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Scott v. Shamsiddeen

United States District Court, Second Circuit

May 28, 2013

PETER A. SCOTT, SR. Plaintiff,
v.
IMAM SHAMSIDDEEN, Defendant.

PETER A. SCOTT 98-B-0124 Plaintiff pro se Green Haven Correctional Facility Stormville, New York,

ERIC T. SCHNEIDERMAN, KEVIN P. HICKEY, ESQ., Attorney General for the State of New York Attorney for Defendant. The Capitol Albany, New York.

ORDER AND REPORT-RECOMMENDATION

THÉRÈSE WILEY DANCKS, Magistrate Judge.

This pro se civil rights action commenced by Plaintiff Peter A. Scott, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, has been referred to me for Report and Recommendation by the Honorable Gary L. Sharpe, Chief United States District Judge, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and N.D.N.Y. L.R. 72.3(c). Plaintiff claims that while he was confined in Shawangunk Correctional Facility ("Shawangunk"), Defendant Marshall Shamsiddeen ("Shamsiddeen"), Muslim Chaplain at Shawangunk since 2004, deprived him of his right to the free exercise of religion by denying him Eid-ul-Adha religious meals on November 6, 2011 and again on November 12, 2011. (Dkt. No. 1 at ¶ 6; Dkt. No. 20-2 at ¶ 3.) Defendant Shamsiddeen filed an Answer to Plaintiff's Complaint (Dkt. No. 14) and now moves for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. (Dkt. No. 20.) Plaintiff has not filed papers opposing Shamsiddeen's motion. For the reasons that follow, I recommend that Defendant Shamsiddeen's motion be granted.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff claims to have been registered as a Muslim with the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision ("DOCCS") since 1998.[1] (Dkt. No. 1 at 7.) Eid-ul-Adha is a religious holiday celebrated by Muslims to honor the prophet Ibrahim's willingness to sacrifice his first-born son Ismail as an act of submission to God's command and his son's acceptance of being sacrificed. (Dkt. No. 20-2 at ¶ 8.) The celebration of Eid-ul-Adha at Shawangunk in 2011 included prayer services, a religious meal with a special menu for Muslim inmates on November 6th, and a family day event with a second religious meal on November 12th. Id. at ¶¶ 7, 11; see generally Dkt. No. 20-5 at 5-6, 14-16.

Plaintiff was in the Special Housing Unit ("SHU") at Shawangunk at the time of the Eid-ul-Adha celebration in 2011. (Dkt. No. 1 at 7.) Pursuant to DOCCS Directive No. 4933, N.Y. Comp. Codes R. & Regs. tit. 7, § 304.10(d), inmates in SHU are not permitted to attend religious services. (Dkt. No. 20-2 at ¶ 9; Dkt. No. 20-8 at 12.) However, under DOCCS Directive No. 4933, inmates in SHU are permitted special meals prepared in connection with religious holidays and, as with other Muslim inmates, are provided with special menus in connection with the celebration of Eid-ul-Adha. (Dkt. No. 20-2 at ¶¶ 10-11.)

Defendant's duties as Chaplain include, among other things, facilitating special religious programs and events and approving inmates who are to participate in services and receive special meals in observance of religious holidays such as Eid-ul-Adha. Id. at ¶¶ 4-5. When the Superintendent and Deputy Superintendents approve a special religious event, a call-out list is prepared by Defendant's clerk and, upon Defendant's approval, is forwarded to the Call-out Clerk. Id. at ¶ 12. In preparation for the observance of Eid-ul-Adha in 2011, Defendant forwarded a call-out list to the Shawangunk Call-out-Clerk on September 26, 2011. Id. at ¶ 13; Dkt. No. 20-5 at 3-4.

Because the call-out list that had been prepared for the Eid-ul-Adha observance in 2011 indicated that Plaintiff had been transferred to another facility, the kitchen did not prepare special Eid-ul-Adha meals for him on November 6th[2] and 12th in 2011. (Dkt. No. 20-2 at ¶¶ 13-14; Dkt. No. 20-5 at 3.) According to Defendant, the failure to provide Plaintiff with the two religious meals in connection with the Eid-ul-Adha celebration resulted from a mistaken understanding that Plaintiff had been transferred and did not occur as the result of the intentional exclusion of Plaintiff from the call-out list. (Dkt. No. 20-2 at ¶ 16.) Defendant denies any intent to deny Plaintiff the right to receive the special religious meals. Id. Defendant has stated in his Declaration that the facility records were corrected subsequent to the mistake and, it is Defendant's understanding that Plaintiff has since been allowed to practice his religion with no further problems. Id. at ¶¶ 17-18.

On November 15, 2011, Plaintiff filed a grievance regarding his failure to receive the Eid-ul-Adha meals. (Dkt. No. 20-6 at 4.) The Investigative Report on the grievance acknowledged that Plaintiff was a registered Muslim and should have received his religious meals. Id. at 5. Defendant disclosed in a signed statement in the Investigative Report that "It was a mistake. My clerk thought Mr. Scott had left the facility." Id. The Inmate Grievance Review Committee noted that staff had acknowledged a mistake had been made. Id. at 3. The Superintendent responded that "[t]he meals were not provided due to a misunderstanding acknowledge (sic) by Imam Shamsiddeen that grievant had transferred, " and noted that "[f]ood service and ministerial services are aware of the error and have updated their records accordingly." Id. at 3.

II. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff commenced in this action on January 18, 2012. (Dkt. No. 1.) His Complaint named three Defendants, including Defendant Shamsiddeen. Id. In a Decision and Order filed on April 20, 2012, Judge Sharpe dismissed Plaintiff's Complaint as against Defendants J. Rapp, Food Service Administrator at Shawangunk, and S. Chumas, Special Events Coordinator at Shawangunk for failure to state a claim on initial review. (Dkt. No. 8.) The dismissal was without prejudice. Id. Reviewing Plaintiff's Complaint generously, as required given Plaintiff's pro se status, Judge Sharpe concluded that Plaintiff's claims against Defendant Shamsiddeen required a response.[3] Id. at 7.

Defendant Shamsiddeen filed an Answer to Plaintiff's Complaint on June 29, 2012. (Dkt. No. 14.) He thereafter filed the motion for summary judgment now before me for report and recommendation. (Dkt. No. 20.) Plaintiff has filed no opposition to the motion despite having been granted ...


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