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Kelvin Ray Love v. New Jersey Department of Correction

January 31, 2011

KELVIN RAY LOVE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
NEW JERSEY DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION, ET AL.,
DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Brown, Chief Judge

NOT FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION

This matter comes before the Court upon a series of recent filings executed by Plaintiff, namely, his amended complaint, see Docket Entry No. 10, his motion to re-amend that amended complaint, see Docket Entry No. 13, and his motion for injunctive relief. See Docket Entry No. 12. Plaintiff's motion seeking injunctive relief will be denied, with prejudice. Plaintiff's motion to amend will be denied in part and granted in part. Plaintiff's claims stated in the amended complaint and his proposed re-amended complaint will be dismissed, with prejudice, short of three narrowly-tailored lines of claims. Plaintiff's in forma pauperis status will be revoked, and this matter will be administratively terminated subject to reopening in the event Plaintiff either shows cause for reinstatement of his in forma pauperis status or timely prepays the applicable filing fee.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

I. Background

A. Original Complaint

B. Plaintiff's Supplement to the Complaint

C. The Court's Prior Decision

D. Plaintiff's Amended Complaints

1. Amended Complaint - First Round

a. Prayer in Segregated Confinement

b. Passover 2008 Events

c. Passover 2009 Events

d. Prayers upon Return to the General Population

e. Private Possession of Tallit

f. Passover 2010 Events

2. Remedies Sought in "First Round" Amended Complaint

3. "Second Round" of the Amended Complaint and the Motion for Preliminary Injunction

A. Plaintiff's Right to Exercise His Religious Beliefs

1. Equal Protection Aspects

2. First Amendment Aspects

a. Governing Standard

b. Plaintiff's Facially Meritless Claims

i. The Nature of Plaintiff's Beliefs

ii. Prayers in Segregated Confinement

iii. Re-entry into the General Population

iv. Around-the-clock Possession of Tallit

v. Passover 2009 and Second Seder of 2010

c. Passover 2008 and First Seder of 2010

B. Plaintiff's Allegation Related to Law Library Access

1. Construction as an Access-to-the-Courts Claim

a. Procedural Deficiency

b. Substantive Invalidity

2. Construction as an Application to Amend

a. Additional Defendants

b. Additional Allegations

i. Elaboration of the "Festive Meal" Claims

ii. Claims Based on Lack of Teffilin

C. Application for Injunctive Relief

D. Future Course of This Litigation

1. The Three Strikes Rule

2. Plaintiff's Statements Made in This Matter

3. Plaintiff's Prior Litigations

a. Failure-to-State-a-Claim Actions

b. Other Actions

4. Plaintiff's Pauper Status Will Be Revoked

III. Conclusion

II. Discussion

I. BACKGROUND

A. Original Complaint

The Clerk received Plaintiff's original submission (executed on April 1, 2010)*fn1 on April 6, 2010. See Docket Entry No. 1. That submission, a diary-like compilation, included the original complaint (which consisted of twenty two pages packing, in turn, seventy two paragraphs) and fourteen pages of various exhibits. See id.

In his original complaint ("Complaint"), Plaintiff asserted that: (a) he held certain religious beliefs related or pertaining to the Jewish faith, but without clarifying the exact nature of his religious beliefs;*fn2 (b) Plaintiff made his religious perceptions known to his prison officials at a certain unspecified point in time; (c) during his confinement, Plaintiff requested Passover meals but was denied the same; and (d) Plaintiff requested to partake in certain congregational chanting of Jewish prayers but was denied the same. See Docket Entry No.

1. The exhibits attached to the Complaint indicated that

Plaintiff had been asked by the Chaplaincy Department at his place of confinement to provide contact information of rabbis sharing Plaintiff's seemingly unique religious views so that the prison officials could attempt to accommodate his religious needs.*fn3 See id.

The Complaint named, as Defendants in this matter, the DOC, Warden Michelle R. Ricci ("Warden"), Imam Suluki ("Imam," asserting that the Imam was the Head Chaplain at Plaintiff's place of confinement), Rabbi Goldenberg (asserting that the Rabbi used to be the Jewish Chaplain at Plaintiff's place of confinement), Rabbi Spritzer (asserting that the Rabbi was the currently retained Jewish Chaplain at Plaintiff's place of confinement), and "John or Jane Doe" (asserting that these "Does" were leaders of certain unspecified religious groups volunteering, inter alia, at Plaintiff's place of confinement). See id.

