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Scott v. Beard

September 14, 2006

RON SCOTT, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JEFFREY BEARD, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Caputo

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court is Defendants Jeffrey Beard, Raymond Sobina, and Kathy Flowers' Motion for Summary Judgment as to Plaintiff Ron Scott's Complaint. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant Defendants' motion. The Court has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1343.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Ron Scott was an inmate at the State Correctional Institute at Camp Hill, Pennsylvania ("SCI-Camp Hill") and the State Correctional Institute at Somerset, Pennsylvania ("SCI-Somerset"). (Doc. 50 ¶ 1). Defendants are Jeffrey Beard, Secretary of Corrections for the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections ("DOC"), Raymond Sobina, Superintendent at SCI-Somerset, and Kathy Flowers, a Lieutenant at SCI-Camp Hill. (Doc. 50 ¶ 2).

Since 1994, Plaintiff allegedly has been under a Vow of Nazirite, a religious vow based on Old Testament Biblical law, and a follower of the Assemblies of Yaweh, an established church with doctrine based on Old Testament Biblical traditions. (Doc. 50 ¶¶ 3-4). On April 28, 2000, Plaintiff was transferred to SCI-Camp Hill. (Doc. 1 ¶ 12). On May 1, 2000, Plaintiff submitted a written request for a hair length exemption and a statement of doctrine from the Assemblies of Yaweh, which outlined Plaintiff's religious needs, beliefs and goals, to the Facility Chaplaincy Program Director. (Doc. 50 ¶ 20). In his written request, Plaintiff explained that he is under the religious Vow of Nazirite and included a Statement of Doctrine. Id. However, in the request, Plaintiff did not include any information regarding hair length or that one of the tenets of that Vow is that he shall abstain from cutting his hair. (Doc. 50 ¶ 21). In response to Plaintiff's request, the Chaplaincy Director informed Plaintiff that he needed additional information regarding the hair exemption. (Doc. 50 ¶ 22). The Chaplaincy Director also granted Plaintiff a 45-day temporary hair length exemption. Id. The Director informed Plaintiff that, in order to receive a permanent exemption, Plaintiff must comply with DC-ADM 807VI(E)(3) ("ADM 807"), which states in pertinent part:

All inmates who request a hair length exemption on the basis of religious conviction must supply something in writing confirming the inmate's participation in the particular religion. This can be a certified letter from the religious leader of that particular faith group. . . . This letter or certificate must indicate that the inmate in question has demonstrated a history of adhering to the tenets of that particular faith group.*fn1 (Doc. 1 ¶ 16).

Plaintiff did not provide a letter from a religious leader, nor any further documentation beyond the Statement of Doctrine, which, as previously mentioned, contained nothing regarding hair length. (Doc. 50 ¶ 23). This was so despite Plaintiff writing and receiving correspondence from Elder Meyer, a religious leader at the Assemblies of Yahweh. Id.

As Plaintiff failed to supply the letter, he was not awarded a permanent hair length exemption and his temporary hair length exemption expired on June 24, 2000. (Doc. 1 ¶ 19). Subsequently, Plaintiff was charged with misconduct for refusing to obey an order to cut his hair and sanctioned to a thirty (30) day cell restriction. (Doc. 50 ¶ 25). On July 29, 2000, Plaintiff was issued another misconduct for refusing to obey an order to cut his hair. Id. On August 3, 2000, Plaintiff pled guilty to the misconduct and sanctioned to fifteen (15) days disciplinary custody in the restricted housing unit (hereinafter "RHU"). (Doc. 50 ¶ 26). While in RHU, Plaintiff agreed to cut his hair in order to avoid further disciplinary action. (Doc. 50 ¶ 28). Pursuant to prison procedure, Plaintiff filed an administrative appeal, claiming that the procedures employed in denying Plaintiff's request for a religious hair length exemption, disciplining Plaintiff for adhering to the tenets of his religion, and sentencing Plaintiff to time in RHU were contrary to law. (Doc. 1 ¶ 47). Plaintiff's appeal was denied. (Doc. 50 ¶ 29). Plaintiff was released from RHU on August 10, 2000. (Doc. 50 ¶ 28).

On August 17, 2000, Plaintiff filed a grievance alleging that on August 3, 2000, his Bible was confiscated upon entering RHU. (Doc. 50 ¶ 30). On August 28, 2000, Plaintiff met with Defendant Flowers to review his grievance and signed a grievance form stating that the matter was resolved. (Doc. 50 ¶ 33). Plaintiff alleges, and Defendants deny, that Defendant Flowers threatened Plaintiff, telling him that "filing a grievance against someone here can make your life miserable" and that he would be retaliated against for doing so. (Doc. 1 ¶ 39). Plaintiff claims that Defendant Flowers' actions violated DOC policy DC-ADM 804(V)(C) (hereinafter "ADM 804"), which states that, "No one shall be punished, retaliated against, or otherwise harmed for good faith use of the grievance procedure." (Doc. 1 ¶ 40). Plaintiff claims that Defendant Flower's actions were unconstitutional and violated Pennsylvania law. (Doc. 1 ¶ 41). Plaintiff claims that he did not pursue his grievance concerning the confiscation of his Bible, nor file a grievance against Defendant Flowers, because he feared retaliation. (Doc. 1 ¶ 42).

