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McCray v. Passaic County Jail

United States District Court, Third Circuit

November 27, 2013

WAVERLY McCRAY, Plaintiff,
PASSAIC COUNTY JAIL, et al., Defendants.

WAVERLY McCRAY, #268999, Passaic County Jail, Paterson, NJ, Plaintiff Pro Se.


WILLIAM J. MARTINI, District Judge.

Waverly McCray, a pretrial detainee at Passaic County Jail, seeks to file a Complaint without prepayment of the filing fee. This Court will grant his application to proceed in forma pauperis. For the reasons expressed in this Opinion and, as required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), this Court will dismiss the federal claims raised in the Complaint, without prejudice to the filing of an amended complaint asserting a cognizable claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Court will decline supplemental jurisdiction over claims arising under state law.


Waverly McCray brings this action against the Passaic County Jail, Warden Michael Tolerico and Captain Dickson. Mr. McCray asserts that he practices the Muslim religion which requires him to eat a Halal diet. He alleges that he complained to Warden Tolerico and Captain Dickson that, although the jail provides Jewish inmates with a Kosher diet that includes meat, the jail provides Muslim inmates with a vegetarian diet. He states that he informed defendants that he is not a vegetarian and that the Kosher diet (containing meat) satisfies Halal, but "Capt. Dickson said the jail wouldn't honor Muslims receiving Kosher meals [and t]he Muslims are only allowed vegetarian meals." (Complaint, ECF No. 1 at 6.) He contends that, by denying his request for a Kosher/Halal meat diet, defendants are violating his First Amendment right to practice his religion and his Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection of laws. For relief, he asks this Court to direct defendants to provide him with a Kosher/Halal diet containing meat and to award damages for providing a vegetarian diet.

Attached to the Complaint are Inmate Grievance Forms which Mr. McCray submitted to Captain Dickson, the Warden, and other officials, which are dated from July 15, 2013, through October 13, 2013. (Complaint, Attachments, ECF No. 1 at 8-17.) In these grievances, Mr. McCray essentially states the following: he practices the Muslim religion, which requires him to consume a Halal diet; a Kosher diet satisfies the Halal diet requirements; the jail feeds him a vegetarian diet, but feeds Jewish inmates a Kosher diet which includes meat; officials are treating him differently by providing Jewish inmates with a Kosher meat diet, yet providing Muslim inmates with only a vegetarian diet. Id. The responses to these grievances generally state that the provision of a vegetarian diet does not interfere with the Muslim religion's Halal diet requirements.


Per the Prison Litigation Reform Act, Pub. L. No. 104-134, §§ 801-810, 110 Stat. 1321-66 to 1321-77 (April 26, 1996) ("PLRA"), district courts must review complaints in those civil actions in which a prisoner is proceeding in forma pauperis, see 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), seeks redress against a governmental employee or entity, see 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b), or brings a claim with respect to prison conditions, see 28 U.S.C. § 1997e. The PLRA directs district courts to sua sponte dismiss any claim that is frivolous, is malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. This action is subject to sua sponte screening for dismissal under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) because Plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis.

"[A] pleading that offers labels or conclusions' or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). To survive sua sponte screening for failure to state a claim[1], the complaint must allege "sufficient factual matter" to show that the claim is facially plausible. Fowler v. UPMS Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009) (citation omitted). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Belmont v. MB Inv. Partners, Inc., 708 F.3d 470, 483 n.17 (3d Cir. 2012) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). Moreover, while pro se pleadings are liberally construed, " pro se litigants still must allege sufficient facts in their complaints to support a claim." Mala v. Crown Bay Marina, Inc., 704 F.3d 239, 245 (3d Cir. 2013) (citation omitted) (emphasis added).


A. Federal Claims

Section 1983 of Title 42 of the United States Code provides a cause of action for violation of constitutional rights by a person acting under color of state law.[2] To recover under § 1983, a plaintiff must show two elements: (1) a person deprived him or caused him to be deprived of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States, and (2) the deprivation was done under color of state law. See West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).

As an initial matter, this Court will dismiss the Passaic County Jail as defendant. A county jail is not a "person" subject to suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 pursuant to Monell v. Dept. of Social Services of City of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 688-90 (1978). See Russell v. City Of Philadelphia, 428 F.Appx. 174, 177 (3d Cir. 2011); Powell v. Cook County Jail, 814 F.Supp. 757, 758 (N.D. Ill. 1993); McCoy v. Chesapeake Correctional Center, 788 F.Supp. 890, 893-894 (E.D. Va. 1992). Because a jail is not a person ...

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