United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING ON MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (ECF NO.
MICHAEL P. SHEA UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
November 16, 2017, the plaintiff, Ian Wright, a prisoner
currently confined at the Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional
Center (“Corrigan”) in Uncasville, Connecticut,
filed a complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against several
Connecticut Department of Correction (“DOC”)
officials. He claimed that the defendants violated his rights
under the First and Eighth Amendments to the United States
Constitution for denying him “common fare”
vegetarian meals in accordance with his religious beliefs
during a four-day period at Corrigan. Compl. (ECF No. 1). The
Court initially dismissed the complaint without prejudice
because the plaintiff failed to allege facts showing each
defendant's personal involvement in the constitutional
deprivations. Initial Review Order (ECF No. 13). The
plaintiff thereafter filed an amended complaint with
additional factual allegations. Am. Compl. (ECF No. 16).
After reviewing the amended complaint, the Court permitted
the plaintiff's First Amendment claim to proceed against
one of the defendants, Food Service Supervisor William
Jackson, in his individual capacity for damages. Ruling on
Mot. to Reopen and Review of Am. Compl. (ECF No. 17). The
Court dismissed all other claims. Id. The defendant
answered the amended complaint on May 15, 2018. Answer (ECF
3, 2018, the defendant filed the instant motion for summary
judgment on the plaintiff's sole remaining claim. Mot.
for Summ. J. (ECF No. 24); Mem. of Law in Supp. of Mot. for
Summ. J. (“Def.'s Mem.”) (ECF No. 24-1). He
argues that (1) the plaintiff's First Amendment free
exercise of religion claim fails as a matter of law, (2) the
plaintiff has failed to establish the defendant's
personal involvement in any constitutional violation, and (3)
he is entitled to qualified immunity. Mot. for Summ. J. The
defendant supplemented his motion with his affidavit, copies
of institutional polices regarding the food service at DOC
facilities, and a Local Rule 56(a)1 Statement of Facts (ECF
Nos. 24-2 - 24-5). The Court then ordered the plaintiff to
respond to the defendant's motion with a written
memorandum and a Local Rule 56(a)2 Statement of Facts.
See Order No. 29.
plaintiff filed an opposition to defendant's motion on
August 9, 2018 arguing that there are genuine issues of
material fact with respect to his First Amendment claim and
the defendant's personal involvement and that the
defendant is not entitled to qualified immunity. Pl.'s
Resp. to Def.'s Mot. Summ. J. (ECF No. 30); Mem. of Law
in Obj. to Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. (“Pl.'s
Mem.”) (ECF No. 30-1). He supplemented his opposition
with several exhibits (ECF No. 30-2), including his own
affidavit and documents related to his religious affiliation
and diet necessities, and a “Statement of Disputed
Material Issues” (ECF No. 30-3).
the Court agrees with the defendant that the First Amendment
claim fails on the summary judgment record, the Court will
GRANT the motion for summary judgment.
Standard of Review
motion for summary judgment, the burden is on the moving
party to establish that there are no genuine issues of
material fact in dispute and that it is “entitled to
judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A
fact is “material” if it “might affect the
outcome of the suit under the governing law.”
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248
(1986); see also Dister v. Continental Group, Inc.,
859 F.2d 1108, 1114 (2d Cir. 1988) (mere existence of alleged
factual dispute will not defeat summary judgment motion). The
moving party may satisfy this 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 curium) (internal
quotations omitted; citations omitted).
motion for summary judgment is supported by documentary
evidence and sworn affidavits and “demonstrates the
absence of a genuine issue of material fact, ” the
nonmoving party must do more than vaguely assert the
existence of some unspecified disputed material facts or
“rely on conclusory allegations or unsubstantiated
speculation.” Robinson v. Concentra Health Servs.,
Inc., 781 F.3d 42, 44 (2d Cir. 2015) (citation omitted).
The nonmoving party “must come forward with specific
evidence demonstrating the existence of a genuine dispute of
material fact.” Id.; see also First Nat.
Bank of Ariz. v. Cities Service Co., 391 U.S. 253, 289
(1968) (nonmoving party must submit sufficient evidence
supporting factual dispute that will require factfinder to
resolve differing versions of truth at trial).
reviewing the record, the Court must “construe the
evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party
and . . . draw all reasonable inferences in its favor.”
Gary Friedrich Enters., L.L.C. v. Marvel Characters,
Inc., 716 F.3d 302, 312 (2d Cir. 2013) (citation
one party is proceeding pro se, the Court must read
his papers liberally and interpret them “to raise the
strongest arguments that they suggest.” Willey v.
Kirkpatrick, 801 F.3d 51, 62 (2d Cir. 2015) (internal
quotation marks and citation omitted). Despite this liberal
interpretation, however, “[u]nsupported allegations do
not create a material issue of fact” and cannot
overcome a properly supported motion for summary judgment.
See Weinstock v. Columbia Univ., 224 F.3d 33, 41 (2d
Cir. 2000), cert. denied, 540 U.S. 811 (2003).
Court finds the following facts from the amended complaint,
the defendant's Local Rule 56(a)1 Statement
(“Def.'s Stmt.”) (ECF No. 24-5), the
plaintiff's “Statement of Disputed Material
Issues” (“Pl.'s Stmt.”) (ECF No.
30-3), and the exhibits on record.
plaintiff was transferred from Cheshire Correctional
Institution to Corrigan on September 22, 2017. Def.'s
Stmt. ¶ 1; Pl.'s Stmt. ¶ 1. The plaintiff is a
member of the Rastafarian religion, which requires its
practitioners to adhere to a vegetarian diet. Def.'s
Stmt. ¶ 2; Pl.'s Stmt. ¶ 2. Since entering DOC
custody in 2000, the plaintiff has been approved to
participate in the common fare meal program under DOC
Administrative Directive 10.18. Pl.'s Stmt. ¶ 3;
Pl.'s Ex. 7 (ECF No. 30-2 at 54). A common fare meal is
defined as “a meatless meal intended to accommodate
those inmates whose religious dietary needs cannot be met on
the master menu.” Def.'s Ex. 1, Attach. B (ECF No.
24-2 at 16). In order to participate in the common fare meal
program, an inmate must submit an application to the food
service department at the facility in which he is housed.
Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 21. The Food Service Supervisor IIII,
who is responsible for ensuring compliance with the common
fare policy, then approves or denies the application.
Id. at ¶¶ 22-24; Def.'s Ex. 1 (Jackson
Aff.) ¶ 10; Def.'s Ex. 1, Attach. B. If approved,
the inmate is then placed on the list to receive common fare
meals. Def.'s Stmt. at ¶¶ 23-24. District Food
Service Managers and the Director of Food Services also
conduct reviews of the facility's common fare policy.
Def.'s Ex. 1, Attach. B.
September 22 to September 27, the defendant worked as the
Food Service Supervisor II at Corrigan. Def.'s Ex. 1
(Jackson Aff.) ¶ 4. His duties included monitoring and
supervising inmates in the preparation of meals, food
inspection, receiving orders from vendors, and maintaining
inventory and cleanliness. Id. During those dates,
the defendant worked from 10:30 a.m. to 6:45 p.m. and was not
involved in the preparation or service of breakfast or lunch
meal trays.Id. at ¶ 16. If the
defendant receives information that an inmate has requested a
common fare dinner, his common practice is to check the
facility records and verify whether that inmate is on the
approved list of common fare meal recipients. Id. at
¶ 15. If not, the defendant would inform the inmate or
custody official of the common fare application process.
Id. As Food Service Supervisor ...