United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
CHARLES T. HOYE, Plaintiff,
HAROLD CLARKE, et al., Defendants.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
JOEL C. HOPPE, Magistrate Judge.
This matter comes before the Court on the Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 24, and the Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File an Amended Complaint, ECF No. 33. The motions are before me by referral under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). ECF No. 34. The parties have fully briefed the matter and it is ripe for adjudication. Having considered the parties' pleadings, their briefs, and the applicable law, I find that there is not a genuine dispute of material fact and the Defendants are entitled to judgment as a matter of law. I also find that amending the Complaint would be futile. I therefore recommend that the presiding District Judge GRANT the Motion for Summary Judgment and DENY the Motion for Leave to File an Amended Complaint.
I. Standard of Review
Summary judgment is appropriate only if "there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); accord Tolan v. Cotton, ___ U.S. ___, 134 S.Ct. 1861, 1866 (2014) (per curiam). Facts are material when they "might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A genuine dispute over a material fact exists if "a reasonable jury could return a verdict in favor of the nonmoving party." Kolon Indus., Inc. v. E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., 748 F.3d 160, 173 (4th Cir. 2014) (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248).
"The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Appalachian Power Co. v. Arthur, ___ F.Supp.2d ___, 2014 WL 3900618, at *6 (W.D. Va. 2014) (Urbanski, J.) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986)). If the moving party makes that showing, the nonmoving party must then produce admissible evidence-not mere allegations or denials-establishing the specific material facts genuinely in dispute. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c), (e); Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007); Wilkins v. Montgomery, 751 F.3d 214, 220 (4th Cir. 2014). When deciding a summary judgment motion, the court must consider the whole record and draw all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Tolan, ___ U.S. ___, 134 S.Ct. at 1866. The court does not weigh evidence, consider credibility, or resolve disputed issues-it decides only whether the record reveals a genuine dispute over material facts. See id. "The court considers a pro se plaintiff's verified complaint as an affidavit that may defeat a motion for summary judgment when the allegations contained therein are based on personal knowledge." Miller v. Marsh, No. 7:11cv180, 2012 WL 844391, at *6 (W.D. Va. Mar. 12, 2012) (citing Williams v. Griffin, 952 F.2d 820, 823 (4th Cir. 1991)).
II. Procedural History and Facts
Charles T. Hoye, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, filed a verified Complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act ("RLUIPA"), the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), the Rehabilitation Act, and the Virginia Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act ("Virginia Act"). He also alleges that the Defendants retaliated against him because he filed a suit in state court. Hoye names as defendants Director of Virginia Department of Corrections ("VDOC") Harold Clarke, VDOC Regional Administrator Gary Bass, Warden of Coffeewood Correctional Center ("CCC") Samuel Pruett, CCC Assistant Warden I.T. Gilmore, CCC Reentry Manager R.W. Martin, CCC Institutional Programs Manager D. Gourdine, and CCC Food Service Administrator L.D. Moore (collectively "Defendants"). Compl. 6-10, ECF No. 1. He requests declaratory, equitable, and monetary relief against the Defendants in their individual and official capacities. Id. at 30-34.
In or around March 2012, CCC instituted Common Fare, a meal plan designed to provide food for inmates adhering to religious diets. Id. ¶¶ 5, 12; Gourdine Aff. Ex. A, at 1, ECF No. 25-1. Common Fare deviates in content and preparation from the standard ("main line") menu, which does not follow religious rules. Hoye is a practicing Traditional and Messianic Jew and was approved for Common Fare participation on or about September 26, 2012. Id. ¶¶ 12, 14. CCC has a practice of serving special meals on certain days of the year, such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, Memorial Day, and Labor Day. Id. ¶¶ 6, 7, 9. These meals feature larger portions and a greater variety of entrees and desserts. Id. In contrast to main line and other meal plans, Common Fare is not augmented on special meal days, but remains the same as on any other day. Id. ¶ 9.
In the summer of 2012, Hoye was diagnosed with Type II diabetes. Id. ¶ 13. A CCC physician prescribed Metformin twice daily and insulin by injection as needed. Id. The physician also approved him to partake in the diabetic diet, a 2, 000-calorie plan VDOC offers diabetics to help them regulate their insulin levels. Id. ; Def. Br. in Supp. 6, ECF No. 25; Sprecht Aff. ¶ 5, ECF No. 25-2. Hoye checks his blood sugar twice daily around 5:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. Compl. ¶ 15. CCC nurse Donna Sprecht, R.N., asserts, and Hoye does not refute, that he manages his own medication timing. Sprecht Aff. ¶ 6; see Pl. Br. in Opp. 20-23, ECF No. 32. Hoye should eat within one hour of taking Metformin to stabilize his insulin levels. Sprecht Aff. ¶ 6. At mealtimes during the relevant period, diabetic meals were served first, followed by main line, then Common Fare. Compl. ¶¶ 16, 17.
From May through November 2013, Hoye filed multiple grievances concerning the policies and actions of CCC administrators. On May 24, Hoye submitted an informal complaint requesting that there be a Common Fare option designed for diabetics, with appropriate food choices and mealtimes. Id. ¶18. Defendant L.D. Moore rejected Hoye's complaint. Id. ¶ 19. On August 12, Hoye submitted an informal complaint contending that not providing additional Common Fare food on special meal days discriminated against Common Fare participants based on their religious beliefs. Id. ¶ 20. A non-party administrator rejected his complaint. Id. ¶ 21.
