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Sweeper v. Taylor

March 27, 2009

BRUCE SWEEPER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
J. TAYLOR, SUPERINTENDENT, GOUVERNEUR CORRECTIONAL FACILITY; OFFICER MCCOY; OFFICER MCBRIDE, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Norman A. Mordue. Chief United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

In this amended civil rights complaint, plaintiff alleges that defendants violated plaintiff's First Amendment right to practice his religion. (Dkt. No. 11). Plaintiff seeks monetary as well as injunctive relief. Presently before the court*fn1 is defendants' motion for summary judgment pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 56. (Dkt. No. 37). Plaintiff has responded in opposition to the motion. (Dkt. No. 42). For the following reasons, this court agrees with defendants and will order dismissal of the amended complaint in its entirety.

DISCUSSION

1. Summary Judgment

Summary judgment may be granted when the moving party carries its burden of showing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. FED. R. CIV. P. 56; Thompson v. Gjivoje, 896 F.2d 716, 720 (2d Cir. 1990) (citations omitted). "Ambiguities or inferences to be drawn from the facts must be viewed in the light most favorable to the party opposing the summary judgment motion." Id. However, when the moving party has met its burden, the nonmoving party must do more than "simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 585-86 (1986); see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986).

At that point, the nonmoving party must move forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id. A dispute about a genuine issue of material fact exists if the evidence is such that "a reasonable [factfinder] could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. In determining whether there is a genuine issue of material fact, a court must resolve all ambiguities, and draw all inferences, against the movant. See United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962).

2. Facts

A. Amended Complaint

Plaintiff alleges that on October 17, 2005, he was an inmate of the Department of Correctional Services (DOCS), incarcerated at the Gouverneur Correctional Facility (Gouverneur). (Dkt. No. 11). Plaintiff states that at approximately 2:00 p.m., he was working in the mess hall when defendant Corrections Officer (CO) McCoy walked by plaintiff as he was praying. Plaintiff is a Muslim, and October 17, 2005 was during Ramadan, a Muslim holiday.

Defendant McCoy told plaintiff to stop praying and gave plaintiff a misbehavior report when plaintiff did not comply with defendant McCoy's order. In the amended complaint, plaintiff claims that defendant McCoy put plaintiff in the Special Housing Unit (SHU) for praying, and that plaintiff spent thirty days in SHU as a result. Amended Complaint (AC) at 2(a).*fn2

Plaintiff alleges that defendant CO McBride's name appears on the "statement of the evidence" from plaintiff's disciplinary hearing, however, plaintiff claims that defendant McBride was not working on October 17, 2005, making the disciplinary determination invalid. Id. Plaintiff has also named Superintendent J. Taylor as a defendant. Plaintiff claims that defendant Taylor failed to implement a proper policy that would allow inmates to pray at work. Defendant Taylor's failure to do so allowed plaintiff to be improperly placed in SHU for praying in the mess hall.

B. Additional Facts

In support of their summary judgment motion, defendants have submitted the plaintiff's disciplinary records regarding this incident, together with the declaration of Captain Clement Croyer, the hearing officer for plaintiff's disciplinary hearing. Croyer Decl. & Exs. A, B (Dkt. No. 37(8)-37(10)). Defendants have also submitted the plaintiff's "grievance packet," including all the documents submitted in conjunction with the grievance filed by plaintiff subsequent to this incident. Statement of Material Facts & Ex. A-D (Dkt. No. 37(3)-37(7)).

The Croyer Declaration states that Captain Croyer conducted a Tier III disciplinary hearing against plaintiff on October 19, 2005. Croyer Decl. ΒΆ 2. The hearing was based on a misbehavior report written by defendant McCoy. Id. The misbehavior report shows that it was written by defendant McCoy, who stated that on October 17, 2005, he walked in the back of the mess hall and observed "inmates" praying in the hot box room where supplies for the mess hall were kept. Croyer Decl. Ex. A at p.3. Defendant McCoy further stated that plaintiff was praying "with 6 other inmates." Id. Defendant McCoy alerted Sergeant King and gave the inmates a direct order to stop praying. Id. The inmates ignored defendant McCoy's order and continued to pray for approximately ten minutes until Sergeant King arrived. Id. Plaintiff was escorted to SHU as a result, and defendant McCoy wrote the misbehavior report, charging plaintiff ...


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