SEAGRAVES v. TREACHLER et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Chief Judge Jerome B. Simandle on 3/27/2017. (tf, n.m.)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
MARK LEE SEAGRAVES,
No. 15-7801 (JBS-AMD)
DAVID TREACHLER, et al.,
SIMANDLE, Chief District Judge
On October 30, 2015, Plaintiff Mark Lee Seagraves
submitted a civil complaint alleging Defendants David Treachler,
Ray Skradzinski, the Salem County Sheriff’s Office, Salem
County, and the Salem County Correctional Facility (“SCCF”)
unlawfully denied him a vegetarian meal he requested for
religious reasons. After reviewing the complaint pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1915, the Court permitted Plaintiff’s complaint
alleging violations of the First Amendment and Religious Land
Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000, (“RLUIPA”) to
proceed against Mr. Treachler. The claims against the remainder
of the defendants were dismissed without prejudices.
Plaintiff now seeks to amend his complaint to
reinstate his claims against Warden Skradzinski and Salem
County. Motion to Amend, Docket Entry 20; Proposed Amended
Complaint, Docket Entry 20-1. Rule 15(a) of the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure permits a party to amend a pleading once as a
matter of course twenty-one (21) days after serving the pleading
or twenty-one (21) days “after a responsive pleading or service
of a motion under Rule 12(b), (e), or (f), whichever is
earlier.” Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 15(a)(1)(A)-(B).
Plaintiff filed this motion within 21 days after
Defendant Treachler filed a motion to dismiss and/or for summary
judgment on August 20, 2016. He may therefore amend his
complaint as of right. As the Court granted Plaintiff in forma
pauperis status under 28 U.S.C. § 1915, the Court must screen
the amended complaint to ensure it states a claim for relief.
Plaintiff incorporates the statement of claims from
his original complaint and adds the fact that “the Quran says
don’t eat any meat that at the time of slaughtering Allah[‘]s
name is not mentioned.” Proposed Amendment Complaint at 2-3. He
states: “Warden Skradzinski is the official with the
responsibility to implement all SCCF policies and procedures. He
implemented the policy of not giving Muslims vegetarian meal,
[which] violates my First Amendment right to free exercise of
religion . . . .” Id. at 1-2.
He further alleges that Salem County “is responsible
for the policies implemented by those in position to make
policies for SCCF i.e., Raymond Skradzinski.” Id. at 2.
Accepting the facts alleged in the proposed amended
complaint as true for purposes of this motion only, Plaintiff
has sufficiently stated First Amendment and RLUIPA claims
against Treachler and Warden Skradzinski. The Clerk shall be
ordered to instate Warden Skradzinski as a defendant.
Plaintiff still has not sufficiently stated a claim
against Salem County. “[M]unicipal liability under 42 U.S.C. §
1983 cannot be based on the respondeat superior doctrine, but
must be founded upon evidence that the government unit itself
supported a violation of constitutional rights.” Watson v.
Abington Twp., 478 F.3d 144, 155 (3d Cir. 2007) (citing Monell
v. New York City Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 691-95
(1978)). One way to plead municipal liability is to provide
facts supporting an inference that an official municipal policy
violated Plaintiff’s rights. Monell, 436 U.S. at 692.
Here, Plaintiff alleges there is an official policy of
denying Muslim inmates’ requests for vegetarian meals; however,
he alleges Warden Skradzinski created this allegedly
unconstitutional policy, not the Salem County lawmakers.
Proposed Amended Complaint at 1-2. He has therefore not pled
sufficient facts indicting that the Salem County lawmakers with
the “final authority to establish municipal policy with respect
to the action issue[d] an official proclamation, policy, or
edict.” Kirkland v. DiLeo, 581 F. App'x 111, 118 (3d Cir. 2014)
(internal quotation marks and citations omitted) (alteration in
original). As such, there is not an adequate basis to conclude
Salem County may be liable to Plaintiff.
The motion to amend the complaint is granted, and
Warden Skradzinski is reinstated as a defendant. The claims
against Salem County are dismissed without prejudice.
An appropriate order follows.
March 27, 2017
s/ Jerome B. Simandle
JEROME B. SIMANDLE
Chief U.S. District Judge
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