On September 7, 2000, Plaintiff was transferred from SCI-Camp Hill to SCI-Somerset. (Doc. 50 ¶ 34). On February 27, 2001, Plaintiff submitted a written request to the Chaplain Program Director at SCI-Somerset requesting a hair length exemption. Id. The SCI-Somerset Chaplain Program Director informed Plaintiff that, in order to receive a hair length exemption, Plaintiff would have to comply with the steps outlined in ADM 807. (Doc. 1 ¶ 45). Plaintiff was again failed to comply with ADM 807, as he did not provide a letter from a religious leader. (Doc. 1 ¶ 46). Plaintiff's request for a hair length exemption was denied.

On March 26, 2001, Plaintiff filed a grievance regarding the grooming policy, claiming that ADM 807 is contrary to law. (Doc. 50 ¶ 35). In the grievance, Plaintiff stated that he had an exemption to the grooming policy while at SCI-Camp Hill and that his rights were being violated. Id. The Chaplain Program Director responded to Plaintiff's grievance on April 6, 2001, informing Plaintiff that his file contained no documents to substantiate his claim that he had a hair length exemption while at SCI-Camp Hill. (Doc. 50 ¶ 36). Plaintiff was also informed that he had failed to produce any documentation from a religious leader verifying his religious background. Id.

Exactly what transpired thereafter is disputed. However, the parties generally agree that Plaintiff filed several more requests for a hair length exemption, and grievances concerning the denials of those requests. (Doc. 1 ¶ 49). On August 6, 2001, Plaintiff filed an appeal to the Superintendent of SCI-Somerset, Defendant Sobina. (Doc. 1 ¶ 50). Plaintiff claimed that ADM 807 is contrary to law. Id. On or about August 8, 2001, Plaintiff received a copy of his appeal, time stamped "Received August 6, 2001." (Doc. 1 ¶ 52). On September 5, 2001, nearly one month after Plaintiff filed his appeal, Defendant Sobina denied Plaintiff's appeal on the grounds that the appeal was filed "well beyond the allowable time frame for submitting appeals to the Superintendent's level." (Doc. 1 ¶ 53). Plaintiff claims that Defendant Sobina's actions directly violated DOC policy DC-ADM 804(VI)(C)(4), which states, "The Facility Manager must notify the inmate of his/her decision within ten (10) business days after receiving the appeal." Plaintiff claims that Defendant Sobina's actions were unconstitutional and violated Pennsylvania law. (Doc. 1 ¶¶ 55-56).

Plaintiff appealed Defendant Sobina's decision to the Secretary's Office of Inmate Grievances and Appeals. (Docs. 1 ¶ 57; 50 ¶¶ 40-41). On September 20, 2001, Plaintiff received a letter requesting all documents related to Plaintiff's grievances and appeals. (Docs. 1¶ 58; 50 ¶ 41). The parties dispute whether Plaintiff submitted further documentation. Nonetheless, Plaintiff's appeal was not permitted. (Doc. 50 ¶ 41). Plaintiff alleges that this was an attempt by Defendants to prevent Plaintiff from exhausting his administrative remedies. (Doc. 1 ¶ 60). Plaintiff claims that Defendants' inaction violated DOC policy. (Doc. 1 ¶ 61). Plaintiff was released from SCI-Somerset in February, 2002. (Scott Dep. 6:20, April 22, 2004).

Plaintiff filed the complaint in the present action on March 24, 2002. (Doc. 1). Plaintiff's pro se complaint sought monetary and equitable relief and contained the following claims: the deprivation of Plaintiff's First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment Due Process Clause rights in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, violation of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act ("RLUIPA"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-1,*fn2 and various state law claims. Id. Defendants filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings, as well as a brief in support of their motion on June 30, 2003. (Docs. 16-17.) On August 11, 2003, this Court granted Defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings regarding Plaintiff's claim that ADM 807 was unconstitutional. (Doc. 18). Discovery was conducted. On December 1, 2004, Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, as well as a brief in support of their motion. (Doc. 43). Plaintiff filed a brief in opposition on December 28, 2004. (Doc. 52). On January 7, 2005, Defendants filed their reply brief in support of their motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 54). On February 4, 2005, Defendants filed a motion to stay the Court's ruling on their summary judgment motion pending the Supreme Court's decision on the constitutionality of ...


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