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Moriarty v. Rendell

May 26, 2009

SEAN P. MORIARTY, PLAINTIFF
v.
EDWARD H. RENDELL, GOVERNOR OF PENNSYLVANIA, JEFFREY BEARD, SECRETARY, PENNSYLVANIA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, CALVIN JOHNSON, CATHERINE MCVEY, CHAIRPERSON, PENNSYLVANIA BOARD OF PROBATION & PAROLE, DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: James M. Munley United States District Court

(Judge Munley)

(Magistrate Judge Blewitt)

MEMORANDUM

Before the court is the report and recommendation of Magistrate Judge Thomas M. Blewitt, which proposes that the court dismiss portions of plaintiff's complaint and remand the case to the magistrate judge for further proceedings.

Background

This case arises out of plaintiff's imprisonment in the Pennsylvania State Correctional Institution in Coal Township, Pennsylvania. Plaintiff alleges that he has been forced, as a condition of his eligibility for parole, to participate in a drug and alcohol treatment program that forces him to practice a religion in which he does not believe. (Complaint (Doc. 1) (hereinafter "Complt.") at ¶ 12). As a condition of participation in the prison's Therapeutic Community, plaintiff is required to accept a twelve-step program that requires him to acknowledge a higher power. (Id.). Plaintiff contends that this "self-help" program is "faith based." (Id.). Defendants allegedly offer no comparable programs that lack this religious component, and plaintiff contends that this failure to offer a secular alternative violates his constitutional rights.

Plaintiff filed a complaint in this court on August 13, 2008. The complaint raises seven claims under federal and Pennsylvania law. Claim one asserts that defendants compelled plaintiff's participation in a religious program in violation of his First Amendment rights and the Pennsylvania Drug and Alcohol Abuse Control Act. Claim two contends that defendants placed substantial burdens on plaintiff's ability not to practice any religion through their programs, and that these actions violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 ("RLUIPA"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc. Claim three, also brought pursuant to the RLUIPA, and to anti-religious discrimination provisions for the provision of services under 42 U.S.C.§ 5057, contends that plaintiff's refusal to participate in religious indoctrination made him ineligible for the equal provision of drug and alcohol treatment in the prison. Claim four alleges that defendants violated plaintiff's right to free speech and to petition the government when they refused to allow plaintiff to complain about enforced attendance in a religious program. Claim five contends that defendants coerced plaintiff's silence with regard to the denial of mandatory services because of plaintiff's refusal to participate in religious programs. Claim six asserts that defendants' policies requiring participation in treatment programs prevented plaintiff from obtaining meaningful access to the prison law library and thus restricted his ability to speak and petition the government. This restriction on plaintiff's speech allegedly came as retaliation for plaintiff's complaints about the religious nature of the treatment program. Claim seven alleges that defendants compelled plaintiff to speak by forcing him to declare he was an alcoholic/addict or remain silent. Plaintiff preferred to announce that he was unsure of whether he suffered from an addiction.

In addition to his complaint, plaintiff filed a motion to proceed in forma pauperis. (Doc. 3). Because the plaintiff sought to proceed without paying the filing fee, the magistrate judge gave the complaint an initial screening to determine whether to allow service. On September 25, 2008, the magistrate judge issued his report and recommendation (Doc. 12), which concluded that many of the plaintiff's claims should be dismissed, but that service of the complaint on plaintiff's First Amendment religious freedom claims be allowed. The magistrate judge also determined that plaintiff's claims for specific amounts of monetary damages against all defendants should be dismissed, as well as all of plaintiff's state-law causes of action. The plaintiff then filed objections (Doc. 13) to this report and recommendation, bringing the case to its present posture.

Jurisdiction

Because plaintiff brings claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. ("The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States."). The court has supplemental jurisdiction over the plaintiff's state law claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367.

Legal Standard

In disposing of objections to a magistrate judge's report and recommendation, the district court must make a de novo determination of those portions of the report to which objections are made. 28 U.S.C. § 636 (b)(1)(C); see also Henderson v. Carlson, 812 F.2d 874, 877 (3d Cir. 1987). This court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge. The district court judge may also receive further evidence or recommit the matter to the magistrate judge with instructions. Id.

Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), the court is obliged to undertake an initial screening of any complaint filed by a prisoner seeking to proceed in forma pauperis. The court is required to dismiss a case when "the action or appeal is (i) frivolous or malicious; (ii) fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or (iii) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(2)(B).

Discussion

The plaintiff objects to the report and recommendation on five grounds. The court ...


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