United States District Court, D. Maryland
J. FREDERICK MOTZ, District Judge.
In this court's July 21, 2014 memorandum and order defendant's motion to dismiss or for summary judgment was denied without prejudice and defendant was directed to either supplement the motion or inform the court of his expectation of the length of trial. ECF 35 and 36. Defendant supplemented the motion to dismiss or for summary judgment asserting that even if the prison policy concerning meal delivery during Ramadan was violated, plaintiff had failed to state a constitutional claim as he suffered no ill health effects as a result and the meal delivery as practiced did not substantially impact on plaintiff's religious freedom. ECF 49. Plaintiff filed a motion to strike the supplemental pleading and, in the alternative, seeks additional time to conduct discovery in order to oppose the motion. ECF 51.
Plaintiff's allegations were previously summarized as follows:
Plaintiff asserts that defendant, Bobby Shearin, former-Warden of North Branch Correctional Institution (NBCI), owed him a duty of care to: provide him with three "wholesome, nutritious, well-prepared, and adequate meals a day; avoid imposing a substantial burden on his religious practices; and review his administrative remedy procedure (ARP) submissions and address them in accordance with procedures outlined in applicable Division of Correction Directives (DCD). ECF 1 at pp. 2-3. Plaintiff claims Shearin breached all of these duties by violating plaintiff's constitutional rights as well as state and federal statutory law.
Plaintiff claims Shearin implemented a policy of "starving inmates of the Islamic faith who participate in fasting during the holy month of Ramadan." ECF 1 at p. 3. Plaintiff claims Shearin did this by "only providing" Islamic inmates with "one wholesome meal per day." Id. Plaintiff further asserts that Shearin forced Islamic inmates to "either forfeit the benefits of being on the institutional Ramadan roster and try to fast alone, or abandoning fasting altogether in violation of... RUILPA." Id. citing 42 U.S.C. §2000cc et seq.
ECF 35 at pp. 1-2. Plaintiff further claimed that his administrative remedy procedure complaints (ARP) regarding the failure to provide him with a lunch meal with his were improperly denied on the basis that it was his "choice" to fast. ECF 1 at p. 7. Plaintiff further claimed that he had to abandon the religious fast because he suffered weight loss, severe hunger pangs, light headedness, headaches, and emotional distress. Id. at p. 4.
Summary judgment was denied without prejudice because defendant failed to address the fact the policy in place regarding Ramadan meals was not followed during the prison lockdown at North Branch Correctional Institution (NBCI). This failure was memorialized in an ARP response from Assistant Commissioner Randy Watson submitted by plaintiff with his response in opposition which stated in part, "the dietary department has since made changes to ensure that the participants in the fast during Ramadan will be given additional food items for dinner to bring them up to a required calorie intake for the day." ECF 25 at p. 5 (emphasis supplied). In addition, plaintiff submitted affidavits from other Ramadan participants confirming his assertion that adequate amounts of food were not being supplied. Id. at pp. 3-4 and 6-8.
Standard of Review
Motion to Strike
A motion to strike is governed by Fed. R. of Civ. Proc. 12(f) which permits the court to "strike from a pleading an insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter" on a motion by a party or sua sponte. Plaintiff asserts that defendant's supplemetal motion for summary judgment should be struck because it raises new matters not addressed in the original motion. He further argues that this court's discretion is limited under Fed. R. of Civ. Proc. 56(e) regarding failure to properly support or address a fact as required by Fed. R. of Civ. Proc. 56(c). Plaintiff takes the position that defendant's failure to address the violation of the prison policy regarding Ramadan meals limited this court's options in fashioning an order requiring further pleadings. ECF 51.
This court ordered defendant to address the fact that policy was not followed. That directive is permitted by Fed. R. of Civ. Proc. 56(e) and plaintiff's assertions that defendant's supplemental motion is subject to strike is erroneous. The motion to strike will be denied.
Discovery Before Summary Judgment
Ordinarily, summary judgment is inappropriate "where the parties have not had an opportunity for reasonable discovery." E.I. du Pont, supra, 637 F.3d at 448-49. However, "the party opposing summary judgment cannot complain that summary judgment was granted without discovery unless that party has made an attempt to oppose the motion on the grounds that more time was needed for discovery.'" Harrods Ltd. v. Sixty Internet Domain Names, 302 F.3d 214, 244 (4th Cir. 2002) (quoting Evans v. Techs. Applications & Serv. Co., 80 F.3d 954, 961 (4th Cir. 1996)). To raise adequately the issue that discovery is needed, the non-movant typically must file an affidavit or declaration pursuant to Rule 56(d) (formerly Rule 56(f)), explaining why, "for specified reasons, it cannot present facts essential to justify its opposition, " without needed discovery. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(d); see Harrods, 302 F.3d at 244-45 (discussing affidavit requirement of former Rule 56(f)) Notably, "Rule 56(d) affidavits cannot simply demand discovery for the sake of discovery.'" Hamilton v. Mayor & City Council of Baltimore, 807 F.Supp.2d 331, 342 (D. Md. 2011) (quoting Young v. UPS, No. DKC-08-2586, 2011 WL 665321, at *20, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 14266, at *62 (D. Md. Feb. 14, 2011)). "Rather, to justify a denial of summary judgment on the grounds that additional discovery is necessary, the facts identified in a Rule 56 affidavit must be essential to [the] opposition.'" Scott v. Nuvell Fin. Servs., LLC, 789 F.Supp.2d 637, 641 (D. Md. 2011) (alteration in original) (citation omitted). A non-moving party's Rule 56(d) request for additional discovery is properly denied "where the additional evidence sought for discovery would not have by itself created a genuine issue of material fact sufficient to defeat summary judgment." Strag v. Bd. of Trs., Craven Cmty. Coll., 55 F.3d 943, 954 (4th Cir. 1995); see Amirmokri v. Abraham, 437 F.Supp.2d 414, 420 (D. Md. 2006), aff'd, 266 F.Appx. 274 (4th Cir.), cert. denied, 555 U.S. 885 (2008).
If a non-moving party believes that further discovery is necessary before consideration of summary judgment, the party fails to file a Rule 56(d) affidavit at his peril, because "the failure to file an affidavit... is itself sufficient grounds to reject a claim that the opportunity for discovery was inadequate.'" Harrods, 302 F.3d at 244 (citations omitted). But, the non-moving party's failure to file a Rule 56(d) affidavit cannot obligate a court to issue a summary judgment ruling that is obviously premature. Although the Fourth Circuit has placed "great weight'" on the Rule 56(d) affidavit, and has said that a mere "reference to Rule 56(f) [now Rule 56(d)] and the need for additional discovery in a memorandum of law in opposition to a motion for summary judgment is not an adequate substitute for [an] affidavit, '" the appellate court has "not always insisted" on a Rule 56(d) affidavit. Id. (internal citations omitted). According to the Fourth Circuit, failure to file an affidavit may be excused "if the nonmoving party has adequately informed the district court that the ...