Plaintiff maintained that these Defendants were liable for violations of Plaintiff's civil rights because: (a) the Imam did not provide Plaintiff with Passover meals and unspecified "necessary religious elements"; (b) Rabbi Goldenberg allowed Jewish inmates in the general prison population to congregate for the purposes of group prayer, but did not allow the same to the inmates held in segregated confinement;*fn4 (c) Rabbi Goldenberg failed to properly train and supervise Does, due to which (d) Does excluded Plaintiff from chanting certain Jewish prayers and did not provide Plaintiff with "necessary means of celebrating the first Passover Seder"; (e) Rabbi Spritzer continued Rabbi Goldenberg's practices; and (f) the Warden was the supervisor of Plaintiff's place of confinement. See Docket Entry No. 1. The Complaint indicated that Plaintiff sought damages and injunctive relief, asserting that he was "racially discriminated" against by Defendants' position, which Plaintiff defined as a notion that "Plaintiff [was] not of Jewish race." See id. at 15, 21.

B. Plaintiff's Supplement to the Complaint

On June 21, 2010, the Clerk received Plaintiff's submission titled "amended complaint," see Docket Entry No. 2, but -- just two days later -- the Clerk also received Plaintiff's "amended motion" clarifying that the "amended complaint" was intended to operate as a "supplement" to the Complaint. See Docket Entry No.

3. This "supplement" added another seventeen pages (comprised out of eighty-six paragraphs) to Plaintiff's Complaint, plus three pages of additional exhibits. See Docket Entry No. 2. However, in its substance, the "supplement" largely repeated the Complaint, although it increases the list of Defendants, and the newly added exhibits suggested that a certain piece of Plaintiff's property had been "taken" by prison officials, although the nature of that property or of that "taking" were not detailed in the supplement.*fn5 See id.

C. The Court's Prior Decision

On August 10, 2010, this Court issued a memorandum opinion and order ("August Order") dismissing Plaintiff's Complaint. See Docket Entry No. 7. Specifically, the Court dismissed Plaintiff's claims against the DOC with prejudice, since the DOC was not a "person" within the meaning of Section 1983 action. See id. at 6 (citing Will v. Michigan Dept. of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 64, 70-71 and n.10 (1989); Grabow v. Southern State Correctional Facility, 726 F. Supp. 537, 538-39 (D.N.J. 1989)).

All other claims, stated in one hundred and fifty-eight paragraphs of the Complaint and its "supplement," were dismissed without prejudice for failure to meet Rule 8 requirements. See id. at 6-7. In order to provide Plaintiff with additional guidance, the Court clarified to Plaintiff why his overly-voluminous submissions (omitting, nonetheless, statements of vital facts) failed to satisfy both the requirements of Rule 8(a)(2) and the pleading standard set forth in Ashcroft v. Iqbal,129 S. Ct. 1937 (2009). See id. In addition, the Court noted its concern with whether Plaintiff's claims against Does and/or the Imam, Rabbi Goldenberg, Rabbi Spritzer met the color of law requirement. See id. at 7-13. The August Order directed Plaintiff to file an amended complaint stating, clearly and concisely, only the facts of Plaintiff's claims. See id. at 16-18.

D. Plaintiff's Amended Complaints

1. Amended Complaint - First Round

In response, Plaintiff submitted his amended complaint ("Amended Complaint") that differed substantially from the Complaint, both in terms of the substance of Plaintiff's claims and the identities of the culpable parties.*fn6 See Docket Entry No. 10. While being shorter than the Complaint and its "supplement," the Amended Complaint, nonetheless, presented a lengthy document (comprised of pages of a pre-printed form and hand-written pages which packed, on occasion, up to thirty-six lines of a super-small script per page), providing a rather patchy account of Plaintiff's facts. See id. To the degree the Court can systemize these facts, Plaintiff's allegations appear to be as follows:

a. Prayer in Segregated Confinement Prior to March 2008, Plaintiff was held in the general prison population and so, during that period, partook in certain group payers of a congregation consisting of the Jewish inmates held in that general population (and who were, at that time, ministered-to by Rabbi Goldenberg and/or by Rabbi Goldenberg's predecessor/colleague, who seemed to be Rabbi Lev). See id. at