On August 20 and 21, heavy fog enveloped CCC, requiring additional security measures that slowed breakfast service. Id. ¶ 22. On August 21, Hoye checked his blood sugar and took Metformin shortly after 5:00 a.m. Id. ¶ 23. Around 8:30 a.m., Hoye detected a drop in his blood sugar and began experiencing symptoms consistent with low blood sugar. Id. Hoye went to the dining room during main line service, explained his medical emergency to the supervisor, and took a main line meal. Id.
To partake in Common Fare, Hoye signed an agreement outlining eligibility requirements, one of which is abstaining from eating main line food. Gourdine Aff., Ex. B. The sanction for a first violation is a six-month suspension from Common Fare participation. Id. On September 18, Hoye had an administrative hearing before Gourdine concerning his violation of the Common Fare agreement for taking a meal from the main line. Gourdine Aff. ¶ 8; Compl. ¶ 25. Gourdine noted Hoye's medical condition, but nonetheless recommended that Hoye be suspended from Common Fare. Gourdine Aff. Ex. C. Gourdine's recommendation was forwarded to Martin for administrative review and approval. Gourdine Aff. Ex. C.
On August 29, Hoye submitted an Informal Complaint to defendant Gilmore, reiterating his request for a Common Fare diabetic option. Compl. ¶ 26. On September 3, Gilmore rejected Hoye's complaint. Id. ¶ 27. On September 10, Hoye lodged a formal complaint over the lack of extra food for Common Fare participants on special meal days, id. ¶ 30, and on September 26, Hoye lodged a formal complaint over the lack of a Common Fare diabetic option, id. ¶ 33. Nonparty CCC and VDOC administrators rejected both complaints. Id. ¶¶ 31-32, 34-35.
In early October, Hoye filed a lawsuit in the Circuit Court of Culpeper County, Virginia, requesting that the court declare illegal CCC's and VDOC's refusal to provide extra food or a Common Fare diabetic option. Id. ¶ 36; Hoye v. Va. Dep't of Corr., CL13001162-00 (Culpeper Cnty. Oct. 10, 2013). Hoye named as defendants VDOC Director Clarke, VDOC Regional Operations Chief Malcolm Taylor, and Warden Pruett. Compl. ¶ 37. The complaint was filed and summons issued on October 11, 2013. See Va. Court Case Info. Sys., Hoye v. Va. Dep't of Corr., CL13001162-00, available at http://ewsocis1.courts.state.va.us/CJISWeb/CaseDetail.do.
On October 15, Martin completed the administrative review of Hoye's hearing and approved Gourdine's suggested suspension. Gourdine Aff. Ex. C. Hoye was suspended from Common Fare for six months. Gourdine Aff. Exs. C, D; Compl. ¶ 38. Also on October 15, Hoye submitted an informal complaint alleging that his suspension from Common Fare was meant to interfere with or retaliate for filing the state suit. Compl. ¶ 39. Gourdine avers that Hoye was not removed from Common Fare because he filed a lawsuit. Gourdine Aff. ¶ 11.
On October 31, Hoye submitted a formal grievance to Warden Pruett claiming that his suspension from Common Fare was meant to interfere with or retaliate for filing the civil suit. Id. ¶ 43. Pruett found Hoye's grievance "unfounded." Id. ¶ 44. Hoye appealed to defendant Bass, who affirmed Pruett's decision on December 6. Id. ¶¶ 45-46.
On December 6, Correctional Supervisor R.L. Drake performed a detailed search of Hoye's person, property, and living area. Id. ¶ 47. On December 10, Drake charged Hoye with violating a rule while in the law library. Id. ¶¶ 48-49; Hoye Aff. Ex. F, ECF No. 32-1. Hoye was reviewing another inmate's court filing and Drake believed that accessing another inmate's computer account violated a rule. Hoye Aff. Ex. F. At a hearing on December 17, the hearing officer determined that there was no rule against Hoye's conduct and he was found not guilty. Id. ; Compl. ¶ 50.
In their brief in support of their Motion for Summary Judgment, the Defendants provide additional facts supported by affidavits and exhibits. Particularly pertinent is their description of Common Fare food preparation:
Common Fare meals are highly regulated and changes are not permitted to be made at the facility level. See Gourdine Aff. Enclosure A (Food Service Manual V. C.) Common Fare foods must be stored in designated areas away from the non Common Fare foods. Id . (Food Service Manual V. I.) Common Fare foods are regulated as to how, and how often, foods can be heated; foods cannot be reheated. Id . (Food Service Manual V. G.) Foods, other than fresh fruits and vegetables, are certified by a recognized Orthodox standard. Id . (Food Service Manual V. D.) All pans, lids, utensils, and other equipment are cleaned and handled in accordance with strict guidelines apart from the non Common Fare items and the food workers cannot handle both Common Fare and non Common Fare items at the same time. Id . (Food Service Manual V. J.) All Common Fare meals are placed on designated serving trays which are covered and placed in either a hot unit or refrigerated unit to keep the temperature constant. Id . (Food Service Manual V. L.) Pl. Br. ¶ 5. Nurse Sprecht also avers that the diabetic diet Hoye was approved for is not mandatory. Sprecht Aff. ¶ 5. If Hoye chooses not to eat the diabetic diet, "medical staff are available to assist and educate Hoye in making good and healthy food ...