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Carney v. Chesney

March 31, 2006

ADAM CARNEY, PLAINTIFF
v.
JOSEPH CHESNEY, ET AL., DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mannion, J.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

I. Background and Procedural History

The plaintiff, a state prisoner proceeding pro se, commenced this action by filing a complaint on April 2, 2003. On August 4, 2004, the plaintiff filed an amended complaint.

The plaintiff alleges that he is of the Rastafarian faith and that his faith forbids the cutting of the hair. He alleges that he has been issued misconducts based on his refusal to cut his hair. The plaintiff also claims that he has been denied a diet in conformity with his faith, that he has been denied permission to purchase religious articles, and that Rastafarian inmates have been denied the opportunity to hold a service in the "all faiths" chapel. The plaintiff claims that the defendants have denied him his right to the free exercise of his religion in violation of the First Amendment, that they have denied him equal protection of the laws in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, that they have subjected him to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment, and that they have subjected him to double jeopardy in violation of the Fifth Amendment.

The plaintiff's constitutional claims are brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983. The plaintiff also claims that the defendants have violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000, ("RLUIPA"), 42 U.S.C. §2000cc-1 - §2000cc-5. Finally, the plaintiff claims that the defendants violated 42 U.S.C. §§1985 and 1986.

The parties have consented to proceed before a magistrate judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §636(c).

On October 5, 2004, the defendants filed an answer to the amended complaint.

By order dated January 11, 2005, the court granted the defendants' motion to stay the filing of dispositive motions until after the United States Supreme Court decided Cutter v. Wilkinson, 125 S.Ct. 308 (2004)(granting certiorari on the question of whether Congress violated the Establishment Clause by enacting RLUIPA). On May 31, 2005, the Supreme Court decided Cutter v. Wilkinson, 125 S.Ct. 2113 (2005). The Court held that the institutionalized-persons provision of RLUIPA does not, on its face, violate the Establishment Clause.

The parties were granted until July 11, 2005, to file dispositive motions. On July 11, 2005, the defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, a statement of material facts, a brief and documents in support of that motion. On July 15, 2005, the plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment, a statement of material facts, a brief and documents in support of that motion.

On August 2, 2005, the defendants filed a response to the plaintiff's statement of material facts and a brief in opposition to the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment. On August 5, 2005, the plaintiff filed a response to the defendants' statement of material facts and a brief in opposition to the defendants' motion for summary judgment. On August 19, 2005, the defendants filed a reply brief in support of their motion for summary judgment.

On August 10, 2005, the plaintiff filed a motion for default/judgment. On August 15, 2005, prior to the plaintiff filing a brief in support of his motion, the defendants filed a response to the plaintiff's motion for default/judgment. On August 22, 2005, the plaintiff filed a brief in support of his motion for default/judgment, and on September 9, 2005, the defendants filed a brief in opposition to the plaintiff's motion.

On August 11, 2005, the defendants filed a motion for leave to amend their answer to the amended complaint and a brief in support of that motion. On August 31, 2005, the plaintiff file a brief in opposition to that motion.

This memorandum and order addresses the pending motions in this case.

II. Plaintiff's Motion for Default/Judgment

The plaintiff contends that the defendants did not timely file their brief in opposition to his motion for summary judgment and that, therefore, he should be granted summary judgment or default judgment against the defendants.

The plaintiff filed his motion for summary judgment, statement of material facts and brief in support on July 15, 2005. However, those documents and the certificate of service attached to those documents are dated July 8, 2005. The plaintiff states in his brief in support of his motion for default/judgment that he placed his motion for summary judgment, statement of material facts, and brief and documents in support of his motion in the prison mail on July 8, 2005, but that the defendants' copy of those documents were not mailed until July 11, 2005. He further states that the documents to the court were not actually mailed until July 15, 2005. Taking July 11, 2005, as the date he served his documents on the defendants, the plaintiff argues that pursuant to Local Rule 7.6, which requires a brief in opposition to be filed with fifteen days after service of the movant's brief, the defendants' brief in opposition was not timely filed.

Defense counsel states that the computation of the filing date for the defendants' brief in opposition to the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment was of particular concern to her because the certificate of service attached to the plaintiff's motion and supporting documents was dated July 8, 2005, yet those documents were not postmarked until July 13, 2005. Defense counsel points out that the docket entry for the plaintiff's brief in support of his motion for summary judgment, Doc. 71, provides: "Brief in Opposition due by 8/2/2005." Defense counsel argues that, regardless of when the plaintiff actually mailed his documents to the defendants, the controlling response date is the date calculated by the court's Electronic Case Filing system and that the defendants filed their brief in opposition to the plaintiff's motion on that date - August 2, 2005. Defense counsel also contends that the plaintiff has not asserted how he was prejudiced by any delay in the filing or receipt of the defendants' documents in opposition to his motion for summary judgment.

Contrary to the date set forth on the docket, we conclude that pursuant to Local Rule 7.6, the due date for the filing of the defendants' brief in opposition to the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment was August 1, 2005. We take July 13, 2005, the postmark date on the plaintiff's documents, as the date the plaintiff's brief was served on the defendants. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 5(b)(2)(B)("Service by mail is complete on mailing."). Adding three days, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ. 6(e), to the fifteen days provided for in Local Rule 7.6, and excluding Sunday, July 31, 2005, from the computation pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 6(a), the defendants' brief in opposition was due on or before August 1, 2005.

The defendants' brief was not filed until August 2, 2005. However, the one day delay has not prejudiced the plaintiff and provides no basis to enter either a default judgment or summary judgment against the defendants. Accordingly, the plaintiff's motion for default/judgment will be denied.

