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Douglas v. Clarke

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

February 27, 2015

LAMONT O. DOUGLAS, Plaintiff,
v.
HAROLD CLARKE, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

JOHN A. GIBNEY, Jr., District Judge.

Lamont O. Douglas, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed this civil action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983[1] arguing that Defendants[2] violated his First[3] and Fourteenth[4] Amendment rights. In his Complaint (ECF No. 1), Douglas argues entitlement to relief on the following grounds:

Claim One: Defendants violated his right to due process when Defendants refused to permit him to possess prayer oil in segregation.
Claim Two: Defendants violated his First Amendment right to free exercise when they refused to allow him prayer oil in segregation.
Claim Three: Defendants denied him access to the courts by denying him a postage loan to mail a notice of tort claim by certified mail to the Division of Risk Management.

Douglas requests injunctive, declaratory, and monetary relief. Defendants have moved for summary judgment. (ECF No. 22.) Douglas has responded. (ECF Nos. 25-26.) This matter is ripe for judgment. For the reasons stated below, Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment will be GRANTED.

I. STANDARD FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

Summary judgment must be rendered "if the movant shows that 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). It is the responsibility of the party seeking summary judgment to inform the court of the basis for the motion, and to identify the parts of the record which demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). "[W]here the nonmoving party will bear the burden of proof at trial on a dispositive issue, a summary judgment motion may properly be made in reliance solely on the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file." Id. at 324 (internal quotation marks omitted). When the motion is properly supported, the nonmoving party must go beyond the pleadings and, by citing affidavits or "depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, ' designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Id. (quoting former Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c) and 56(e) (1986)).

In reviewing a summary judgment motion, the court "must draw all justifiable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party." United States v. Carolina Transformer Co., 978 F.2d 832, 835 (4th Cir. 1992) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986)). However, a mere scintilla of evidence will not preclude summary judgment. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251 (citing Improvement Co. v. Munson, 81 U.S. (14 Wall.) 442, 448 (1872)). "[T]here is a preliminary question for the judge, not whether there is literally no evidence, but whether there is any upon which a jury could properly proceed to find a verdict for the party... upon whom the onus of proof is imposed.'" Id (quoting Munson, 81 U.S. at 448). Additionally, "Rule 56 does not impose upon the district court a duty to sift through the record in search of evidence to support a party's opposition to summary judgment.'" Forsyth v. Barr, 19 F.3d 1527, 1537 (5th Cir. 1994) (quoting Skotak v. Tenneco Resins, Inc., 953 F.2d 909, 915 n.7 (5th Cir. 1992)); see Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3) ("The court need consider only the cited materials....").

In support of their Motion for Summary Judgment, Defendants submit: (1) the affidavit of Eddie Pearson, the former Warden of Sussex I State Prison ("Sussex") (Mem. Supp. Mot. Summ. J. Ex I ("Pearson Aff."), ECF No. 23-1); (2) a copy of Virginia Department of Corrections ("VDOC") Operating Procedure § 861.3, Special Housing ( id. Encl. A), and VDOC Operating Procedure § 802.1, Offender Property ( id. Encl. B); (3) the affidavit of J. Boone, the Assistant Warden at Sussex ( Id. Ex. II ("Boone Aff'), ECF No. 23-3); (4) the affidavit of R. Wallace, a former Housing Unit Manager at Sussex ( id Ex. III ("Wallace Aff."), ECF No. 23-4); (5) the affidavit of Harold Clarke, the Director of the VDOC ( id Ex. IV ("Clarke Aff."), ECF No. 23-5); (6) the affidavit of P. Spivey, the Business Manager at Sussex ( id. Ex. V ("Spivey Aff."), ECF No. 23-6); and (7) a copy of VDOC Operating Procedure § 803.1, Offender Correspondence ( id Encl. A).

Douglas filed an unsworn Memorandum in Support of Plaintiff's Opposition of Defendants Summary Judgment Motion and a sworn "Affidavit of Truth" ("Douglas Aff., " ECF No. 26-1), however, he stated as follows: "I Lamont O. Douglas state that I am the affiant in this affidavit and know the contents of the above facts, that they are true of my own knowledge except as to those matters that are stated to be based on belief and information, and as to those matters, I believe them to be true." (Douglas Aff. 5.) Douglas provided a similar statement in his Complaint. (Compl. 9.) Such a statement fails to transform the allegations in the affidavit or Complaint into admissible evidence. Hogge v. Stephens, No. 3:09CV582, 2011 WL 2161100, at *2-3 & n.5 (E.D. Va. June 1, 2011) (treating statements sworn to under penalty of perjury, but made upon information and belief as "mere pleading allegations' (quoting Walker v. Tyler Cnty. Comm'n, 11 F.Appx. 270, 274 (4th Cir. 2011))). Douglas's Complaint and affidavit also contain legal conclusions and matters upon which Douglas has no personal knowledge, and fails to comply with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c)(4).[5] While it is doubtful that Douglas's submissions constitute admissible evidence, the Court nevertheless, considers both the Complaint and the Affidavit of Truth in assessing the propriety of entering summary judgment.

Accordingly, the following facts are established for the Motion for Summary Judgment. The Court draws all permissible inferences in favor of Douglas.

II. ...


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