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Antonio Hennis v. Officer Tedrow

December 27, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Cathy Bissoon


For the reasons that follow, Defendants‟ motion to dismiss (Doc. 52) will be granted with prejudice. Additionally, Plaintiff‟s motions to file supplemental pleadings (Docs. 57 and 61) will be denied as futile.

Antonio Hennis ("Plaintiff") is a state prisoner currently incarcerated in the State Correctional Institution at Greensburg, Pennsylvania ("SCI-Greensburg"). Plaintiff brings this suit pursuant to the Civil Rights Act of 1871, 42 U.S.C. § 1983. His initial complaint alleged deprivations of his rights under the First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution by eight Defendants, all of whom were employed by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections ("DOC") at all times relevant to the complaint. Compl. (Doc. 3) ¶ 51. This suit commenced with this Court‟s receipt of Plaintiff‟s motion to proceed in forma pauperis ("IFP") on April 5, 2010. (Doc. 1). Leave to proceed IFP was granted on April 7, 2010. (Doc. 2).

On March 31, 2011, this Court granted Defendants‟ motion to dismiss, or in the alternative, motion for summary judgment. See (Docs. 24 and 41). Plaintiff was granted leave to amend his Equal Protection claims against Defendants Maceyko, Lily, and Tedrow, as well as his claims arising under the Eighth Amendment. (Doc. 41 at 28). Plaintiff filed his amended complaint on May 12, 2011. (Doc. 50). Defendants filed the instant motion to dismiss on May 25, 2011. (Doc. 52). Plaintiff responded to Defendants‟ motion on July 18, 2011. (Doc. 61). This issue is ripe for disposition

A. Plaintiff's Factual Allegations and Legal Claims

Plaintiff‟s relevant factual allegations are as follows.

In his amended complaint, Plaintiff alleges that he was approached by Defendant Tedrow and ordered to cut off his dread locks. Am. Compl. (Doc. 50 ¶ 10). Plaintiff responded that he had a valid religious hair-length exemption, and that removing his dreadlocks would violate his religious beliefs. Id.; see also id. ¶¶ 15-16 (alleging the connection of dreadlocks to Plaintiff‟s religious beliefs, and indicating past existence of a religious exemption for Plaintiff‟s hair). Defendant Tedrow allegedly responded that Plaintiff was not on the list for such an exemption, and ordered Plaintiff to have his hair cut within seven days. Id. ¶ 10.

Seven days later, Defendant Tedrow allegedly "left his post" to follow up with Plaintiff regarding his earlier order. Id. ¶ 11. Plaintiff asserted that there was a mistake, and that he was attempting to clear up the issue. Defendant Tedrow was unswayed by this argument, and issued Plaintiff a prison misconduct report for not complying with his earlier order. Id. Plaintiff filed grievance number 229125, naming Defendant Tedrow, that same day. Id. ¶ 20.

Defendant Tedrow initiated misconduct proceedings against Plaintiff on or about May 18, 2010 -- apparently sometime after Plaintiff initiated his grievance. See (Doc. 3 ¶ 20); see also (Doc. 21-1 at 7); see also Def.s‟ Ex. C to Br. in Supp. of Mot. to Dismiss (Doc. 21-1 at 17). This misconduct was dismissed. (Doc. 1-3 at 4). Plaintiff eventually was granted a hair-length exemption on July 28, 2008. See Def.s‟ Ex. D to Br. in Supp. of Mot. to Dismiss (Doc. 21-1 at 19). There is no indication in the initial complaint, the amended complaint, or anywhere else on the record that Plaintiff ever was forced to cut his hair as a result of this encounter with Defendant Tedrow.

Plaintiff alleges that no other Rastafarian at SCI-Greensburg has been ordered to cut their dreadlocks, nor have they been issued a misconduct report for failing to do so. (Doc. 50 ¶ 22). He alleges that the same is true for practitioners of Native American religions. Id. Plaintiff claims that Defendant Tedrow‟s alleged acts or omissions violated his rights under the Eighth Amendment, as well as the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Id. ¶¶ 37-38, 45-46.

Next, Plaintiff alleges that on November 17-18, 2009, during a prison lockdown, he was denied vegetarian meals, which are required by his religious beliefs. Id. ¶¶ 23-24. Plaintiff brought this to the attention of Defendants Maceyko and Lily -- both of whom were, at the time of the alleged incident, corrections sergeants. Id. ¶¶ 27-30. Plaintiff also told Defendant Lily that he had been complaining of this alleged denial of vegetarian meals to his subordinates, and that nothing had been done. Id. ¶ 27. Defendants Maceyko and Lily allegedly "mocked" Plaintiff, and ordered him to eat what he was given. Id. ¶¶ 28-30. Plaintiff asserts that he also observed Defendant Maceyko providing another inmate with a medically required meal. Ex. K to Compl. (Doc. 1-3 at 12); (Doc. 50 ¶ 30). Plaintiff threatened to file a grievance, and Defendant Maceyko responded "go ahead it [will not] go far." (Doc. 50 ¶ 30). The exhibits submitted in support of Plaintiff‟s initial complaint demonstrate that Plaintiff filed grievance 297181 on November 20, 2009 -- after the lockdown was over -- and indicated that he had been unable to eat anything other than breakfast for a two-day period because the meals that he was served contained meat. Id. ¶ 34; (Doc. 1-3 at 12) ("[f]or two days the only meal that I was able to eat was breakfast"). Plaintiff named both Defendants Maceyko and Lily in this document. Plaintiff alleges in the amended complaint, for the first time, that "due to Plaintiff‟s lack of nutritional meals during the winter months the Plaintiff had trouble staying warm, suffered from stomach pain and cramps, fatigue and dizziness for the two days on lockdown." (Doc. 50 ¶ 33).

Plaintiff alleges that the acts of Defendants Maceyko and Lily violated his rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and the Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause of the Eighth Amendment. Id. ¶¶ 34, 40, 42.

B. Analysis

In order for a claim to be cognizable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must meet two threshold requirements. First, the alleged misconduct giving rise to the cause of action must have been committed by a person acting under color of state law; and second, the defendants‟ conduct must have deprived the plaintiff of rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States. Parratt v. Taylor, 451 U.S. 527, 535 (1981), (overruled in part on other grounds, Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327, 330-331 ...

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