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Farid v. Demars

February 23, 2009

MUJAHID FARID, PLAINTIFF,
v.
J.R. DEMARS, DEPUTY SUPERINTENDENT, OF PROGRAMS, ET AL. , DEFENDANTS.



THOMAS J. McAVOY, Senior United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM DECISION and ORDER

In this civil rights complaint, plaintiff alleges that he is bringing this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, claiming that defendants violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. § 12131 et seq. and the Rehabilitation Act (RA), 29 U.S.C. § 794 when they refused to allow plaintiff, who is a diabetic, to obtain, either by mail order or through the commissary, certain kinds of foods, including "natural health candy bars containing low sugar content." Compl. (Dkt. No. 1). Plaintiff also alleges that defendants violated both the ADA and RA when defendants refused to allow plaintiff to form an inmate organization related to diabetes and health education. Id. Plaintiff seeks declaratory, injunctive, and monetary relief.

Presently before the court is defendants' motion*fn1 for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to F ED. R. C IV. P. 12(c). (Dkt. No. 23). Plaintiff has responded in opposition to the motion. (Dkt. No. 24). For the following reasons, this court agrees with defendants and will dismiss the complaint in its entirety.

DISCUSSION

1. Judgment on the Pleadings

After the pleadings are closed, a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim is properly brought as a motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c). Maggette v. Dalsheim , 709 F.2d 800, 801 (2d Cir. 1983) (citations omitted). See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b), 12(c) and 12(h)(2). The motion for judgment on the pleadings is then treated according to the same standard as a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). Id.

To survive a motion to dismiss, the plaintiff must provide "the grounds upon which his claim rests through factual allegations sufficient 'to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.'" Camarillo v. Carrols Corp ., 518 F.3d 153, 156 (2d Cir. 2008)(quoting inter alia ATSI Communications, Inc. v. Shaar Fund, Ltd. , 493 F.3d 87, 98 (2d Cir. 2007)). See Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Plaintiff's factual allegations must be sufficient to give the defendant "fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Id. (citing Port Dock & Stone Corp. v. Oldcastle Ne., Inc ., 507 F.3d 117, 121 (2d Cir. 2007)). When ruling on a motion to dismiss, the court must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint. Erickson v. Pardus , 551 U.S. 89, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 2200 (2007) (citations omitted). The court must heed its particular obligation to treat pro se pleadings with liberality. Phillips v. Girdich , 408 F.3d 124, 128 (2d Cir. 2005); Tapia-Ortiz v. Doe , 171 F.3d 150, 152 (2d Cir. 1999)( per curiam ).

In deciding a motion to dismiss, the court may review documents integral to the complaint upon which the plaintiff relied in drafting his pleadings, as well as any documents attached to the complaint as exhibits and any statements or documents incorporated into the complaint by reference. Rothman v. Gregor , 220 F.3d 81, 88 (2d Cir. 2000)(citing Cosmas v. Hassett , 886 F.2d 8, 13 (2d Cir. 1989)).

2. Facts

Plaintiff, an inmate at Franklin Correctional Facility, alleges that he is disabled by diabetes for purposes of the ADA. Compl. ¶ 8. Plaintiff alleges that after he was diagnosed with diabetes, he attempted to research different ways to control his blood sugar. Id. ¶ 10. Plaintiff noticed that all of the snacks and candy items that were being sold to inmates at the commissary had high levels of processed sugars and fructose. Id. Plaintiff states that in September of 2003, he attempted to order "natural health candy bars" that were low in sugar, however, he was not allowed to receive them because they were considered "nutritional supplements." Id. ¶¶ 11-12.

Plaintiff claims that he filed a grievance in October of 2003 regarding the facility's decision to deny plaintiff the ability to order these natural health bars. Id. ¶ 13. Plaintiff's grievance was denied by the Superintendent, and the Superintendent's decision was affirmed on November 26, 2003 by the Central Office Review Committee (CORC). Id. ¶¶ 14-15. In the CORC's decision, plaintiff was advised to address his needs for "nutritional supplements" through the medical department. Id. ¶ 15. Plaintiff claims that in December of 2003, he submitted a request to defendant Habeck pursuant to the ADA in which plaintiff states that he sought permission to obtain the natural health candy bars through the mail, or alternatively to have them sold in the facility commissary. Id. ¶ 16. Plaintiff refers to this request as a request for "reasonable accommodations." Id.

On December 17, 2003, defendant Habeck denied plaintiff's ADA request, stating that "circumstances" such as plaintiff's could not be interpreted as "a disability." Id. ¶ 17. Plaintiff states that he researched the subject and determined that diabetes is considered a disability pursuant to the ADA. Id. ¶ 18. Plaintiff states that he submitted a second request for accommodation in December of 2004, arguing that defendant Habeck's interpretation of the ADA was incorrect and requesting that he reconsider his decision. Id. ¶ 19. Plaintiff states that he expanded his request to include a "host of suitable items." Id. Plaintiff states that defendant Habeck responded by memorandum dated December 29, 2004 in which he stated that he would not change his previous interpretation of the ADA, explaining to plaintiff that the term "reasonable accommodation" refers to "accessibility issues," and did not apply to plaintiff's request. Id. ¶ 20. Defendant Habeck did, however, agree to solicit "an outside opinion on [plaintiff's] request," and if plaintiff's request was found "allowable," he would be notified and accommodations made. Id.

Plaintiff states that seven months passed without any further information from defendant Habeck, and on July 19, 2005, plaintiff and another inmate with diabetes filed grievances regarding this subject. Compl. ¶ 21. On August 1, 2005, defendant Sears denied the grievances stating that although diabetes is considered a disability under the ADA, the statute relates to "accessibility issues, not to nutritional requests or requirements." Id. ¶ 22. The inmates appealed, and on August 31, 2005, the CORC denied the joint grievances, affirming the facility decision. Id. ¶ 23.

Plaintiff states that on August 12, 2005, plaintiff and other diabetic inmates filed a request to form an inmate organization whose goal was to establish a support and health education group for diabetic inmates. Id. ¶¶ 24-25. The proposed name for the association was "Prisoners' Association for Impacting Diabetes (PAID)." Id. ¶ 24. On August 25, 2005, defendant Demars acknowledged receipt of the request and told plaintiff that he would be contacted in the near future with an answer. Id. ¶ 26. Plaintiff claims that although the Department of Correctional Services (DOCS) "guidelines" required the ...


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