9. However, according to the Complaint, Plaintiff was placed in segregated confinement in March 2008, where he would remain for more than two years until his re-entry into the general prison population on March 15, 2010. During this time, Plaintiff alleges he: (a) experienced a three-month lull in ministered weekly prayers; that lull occurred about half-way into the period of his segregated confinement (specifically, from June 17, 2009, to September 24, 2009);*fn7 and (b) did not have a rabbi present during his morning prayers until Plaintiff's re-entry into the general prison population.*fn8 The Complaint, therefore, asserts that Plaintiff's rights were violated during his segregated confinement by the lack of ministered morning prayer and/or by his inability to attend a congregational morning prayer rendered by the Jewish inmates confined in the general prison population. In addition, the Complaint asserts that Plaintiff's civil rights were violated during this segregated confinement period because the sessions of ministered weekly services provided to him, which were shorter than the weekly services provided to the general prison population, were too short to satisfy the weekly prayer requirements of Plaintiff's self-proclaimed faith. See id. at 9-10.

b. Passover 2008 Events

At an unspecified point in time prior to April 19, 2008, Plaintiff (being already held in segregated confinement) requested to be put on the list of inmates wishing to obtain

Passover "treats"*fn9 that had been, allegedly, served to Jewish inmates at Plaintiff's place of confinement at the first Seder and at the second Seder of each Passover.*fn10 See id. at 8. However, Plaintiff alleges that no Passover "treat" of any kind was served to him for the first Seder of 2008 and -- for the second Seder of 2008 -- the Imam provided him only with grape juice. See id. In other words, the Complaint may be construed as asserting that Plaintiff was served with no Passover meals of any kind for the first and second Seders of 2008 and, perhaps, no dinner meals whatsoever, short of the grape juice brought by the Imam for the second Seder of 2008.

c. Passover 2009 Events

Prior to April 2009, Plaintiff (still being held in segregated confinement) again, allegedly, requested to be put on the list of Jewish inmates wishing to obtain Passover "treats." See id. According to the Complaint, in response to his request, Plaintiff was served with a "treat" that included: (a) a traditional Seder plate; (b) a traditional roasted shank bone;

(c) a traditional hard boiled egg; (d) traditional bitter herbs;

(d) a serving of traditional "charoset" (a sweet chunky paste made of fruits and nuts); (e) a serving of traditional "karpas" (a vegetable, which usually means parsley or celery); (f) "chazeres" (traditional bitter herbs);*fn11 (g) three sheets of matzoh; (e) a container of grape juice (seemingly substituting for Passover wine); (f) traditional salted water needed for the Seder ritual; and (g) a ritual cup. This "treat" was served to him for the first Seder of 2009 and repeated, identically, for the second Seder of 2009. See id. While conceding that the above-listed ingredients did, indeed, comprise the entire list of traditional items served to celebrate the ritual part of Passover Seder order, see id., Plaintiff asserts that the "treats" he was served were insufficient because they did not include a "pillow"*fn12 and an unspecified "festive meal," that is, in addition to the above-listed items included in the "treat." See id. Plaintiff asserts that, in response to his inquiry with the Imam as to the lack of a "pillow" and a "festive meal,"*fn13 the Imam responded that he served Plaintiff with "all there was." See id.

d. Prayers Upon Return to the General Population According to the Complaint, Plaintiff reentered the prison's general population on March 15, 2010, but that re-entry was not accompanied by Plaintiff's automatic inclusion in the list of the general population inmates cleared for entrance to the "balcony" part of Plaintiff's correctional facility, where, apparently, the Sabbath prayers and morning prayers of the Jewish inmate congregation were typically held. See id. at 8 (indicating that Plaintiff's name was removed from the list, seemingly due to, and during, Plaintiff's placement in segregated confinement for two years). Rather, Plaintiff had to submit a written request for such clearance, and he allegedly did so three days after his re-entry into the general prison population, that is, on March 18, 2010. See id. However, since -- according to the Complaint e. Private Possession of Tallit At the time of his re-entry into the general prison population, Plaintiff requested a permission to purchase a tallit.*fn14 See id. at 10. Having his request granted, Plaintiff duly purchased a tallit (which, seemingly, was a tallit gadol)

Plaintiff's request for clearance was erroneously forwarded to the Custody Coordination Department rather than to the Chaplaincy Department, this mis-forwarding caused a delay in Plaintiff's clearance, necessitating his additional oral inquiries and re-submission of application forms. So Plaintiff was finally placed on the list of inmates allowed to ...


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