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Dortch v. York County Prison

January 22, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Muir

(Complaint Filed 5/01/07)



Plaintiff, an inmate formerly confined*fn1 in the York County Prison, York, Pennsylvania, filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The named defendants are the York County Prison, and the York County Warden D. Bowen and Deputy Warden R. Thomas. Plaintiff complains that defendants are refusing to provide him with a vegetarian diet.

Presently pending before the Court is the defendants' motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 18). Defendants assert entitlement to summary judgment in their favor because Dortch failed to exhaust available administrative remedies. The parties have fully briefed the issues and the motion is now ripe for disposition. For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant the defendants' motion.

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) 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).

Statement of Facts

From the pleadings, declarations and exhibits submitted therewith, the following facts can be ascertained as undisputed.

Plaintiff, Frank Dortch, is presently serving a three (3) to six (6) year sentence in the Smithfield State Correctional Institution, Huntingdon. (Doc. 20-2, Affidavit of Deputy Warden Roger Thomas, at ¶ 4). Since his initial incarceration, Dortch has returned to the York County Prisons various times to attend post-conviction hearings at the York County Judicial Center. Id. Between October 17, 1997, the date of Dortch's first confinement and February 26, 2007, the date Dortch filed the instant action, Dortch had been in the York County Prison ten times. Id. at ¶ 5. During those various times, Dortch availed himself of York County Prison's Complaint Review System, having filed some twenty-four (24) grievances. Id. at ¶ 6.

On April 2, 2007, Dortch filed Complaint Register # 040207D, in which he stated the following:

"I am a vegetarian. I don't eat meat. I was took off the common fair menu by the warden because I lost a write up because I called a guard a rookie after arguing with the special diet cart kitchen worker after he tried to give me beef and I told him I don't want it. He handed me a milkshake first (prior) then said if you get common fair you don't get that. I said then I should keep it because this is like the fifth time I told you I don't eat meat and you still keep giving me or at least trying to give me beef. So then the guard told me to give back the shake and I did and next I called the guard a rookie for not doing his job by telling inmate from kitchen no beef from the door for me. So he tells me to get out the dorm into hallway. I get write up and go to the hole. The whole time I'm in the hole I'm still on common fair list and they give me common fair until the last day. I asked the hearing examiner for time served in exchange for a guilty plea he said yes. The very next day I am no longer on the common fair list. I was complaining because I am a vegetarian. I don't and won't eat beef or drink beef milk. Then when the nurse told me that the warden put something on her desk and Angie's desk that said take me off the list. I know this is ...

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