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Edwards v. Thomas

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

February 7, 2017

JACK EDWARDS, Plaintiff
v.
WARDEN J. E. THOMAS, ET AL., Defendants

          MEMORANDUM

          Richard P. Conaboy United States District Judge

         Jack Edwards (Plaintiff), an inmate presently confined at the Benner State Correctional Institution, Bellefonte, Pennsylvania (SCI-Benner), initiated this pro se civil rights action. Service of the Complaint was previously ordered.

         Named as Defendants are four officials of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) Secretary John Wetzel, Attorney Debra Rand, Regional Deputy Secretary Tabb Brickell, and Director of Religious Accommodations Shawn Kephart. Edwards is also proceeding against four SCI-Benner officials: Superintendent Tammy Ferguson, Chaplain Matthew McCoy, Chief of Food Services Marcia Noles;, and Grievance Coordinator Holly Becker-Bachic.

         Plaintiff states that he arrived ar SCI-Benner on or about April, 2013. He describes himself as being "a long standing Orthodox Muslim" who follows the eating practices of Islam. See Doc. 1, p. 3. The Complaint generally indicates that SCI-Benner Chief of Food Services Noles is responsible for the prison's dietary practices.

         According to the Complaint, the SCI-Benner no animal product diet does not satisfy Plaintiff's religious need for an Halal diet. Edwards adds that the prison's kitchen utensils are "religiously contaminated' because they have been used to prepare pork products. Plaintiff contends that although the Kosher diet offered at the prison is the same as a pork free Halal diet his request to be provided with a Kosher diet was denied by Defendants McCoy and Kephart because he is not Jewish. The Complaint concludes that the denial of a Kosher diet violated Plaintiff's rights under the First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments as well as the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-l(a)(RLUIPA). Edwards also raises a pendent state law claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress. Plaintiff does not specify what type of relief he is seeking.

         Presently pending is a motion to dismiss the Complaint filed by the Defendants.[1] See Doc. 11. The unopposed motion is ripe for consideration.

         Discussion

         Defendants raise the following arguments for partial dismissal: (1) there is no mention of Defendants Wetzel, Ferguson, Becker-Bachic, Brickell and Rand in the body of the Complaint; (2) the claims against Defendants Wetzel, Ferguson, Becker-Bachic, Brickell, Rand, and Noles are subject to dismissal on the basis of lack of personal involvement; (3) there is no cognizable Eighth Amendment claim that Banks was subjected to unconstitutional conditions of confinement; (4) the Complaint does not plead a viable claim under the Fourteenth Amendment; and (5) the state law tort claim is barred by Pennsylvania's statutory sovereign immunity. See Doc. 14, p. 3-4.

         Standard of Review

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b) (6) provides for the dismissal of complaints that fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. 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)).

         A 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"); Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). This requirement "calls for enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of" the necessary elements of the plaintiff's cause of action. Id. at 556. A complaint must contain "more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed- me accusation." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, U.S., 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements do not suffice." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949. Legal conclusions must be supported by factual allegations and the complaint must state a plausible claim for relief. See id. at 1950.

         "Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact)." Twombly, at 555. The reviewing court must determine whether the complaint "contain[s] either direct or inferential allegations respecting all the material elements necessary to sustain recovery under some viable legal theory." .Id. at 562; see also Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008) (in order to survive a motion to dismiss, a plaintiff must allege in his complaint "enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of the necessary element[s]" of a particular cause of action). Additionally, pro se pleadings are to be construed liberally, Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972) .

         Personal Involvement

         Defendants' first two arguments contend that the claims against Secretary Wetzel, Superintendent Ferguson, Grievance coordinator Becker-Bachic, Regional Deputy Secretary Brickell, Attorney Rand, and Chief of Food Services Noles are subject to dismissal because there are no ...


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