III. Defendants' Motion for Leave to Amend

The defendants are seeking leave to amend their answer to paragraphs 66 and 69 of the plaintiff's amended complaint.

Paragraph 66 of the plaintiff's amended complaint reads: "On 2-19-04 P.R.C. conducted a hearing and determined that plaintiff will remain in the R.H.U. pending the outcome of his request for hair exemption, that had already been approved prior to being transferred, and also in direct violation of DC-ADM-819I.2 (D.C. policy governing religious requests)." Paragraph 69 of the plaintiff's amended complaint reads: "Def. Kneiss, Demming, McGrady, Jones, and Lavan, on 2-19-04, knew or should have known that their actions were violating plaintiff's rights."

In their answer, the defendants responded to paragraphs 65-69 as "admitted." The defendants contend that paragraphs 66 and 69 were inadvertently included in a string answer as admitted when they should have been denied. The defendants are seeking to file an amendment to their answer to deny paragraphs 66 and 69.

Rule 15(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that leave to amend a pleading "shall be freely given when justice so requires." Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a). In Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962), the United States Supreme Court identified factors to be considered when ruling on a motion to amend:

In the absence of any apparent or declared reason -- such as undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive on the part of the movant, repeated failure to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed, undue prejudice to the opposing party by virtue of allowance of the amendment, futility of amendment, etc. -- the leave sought should, as the rules require, be "freely given." Of course, the grant or denial of an opportunity to amend is within the discretion of the District Court, but outright refusal to grant the leave without any justifying reason appearing for the denial is not an exercise of discretion; it is merely an abuse of that discretion and inconsistent with the spirit of the Federal Rules.

Id. In this Circuit prejudice to the non-moving party is the touchstone for denial of leave to amend. Lorenz v. CSX Corp., 1 F.3d 1406, 1414 (3d Cir. 1993). "In the absence of substantial or undue prejudice, denial instead must be based on bad faith or dilatory motives, truly undue or unexplained delay, repeated failures to cure the deficiency by amendments previously allowed, or futility of amendment." Id.

The plaintiff opposes the defendants' motion for leave to amend their answer. The plaintiff contends that he will be prejudiced if the defendants are granted leave to amend their answer. He states that if leave to amend is granted the case will be delayed and that he will have to file a second amended complaint.

The plaintiff has not articulated precisely how he will be prejudiced if leave to amend is granted. He has not, for example, asserted that he decided not to pursue a particular line of discovery on the basis of the defendants' admissions to paragraphs 66 and 69 of his amended complaint. There is no reason why the plaintiff would have to file a second amended complaint if leave is granted to the defendants to amend their answer.

Finding no prejudice to the plaintiff, we will grant the defendants' motion for leave to amend their answer to the plaintiff's amended complaint.

IV. Summary Judgment Motions

A. The Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment

In their motion for summary judgment, the defendants only address the plaintiff's First Amendment free exercise and RLUIPA claims. They do not address the plaintiff's Eighth Amendment cruel and unusual punishment claim, the Fifth Amendment double jeopardy claim, the Fourteenth Amendment equal protection claim, or the plaintiff's claims pursuant to §§1985 and 1986. Despite the defendants' failure to do so, two of these claims can be dismissed sua sponte by the court for the plaintiff's failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

Initially, the plaintiff alleges in his amended complaint that "[d]efendants violated plaintiffs rights not to be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment protected under U.S. Const. Amend. 8, by plaintiffs continued punishment and placement in disciplinary custody at the hands of defendants, thus injuring plaintiff in his person and property."

With respect to this claim, the Supreme Court has held that the Eighth Amendment requires prison officials to maintain "humane conditions for prisoners" through ensuring that "inmates are provided with adequate food, clothing, shelter, and medical care." Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832 (1994)(citing DeShaney v. Winnebago County Dept. of Social Servs., 489 U.S. 189, 198-199 (1989)); Rice v. Sobitor, No. 03-5178, 2004 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 2902, *8-9 (E.D.Pa. Jan. 16, 2004). To make out a claim based on the conditions of his confinement, the inmate must allege:

(1) the alleged deprivation was "sufficiently serious" that it resulted in "the denial of 'the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities'"; and

(2) the state officials' actions constituted "deliberate indifference" to the inmate's conditions.

Rice, at *9 (citing Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834; Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 297 (1991)). "Extreme deprivations are required to make out a conditions-of-confinement claim [and] ... routine discomfort is part of the penalty that criminal offenders pay for their offenses against society." Hudson v. McMillan, 503 U.S. 1, 9 (1992) (citing Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 346 (1981)).

Here, the plaintiff has not alleged that he was deprived of food, clothing, shelter, or medical care while confined in disciplinary custody, nor has he alleged facts that could constitute a "denial of the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities." Therefore, the plaintiff has failed to state a valid Eighth Amendment claim and his complaint will be dismissed to this extent.

Moreover, the plaintiff alleges in his amended complaint that "[d]efendants violated plaintiffs rights not to be subjected to double jeopardy for repeatedly punishing plaintiff for the same offense, thus, injuring plaintiff in his person and property."

With respect to this claim, administrative proceedings based upon a violation of prison disciplinary rules may implicate due process protection, but they do not place an offender "in jeopardy" for purposes of the double jeopardy clause of the Fifth Amendment. See Robinson v. Vaughn, 1993 WL 451495 (E.D.Pa.) (citing Kerns v. Parrat, 672 F.2d 690, 691 (8th Cir. 1982)(prison administrative discipline does not bar subsequent criminal prosecution for the same offense); United States v. Stuckey, 441 F.2d 1104, 1105-06 (3d Cir.)(administrative discipline and ...


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