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Baumgarten v. Howard County Department of Corrections

United States District Court, D. Maryland

February 25, 2015

JOSEPH L. BAUMGARTEN, III, Plaintiff
v.
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 and Jack Kavanagh, by counsel, have filed a motion for summary judgment.[1] ECF No. 28. Baumgarten has not filed a response.[2] No hearing is needed to resolve the issues presented.[3] See Local Rule 106.5 (D. Md. 2014). For reasons to follow defendants' motion for summary judgment IS GRANTED.

BACKGROUND

Baumgarten, currently confined at the Western Correctional Institution in Cumberland, Maryland, claims defendants hindered his religious practice while he was a detainee at the Howard County Detention Center ("Detention Center"). Baumgarten, who identifies himself as member of the Jewish faith alleges that he was repeatedly denied Kosher meals while housed at the Detention Center. ECF No. 1. As redress, he seeks monetary damages. Id.

I. Background

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[4] 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 previously 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 continued 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.

Defendants offer the following information in support of their motion for summary judgment. The Detention Center Inmate Handbook, provided to all persons confined at the Detention Center, sets out the applicable rules and regulations of the Detention Center. ECF No. 28, Ex. 2. Pursuant to Detention Center policy, all inmates and detainees are served three meals per day which are all pork-free. Id., Ex. 2, pp. 7-8; Ex. 3. Alternative diets are provided for medical or religious reasons. Id., Ex. 2, pp. 7-8; Ex 3, p. 2. A common fare, lacto-ovo vegetarian diet comprised of vegetables, fruit and "no-flesh" protein, is provided and was "designed as the foundation from which modifications [could] be made to accommodate the religious diets of various faiths." Id., Ex. 3, p. 1; Ex. 2, p. 8; Ex. 8. Defendants understand this diet conforms to the dietary requirements of various faiths, including the Kosher diet for Jewish inmates. Id., Exs. 9.

Additionally, defendants note that beyond the lacto-ovo diet, the Dietary Supervisor routinely has on hand pre-packaged Kosher meals purchased from an outside vendor. Id., Ex. 8; Ex. 9. The Detention Center also stocks canned goods and prepackaged Kosher foods or foods marked "pareve" which indicates the food could be served with either milk or meat meals. Id., Ex. 3. Defendants further offer that at times, Detention Center staff, including the Warden, have gone to local grocery stores to purchase items which were not on hand in order to accommodate special diets. Id., Exs. 8, 9 & 10.

Main line diets at the detention center contain approximately 2800 calories per day. Id., Exs. 8 & 9. The pre-packaged Kosher meals contain smaller portions than the regular meals prepared at the detention center and therefore are supplemented with bread, fruit and vegetables which are Kosher. Id., Ex. 8, Ex. 9. All meals for ...


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