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Baumgarten v. Howard County Department of Corrections

United States District Court, D. Maryland

March 6, 2014

JOSEPH L. BAUMGARTEN, III, Plaintiff,
v.
HOWARD COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, et al., Defendants

MEMORANDUM

J. FREDERICK MOTZ, District Judge.

Pending is self-represented plaintiff Joseph L. Baumgarten, III's complaint under 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 (ECF No. 1). Defendants Howard County Department of Corrections, Jack Kavanagh, and Officer Ogunsola, by counsel, have filed a motion to dismiss. ECF No. 7. Baumgarten has responded[1] (ECF Nos. 12 & 15) and defendants have replied (ECF No. 13). No hearing is needed to resolve the issues presented. See Local Rule 106.5 (D. Md. 2011). For reasons to follow defendants' motion to dismiss IS GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART.

BACKGROUND

In this complaint, Baumgarten, currently confined at the Maryland Reception and Diagnostic Center in Baltimore, Maryland, claims defendants hindered his religious practice while he was a detainee at the Howard County Detention Center. Baumgarten, who identifies himself as member of the Jewish faith alleges that he was repeatedly denied Kosher meals while housed at the Howard County Detention Center. ECF No. 1. As redress, he seeks monetary damages. Id.

I. Background

This court reviews the facts and all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007); Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). That review liberally construes plaintiff's pleadings in light of the fact that he is proceeding pro se.

Baumgarten, claims that on February 3, 2013, he wrote to Howard County Department of Corrections for "repeatedly giving [him] non-Kosher food." He was advised on February 13, 2013 that "it [would] be sorted out." On March 29, 2013, he again wrote to the Department of Corrections indicating he was still not being served Kosher food. He received a response on April 8, 2013, indicating that "Due to the issues/work being done in the kitchen during this time period... everyone received bag meals. This was an unavoidable situation." ECF No. 1.

Baumgarten further alleges that on April 8, 2013, at breakfast he was given a regular meal. Lt. Glover advised him that a Kosher meal was not available but they could substitute a lunch or a dinner for a breakfast meal. Baumgarten states he never received the substitute meal. Baumgarten states that the response to his grievance was that dietary indicated he had received a Kosher breakfast. An additional Kosher breakfast was ordered and "should" be delivered in a few days. Id.

On April 10, 2013, Baumgarten states that Defendant Ogunsola was handing out breakfast when Baumgarten advised him that he was to get a juice with breakfast. Ogunsola advised that he would need to verify plaintiff's statements. He took the tray and returned with another non-Kosher meal which looked like it had been "thrown across the room." The response to Baumgarten's grievance was that "this was an unfortunate incident. Measures are being taken to ensure this doesn't happen again." Id.

Baumgarten avers that he personally spoke with Kavanagh who indicated he would meet Baumgarten's religious needs for Kosher meals and advised Baumgarten to stop filing grievances regarding the issue. ECF No. 12. Baumgarten has also provided the court several, but not all, of the grievances he filed regarding his efforts to be provided Kosher meals. Id., Exhibits. The grievance dated February 3, 2013, specified that Baumgarten is Jewish. He states that he has been at the detention center since January 18, 2013. The grievance is difficult to read but appears to indicate that despite it being noted he was to get a Kosher meal he had not been provided one for approximately a week. The response to the grievance indicates that someone met with Baumgarten and "a number of the issues (or failures') have been addressed. At a meeting it was determined the tray would be Styrofoam. Otherwise items on the menu have been reviewed for the proper kosher markings." Id.

The next grievance form provided by Baumgarten, dated March 29, 2013, indicates that he had lost 30 pounds since his arrival at the Detention Center and was continuing to have difficulty receiving the approved Kosher meals. Id., p. 2. The notes regarding efforts at informal resolution indicate, "Ms. Johnson said he get regular meal!"(sic) Further review indicated that there was work being done in the kitchen which resulted in everyone getting bagged meals and "the situation was unavoidable." Id.

In a grievance dated April 8, 2013, Baumgarten indicated he failed to receive a Kosher breakfast meal. Despite being advised a substitute would be provided, none was. Further review indicated that Ms. Anthony in dietary stated Baumgarten had received a Kosher breakfast and that additional kosher breakfasts had not been ordered but should be delivered in a few days. Id., p. 3. The grievance dated April 10, 2013, is illegible but the response indicates "an unfortunate incident. Measures are being taken to ensure this doesn't happen again." Id., p. 4. Baumgarten indicates he filed other complaints but does not have copies of same. Id.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Defendants seek to dismiss plaintiff's action pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. In reviewing the complaint, the court accepts all well-pleaded allegations of the complaint as true and construes the facts and reasonable inferences derived therefrom in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.[2] Venkatraman v. REI Sys., Inc., 417 F.3d 418, 420 (4th Cir. 2005); Ibarra v. United States, 120 F.3d 472, 473 (4th Cir. 1997); Mylan Labs., Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993). Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires only a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Migdal v. Rowe Price-Fleming Int'l Inc., 248 F.3d ...


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