judgment satisfies its burden under Rule 56(c) of identifying evidence which demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, the nonmoving party is required by Rule 56(e)*fn2 to go beyond the pleadings with affidavits, depositions, answers to interrogatories or the like in order to demonstrate specific material facts which give rise to a genuine issue. Celotex Corporation v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986). The party opposing the motion "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. v. Zenith Radio, 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). When Rule 56(e) shifts the burden of production to the nonmoving party, that party must produce evidence to show the existence of every element essential to its case which it bears 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 Harter v. G.A.F. Corp., 967 F.2d 846, 851 (3d Cir. 1992).

II. Statement of Facts

Eakle was incarcerated in SCI-Smithfield from June 15, 2004 to November 8, 2005. (Rec. Doc. 38, Ex. 1, Declaration of John A. Palakovich at ¶ 17). On July 17, 2004, pursuant to DC-ADM 819, Eakle submitted a request for a religious exemption from the haircut provision of the DOC's Grooming Policy. (Rec. Doc. 38, Ex. E, Inmate Religious Accommodation Request).

Section VI(G) of DC-ADM 819 sets forth the procedures that an inmate must follow in order to obtain an exemption to the grooming policy for legitimate religious purposes, and provides as follows:

A request for a religious accommodation that is not covered elsewhere in Department policy shall be made as follows:

a. Each inmate must use a DC-52, Inmate Religious Accommodation Request Form to submit his/her request for accommodation to the FCPD.

b. In cases of an inmate request for an exemption from Department policy DCADM 807,*fn3 "Inmate Grooming and Barber/Cosmetology," the inmate must submit a DC-52 within 15 working days of receiving the order to cut his hair. If no DC-52 is submitted within 15 working days of the initial order to cut his hair or no religious accommodation is claimed, the inmate shall be subject to discipline in accordance with Department policy DC-ADM 801, "Inmate Discipline."

c. The inmate shall obtain written information from his/her outside faith group, including any publications that describe the goals, beliefs, and practices of the group and supply this information to the FCPD for review.

d. The Religious Accommodation Review Committee shall review each inmate's request for a religious accommodation within 45 days of receipt and forward a recommendation to the affected Regional Deputy Secretary.

e. The Regional Deputy Secretary shall, within 15 days of receiving the recommendation from the Director of the Bureau of Inmate Services/designee, approve/disapprove the request and notify the ...

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