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Ramrattan v. New York City Dep't of Correction

August 2, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Shira A. Scheindlin, U.S.D.J.



Jerry Ramrattan, an inmate in the custody of the New York City Department of Correction ("DOC"), brings this action pursuant to section 1983 of Title 42 of the United States Code ("section 1983").*fn1 Ramrattan alleges that he was subjected to religious discrimination while incarcerated in the DOC's Riker's Island Facilities from February 2010 to April 2011. The Complaint names five defendants: the DOC; Dora B. Schriro, the DOC Commissioner; Robert Cripps, Warden at the Anna M. Kross Center in Riker's Island; Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg; and Raymond Kelly, the New York City Police Commissioner. Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelly have since been dismissed from this action at Ramrattan's request. The remaining defendants now move for summary judgment on the ground that Ramrattan has failed to exhaust his available administrative remedies as mandated by the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (the "PLRA" or the "Act").*fn2 For the following reasons, defendants' motion is granted.


Ramrattan describes numerous instances of alleged religious discrimination. Ramrattan notes that at his initial intake into custody, he identified his religion as Hindu, but upon his arrival at Riker's Island, he was issued an identification card listing his religion as "Other."*fn3 While in Riker's, Ramrattan sought the assistance of a Hindu chaplain, but found none in the employ of the DOC.*fn4 Further, Ramrattan has been unable to avoid eating meals that violate his religious diet and was prevented from observing several holy days.*fn5 Ramrattan has lost significant weight and is in constant pain because of the issues with non- conforming food.*fn6 In short, Ramrattan contends that both the absence of a Hindu chaplain and the prison's failure to provide a Hindu diet are violations of his right to the free exercise of his religion.*fn7

During his intake, Ramrattan received the Inmate Handbook, which describes the Inmate Grievance Resolution Program ("IGRP").*fn8 Ramrattan admits to having read the Handbook and used the IGRP on a number of other occasions not in dispute in this action.*fn9 Although Ramrattan says he filed grievances relating to the conditions that are subject to this suit, he admits that he did not finish the IGRP process for those grievances before bringing this action.*fn10


A. Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is appropriate "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."*fn11 "For summary judgment purposes, a 'genuine issue' exists where the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could decide in the non-moving party's favor."*fn12 "'A fact is material when it might affect the outcome of the suit under governing law.'"*fn13

In a summary judgment setting, "[t]he burden is on the moving party to demonstrate that no genuine issue respecting any material fact exists."*fn14 "When the burden of proof at trial would fall on the nonmoving party, it ordinarily is sufficient for the movant to point to a lack of evidence . . . on an essential element of the non-movant's claim."*fn15 In turn, to defeat a motion for summary judgment, the non-moving party must raise a genuine issue of material fact. The non-moving party "'must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts,'"*fn16 and cannot "'rely on conclusory allegations or unsubstantiated speculation.'"*fn17

In deciding a motion for summary judgment, a court must "'construe the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and must resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable inferences against the movant.'"*fn18 However, "'[c]redibility determinations, the weighing of the evidence, and the drawing of legitimate inferences from the facts are jury functions, not those of a judge.'"*fn19

"'The role of the court is not to resolve disputed issues of fact but to assess whether there are any factual issues to be tried.'"*fn20

B. Exhaustion Under the PLRA

The PLRA includes a mandatory requirement that prisoners exhaust all administrative remedies before bringing an action ...

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