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Mincy v. Deparlos

August 19, 2009

HILTON KARRIEM MINCY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
WARDEN DEPARLOS, ET AL., DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Conner

MEMORANDUM

Hilton Karriem Mincy ("Mincy") initiated this action on March 20, 2008. (Doc. 1.) The matter is presently proceeding via an amended complaint which was filed on December 20, 2008. (Doc. 24.) Therein, he sets forth a number of claims including civil rights violations pursuant to 42 U. S.C. §§ 1983, 1985, violations of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 ("RLUIPA"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc, and violations of the Pennsylvania Constitution and Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act, 42 PA.C.S.A. §§ 8541-8542.

Presently pending is a partial motion to dismiss (Doc. 26) plaintiff's amended complaint (Doc. 24) pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), filed by defendants Warden DeParlos ("DeParlos"), Deputy Warden Blank ("Blank"), and Lieutenant Hartly ("Hartly"). For the reasons set forth below, the motion will be denied. Also before the court is a motion to dismiss (Doc. 37) filed on behalf of all remaining defendants. The motion will be deemed withdrawn for failure to file a supporting brief and these defendants will be directed to file an answer to the amended complaint.

I. Allegations of the Complaint*fn1

The allegations in this matter, all of which stem from Mincy's incarceration in the Lycoming County Prison, date back to September 21, 2007, when Mincy, verbally complained to defendant Hartly, among others, about his Ramadan meals, other issues relating to Ramadan, and interference with attending "Friday Jumuah Service."*fn2 (Doc. 24, at 3, ¶¶ 1-4.) On September 28, 2007, Lieutenant Hegenstaller informed him that the prison administration had a meeting and "that they were not going to do anything with regards to the Rahmadahn meals, etc...." (Id. at § 6.) A few days later "Defendant Hartley told Plaintiff that Rahmadahn was almost over and the Plaintiff should just 'accept it and deal with it.' Lieutenant Hartly stated that the prison 'administration' was aware of the problem and that they were not going to do anything about it." (Doc. 24, at 4, ¶ 7.)

Thereafter, Mincy sent a "letter-grievance" to defendants DeParlos and Blank, and other prison staff, detailing the following complaints:

(1) Denial of hot meals; (2) Denial of medication prior to fasting and after breaking fast (prison staff refused to make accommodations around the feeding times for inmates taking non-life-threatening medication); (3) Denial of Rahmadahn feast at the conclusion of Rahmadahn; (4) Interference with access to Friday Jumuah service; (5) Intentional lesser portions of food for inmates fasting; (6) Refusal of prison to put in place a means for the Plaintiff and other inmates to donate "Zakat" (charity) which is mandatory during Rhamdahn; (7) Denial of sufficient access to Talim service; (8) The prison's refusal to provide the same access to Holy Quran's as it does to Bibles; (9) The intentional abuse of authority by Lycoming County Prison officers, in which the officers go out of their way to single-out those attempting to fast, and to make it a hardship on those inmates that are fasting; and (10) The disparity in treatment of the Plaintiff, Muslim Inmates and those who participate in Islamic activities, to those who are Christian or those who participate in Christian activities, in that the prison's staff and officers make sure that Christian holidays are respected and observed to the fullest, but otherwise takes a totally opposite approach in it's [sic] treatment of Muslims and/or those who participate in Islamic activities; which is alos [sic] done to intentionally discourage inmates that are Muslim from continued practice, to discourage those who are not Muslim but are interested in the faith, form [sic] pursuing their interest in faith.

According to Mincy, defendants refused to respond to the grievance. (Doc. 24, at 5, ¶ 13.) He alleges that defendants implemented customs, policies and practices that prohibited or interfered with the free exercise of religion, as detailed in his grievance. (Doc. 24, at 6, ¶ 17.) He also claims that he was subjected to harassment and retaliation.

The allegations are spread among five counts in the amended complaint and include violations of his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights of the United States Constitution, Article I, §§ 1, 26, 28 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, violations of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000, and violations of the Pennsylvania Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act. He seeks declaratory and injunctive relief as well as nominal, compensatory, and punitive damages. (Doc. 24, at 10.)

II. Motion to Dismiss Filed on Behalf of DeParlos, Blank, and Hartly

A. Standard of Review

Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides for the dismissal of complaints that fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6). When ruling on a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court must "accept as true all [factual] allegations in the complaint and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom, and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Kanter v. Barella, 489 F.3d 170, 177 (3d Cir. 2007) (quoting Evancho v. Fisher, 423 F.3d 347, 350 (3d Cir. 2005)). Although the court is generally limited in its review to the facts contained in the complaint, it "may also consider matters of public record, orders, exhibits attached to the complaint and items appearing in the record of the case." Oshiver v. Levin, Fishbein, Sedran & Berman, 38 F.3d 1380, 1384 n. 2 (3d Cir. 1994); see also In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1426 (3d Cir. 1997).

Federal notice and pleading rules require the complaint to provide "the defendant notice of what the... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 232 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)). The plaintiff must present facts that, if true, demonstrate a plausible right to relief. See FED. R. CIV. P. 8(a) (stating that the complaint should include "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief"); Ashcroft v. Iqbal, ---U.S. ----, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (explaining that Rule 8 requires more than "an unadorned, the-defendant unlawfully-harmed-me accusation"); Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (requiring plaintiffs to allege facts sufficient to "raise a right to relief above the speculative level"). Thus, courts should not dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim if it contains "enough factual matter (taken as true) to suggest the required element. This does not impose a probability requirement at the pleading stage, but instead simply calls for enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of the necessary element." Phillips, 515 F.3d at 234 ...


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