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Thompson v. Aviles

March 18, 2008

MALIK THOMPSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ADMINISTRATOR OSCAR AVILES, SGT. SALVATORE NOSTRAM, OFFICER LILLIAN WHITTED, OFFICER CHRIS RODRIGUEZ, M. WILLIAMS, MARCIE GANERT, DRESSLER KEEFE CORPORATION, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: William J. Martini, U.S.D.J.

OPINION

Defendants have moved on summary judgment to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint. Plaintiff, a federal prisoner, alleges that Defendant prison officials (1) provided unsanitary water and crowded cells, in violation of the Constitution and state law, (2) failed to provide him with Halal meals, in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments, and (3) confiscated his trial transcripts, in violation of the First, Fourth, Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution. With respect to the first set of allegations, the Court finds that Plaintiff has failed to exhaust his administrative remedies and dismisses those counts. With respect to the second and third sets of allegations, the Court finds that Defendants' versions of the facts, which Plaintiff does not contest, entitles it to summary judgment on those counts. Accordingly, Defendants' motion is GRANTED, and Plaintiff's complaint is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE except for the unsanitary-water and overcrowding claims, which are DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE.

I. FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS

In this suit, a prisoner alleges that his prison subjected him to unconstitutional conditions of confinement. Plaintiff is Malik Thompson, an inmate who during the relevant period was confined to Hudson County Corrections Center ("HCCC"). (Statement of Material Facts Accompanying Mot. for Summ. J. 1.) The six Defendants are HCCC employees. (Compl. 1)

Thompson asserts three categories of claims. First, Thompson asserts that the HCCC drinking and bathing water is contaminated and that HCCC's cells are overcrowded. (Compl. 14--15.) Second, Thompson, a Muslim, asserts that HCCC has denied his requests for Halal meals, in violation of his constitutional rights of religious freedom and equal protection.*fn1 (Compl. 17.) Third, Thompson asserts that HCCC confiscated transcripts from his state criminal proceedings. (Compl. 18--19). Thompson alleges that this violated his constitutional rights to free speech and access to courts and violated the Constitution's prohibitions on warrantless seizures, deprivation of property without due process, and cruel and unusual punishment.*fn2 (Compl. 18--19.)

Now Defendants move to dismiss Thompson's claims under both Federal Rule of 12(b)(6) or on summary judgment. (Mot. to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim and/or Summ. J.) With respect to Thompson's first claim-regarding water contamination and overcrowding-Defendants argue that Thompson has failed to exhaust HCCC's administrative remedies. (Mot. 16, 24.) With respect to Thompson's latter two claims-regarding HCCC's denial to Thompson of Halal meals and its confiscation of Thompson's trial transcripts-Defendants argue that Thompson has failed to raise a disputed issue of material fact and that they are entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

II. DISCUSSION

Courts may dismiss claims on summary judgment if there is "no genuine issue as to any material fact and . . . the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). A genuine issue of material fact exists where a reasonable trier of fact considering the entire record could rationally find in favor of the non-moving party in light of that party's burden of proof. Doe v. Abington Friends Sch., 480 F.3d 252, 256 (3d Cir. 2007). The non-moving party may not defeat summary judgment merely by denying the allegations in the moving party's pleadings; rather, the non-moving party must locate in the record a genuine dispute over a material fact. Id.

A. The Water Contamination and Overcrowding Claims

Defendants argue that Thompson cannot assert any claims based on allegations of contaminated water or overcrowding at HCCC because Thompson has not exhausted HCCC's administrative remedies for such complaints. The Court agrees that Thompson cannot assert federal claims based on these allegations because he has not exhausted HCCC's administrative remedies. The Court further holds that if Thompson cannot assert these federal claims, then the Court lacks jurisdiction over his related pendant state law claims.

Thompson's federal claims are barred by the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995. That act prohibits a prisoner from bringing an action under federal law based on prison conditions until he has exhausted his administrative remedies. Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (PLRA) § 7, 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). A prisoner's failure to exhaust will result in dismissal of claims requiring exhaustion. See Woodford v. Ngo, 126 S.Ct. 2378, 2382, 2384 (2006). Here, HCCC has provided an administrative process by which prisoners aggrieved by the conditions of their confinement may file complaints with prison administrators. (Mot. Ex. G, Certification of Marcy Dressler-Gassert ¶¶ 1--2.) But the HCCC Inmate Advocate, Marcy Dressler-Gassert, has certified that Thompson has not filed any complaints regarding overcrowded cells or contaminated water. (DresslerGassert Certification ¶¶ 1--2.) Thompson does not rebut this. Accordingly, the Court must dismiss without prejudice Thompson's federal claims based on water contamination and overcrowding.

Because the Court dismisses Thompson's federal claims regarding water contamination and overcrowding, it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction to adjudicate his state law claims based on these same alleged injuries. Here, the parties are non-diverse, so the Court's subject-matter jurisdiction arises only because Thompson asserts claims under federal law. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1332. Where district courts have subject-matter jurisdiction over a claim, such as Thompson's federal claims, they have "supplemental jurisdiction over all other claims that are so related to claims in the action within such original jurisdiction that they form part of the same case or controversy under Article III of the United States Constitution." 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a). The Court's subject-matter jurisdiction over Thompson's state law claims would be merely supplemental, arising from § 1367(a), since it arises from the same controversy as Thompson's federal water-contamination and overcrowding claims. But as explained above, the Court now dismisses those federal claims. Furthermore, Thompson's state law water-contamination and overcrowding claims are unrelated to his remaining federal claims, which are based on HCCC's denial of Halal meals and seizure of Thompson's trial transcripts.*fn3

Accordingly, the Court lacks supplemental (or any other) subject-matter jurisdiction over Thompson's state law claims arising from HCCC's alleged water contamination and ...


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