United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING ON CROSS-MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [Docs.
#27 & #46]
DOMINIC J. SQUATRITO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Howard Cosby, commenced this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 against defendants Warden Scott Erfe and Deputy
Warden Guiliana Mudano. He alleges that the defendants
violated his right to free exercise of the Buddhist religion
by denying his request for a vegetarian diet. He alleges
further that there were occasions when his food was tampered
with, i.e., a bite was taken out of a sandwich, a sandwich
was completely burned, and a piece of wax paper was present
in a sandwich. The parties have filed cross-motions for
summary judgment. For the reasons that follow, the
defendants’ motion is granted and the plaintiff’s
motion is denied.
Standard of Review
motion for summary judgment may be granted only where
“there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact
and the [moving party] is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); In re Dana Corp.,
574 F.3d 129, 151 (2d Cir. 2009). The moving party may
satisfy his burden “by showing-that is pointing out to
the district court-that there is an absence of evidence to
support the nonmoving party’s case.” PepsiCo,
Inc. v. Coca-Cola Co., 315 F.3d 101, 105 (2d Cir. 2002)
(per curiam) (internal quotation marks omitted). Once the
moving party meets this burden, the nonmoving party must set
forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue
for trial. Wright v. Goord, 554 F.3d 255, 266 (2d
Cir. 2009). He must present such evidence as would allow a
jury to find in his favor in order to defeat the motion for
summary judgment. Graham v. Long Island R.R., 230
F.3d 34, 38 (2d Cir. 2000). The nonmoving party “must
offer some hard evidence showing that its version of the
events is not wholly fanciful.” D’Amico v.
City of New York, 132 F.3d 145, 149 (2d Cir. 1998).
Connecticut Department of Correction (“DOC”) does
not offer individualized menus for inmates. Instead, it
offers two menu options, the Master menu and the Common Fare
menu. Both menus were designed by registered dietitians and
comply with all recommended dietary requirements. The Common
Fare menu was designed to reasonably accommodate recognized
religious dietary requirements by substituting fish, cheese
or another meatless protein for meat items. All inmates
receive the Master menu unless they register to receive the
Common Fare menu.
provides nearly 50, 000 meals each day to nearly 16, 000
inmates. Offering individualized menus based on inmate
preferences would be cost prohibitive and greatly increase
administrative burdens and opportunities for confusion.
Increasing the number of food items offered each day would
result in increased costs because the DOC would no longer be
able to purchase items in the quantities required to achieve
cost savings and result in increased waste from unused food
items. Every menu offered must be evaluated by a registered
dietitian to determine the nutritional adequacy of the meal.
the time relevant to this action, defendant Erfe was the
warden at the Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Center
(“Corrigan”). He now is the warden at Cheshire
Correctional Institution. As warden, defendant Erfe is
responsible for generally overseeing the correctional
facility including supervising staff. He also responds to
inmate grievances by reviewing and deciding whether to
approve the response prepared by the grievance coordinator.
As warden, he is not personally involved in planning inmate
menus or altering them to conform to religious or medical
January 2013, the plaintiff submitted an “Inmate
Request Form, ” in which he stated that “in
Buddhism, we do not believe in killing any living thing [and]
do not eat any living thing that has been killed . . .
includ[ing] fish. So the common fare diet is not sufficient
for me because it contains fish. Again I am requesting a
strictly vegetarian diet.” (Doc. # 60-3, at 29). The
Corrigan kitchen supervisor responded to his request as
follows: “The DOC offers inmates a choice between a
Master Menu and a Common Fare menu. The Common Fare menu is a
meatless menu that meets all the nutritional requirements as
determined by a DOC licensed dietician, without the presence
of food items forbidden by religious dogma (A.D. 10.8,
paragraph 30). You may select between either
2013, the plaintiff filed a grievance regarding his diet. On
June 3, 2013, defendant Erfe received the plaintiff’s
grievance and a recommendation from the grievance coordinator
that the grievance be denied because the plaintiff was
already receiving the Common Fare menu. On June 6, 2013,
defendant Erfe denied the grievance because the plaintiff was
already receiving the menu that was designed to accommodate
religious practices and did not contain meat and there was
nothing more that he could do. As warden, defendant Erfe was
not authorized to make substitutions to an inmate’s
menu. His understanding is that such changes may be made only
by a dietitian or nutrition expert in Food Services or by the
medical unit. At the time he denied the grievance, defendant
Erfe was aware of only one instance where the Department of
Correction had developed an individual menu for an inmate
based upon religious preferences and that instance occurred
as the result of a settlement agreement between another
inmate and the Attorney General’s Office.
September 2013, defendant Erfe received a letter from the
Foundation stating that the plaintiff was not receiving
vegetarian meals. Defendant Deputy Warden Mudano, the deputy
warden of operations at Corrigan during the relevant time
period, was responsible for overseeing the kitchen.
Therefore, defendant Erfe forwarded the letter to her. Erfe
did not receive any further communications or complaints from
the plaintiff about his diet at Corrigan.
meeting of the Corrigan religious review committee on
September 11, 2013, shortly after the PETA letter was
received, the committee members, including defendant Mudano,
discussed the plaintiff’s menu and whether DOC Food
Services could substitute another food item for fish. It was
determined that Food Services could replace fish with a
nutritionally adequate substitute whenever fish appeared in
the Common Fare menu The day after the committee meeting,
defendant Mudano met with the plaintiff and told him that the
fish would be replaced with a nutritionally adequate
substitute, most likely a grilled cheese sandwich, a peanut
butter and jelly sandwich or an egg option. The plaintiff
expressed his thanks and appreciation. The plaintiff did not
tell defendant Mudano that he could not eat eggs. Defendant
Mudano informed the kitchen staff that the plaintiff was
satisfied with the indicated changes. The revised menu was
then implemented. Defendant Mudano did not communicate with
the plaintiff about his menu after September 12, 2013.
Erfe and Mudano did not work in the kitchen. Defendant Mudano
was responsible for kitchen oversight. This, like many of her
oversight duties, was delegated to a subordinate. For
example, kitchen oversight would be delegated to the kitchen
supervisors. If an inmate had a problem with his meals, he
would follow the chain of command and notify a correctional
officer or member of the kitchen staff. Defendant Mudano had
no involvement with planning inmate menus or altering menus
to conform to religious or medical requirements.
defendant Mudano addressed the plaintiff’s dietary
concerns, defendant Erfe received no written communications
or complaints from the plaintiff about his meals. Neither
defendant tampered with the plaintiff’s food. The
plaintiff testified at his deposition that he did not inform
defendant Mudano that he was receiving incorrect meals ...