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Powers v. Clarke

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division

December 9, 2014

JAMES POWERS, Plaintiff,
v.
HAROLD CLARKE, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION (GRANTING DEFENDANTS' SUPPLEMENTAL MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT)

HENRY E. HUDSON, District Judge.

James Powers, a former Virginia prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.[1] Powers is a member of the Nation of Gods and Earths ("NGE"). The Virginia Department of Corrections ("VDOC") has classified the NGE as "a gang rather than [as] a spiritual group." (Compl. ¶ 12.) In 2011, Powers wrote a letter seeking to have the VDOC recognize the NGE as a religion. ( Id. ¶ 11.) Powers's request was denied "based on the NGE being classified [as] a gang." ( Id. ¶ 10.) Powers contends that this classification has placed a "substantial burden on Plaintiff " ( Id. ¶ 12.) The VDOC policy of labeling NGE as a gang precludes Powers from receiving spiritual literature, namely The Five Percenter Newspaper. ( Id. ¶ 14.) Powers names Harold Clarke, the Director of the VDOC, and Layton T. Lester, the Warden of Lunenburg Correctional Center, as defendants. Powers lists the following claims for relief:

Claim 1 The Defendants' policy of labeling the NGE as a gang instead of a religion violates Powers's rights under:
(a) The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act ("RLUIPA");[2]
(b) The Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment;[3]
(c) The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment; and,
(d) The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.[4]
Claim 2 "The Defendants failure to comply with [VDOC] regulation requiring them to process request for DOC recognition of religion form violated James Powers' rights under..." ( Id. ¶ 21.)[5]
(a) RLUIPA;
(b) The Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment;
(c) The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment; and,
(d) The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Claim 3 "The Defendant Harold Clarke by upholding and enforcing a blanket ban on publications and literature relating to the Nation of Gods and Earths violates plaintiff James Powers' rights under...:" ( Id. ¶ 22.)
(a) RLUIPA;
(b) The Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment;
(c) The Establishment Clause of the First ...

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