United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
CHARLES T. HOYE, Plaintiff,
HAROLD CLARKE, et al., Defendant.
MICHAEL F. URBANSKI, District Judge.
Pro se plaintiff Charles T. Hoye brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging various violations of the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution, Article One of the Constitution of Virginia, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act ("RLUIPA"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-1, the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101, the Rehabilitation Act ("RA"), 29 U.S.C. § 701, and the Virginians with Disabilities Act ("VDA"), Va. Code § 51.5-1. Defendants are the Director of the Virginia Department of Corrections, Harold Clarke; Virginia Department of Corrections 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 Instititional Programs Manager, D. Gourdine; and CCC Food Service Administrator, L.D. Moore (collectively "defendants"). Hoye claims the defendants' failure to provide extra food on special meal days to prisoners participating in the Common Fare program violates his right to free exercise of religion, right to due process and equal protection under the law, and his rights under RLUIPA. Hoye also maintains that defendants' failure to provide a Common Fare diabetic option violates his right to free exercise of religion, right to due process and equal protection under the law, and rights under the ADA, VDA, RA, and RLUIPA. Finally, Hoye also alleges that the defendants retaliated against him after he filed suit in state court. Defendants moved for summary judgment, Hoye filed a brief in opposition, and this matter was referred to the Honorable Joel C. Hoppe, United States Magistrate Judge, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B), for proposed findings of fact and a recommended disposition. The magistrate judge filed a report and recommendation on February 27, 2015 recommending that defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, Dkt. No. 24, be granted and plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File an Amended Complaint, Dkt. No. 33, be denied. The report gave notice to the parties that they had fourteen days within which to file any objections. No objections were filed in that time period, and by Order entered March 20, 2015, the court adopted the magistrate judge's recommendation, granted summary judgment in favor of defendants, and dismissed this case. Hoye v. Clarke, No. 7:14cv00124, 2015 WL 1276913 (W.D. Va. Mar. 20, 2015).
On March 26, 2015, Hoye filed objections to the magistrate judge's report and recommendation. Dkt. No. 40. On April 2, 2015, Hoye filed a Motion for Reconsideration of the court's Order adopting the report and recommendation. Dkt. No. 41. In his Motion for Reconsideration, Hoye asserts that he timely filed his objections because he did not receive a copy of the report and recommendation until March 5, 2015 and mailed his objections on March 19, 2015. Hoye maintains that since the report and recommendation was not "served" on him until March 5, he had fourteen days from the date he physically received the report and recommendation to file his objections. Dkt. No. 41 at *2-3.
After the report and recommendation was entered on February 27, the parties had fourteen days after being served with a copy to file any objections. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C). Despite Hoye's argument to the contrary, pursuant to Rule 5(b)(2)(C) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, service is complete upon mailing a paper to the person's last known address. Because service was made by mail in this case, the court adds three additional days to the calculation of the time to respond. Fed.R.Civ.P. 6(d). Accordingly, objections to the report and recommendation were due no later than March 16, 2015. Thus, Hoye's objections were not timely filed. "In the absence of a timely filed objection, a district court need not conduct a de novo review, but instead must satisfy itself that there is no clear error on the face of the record in order to accept the recommendation." Diamond v. Colonial Life & Accident Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005).
Given the fact that Hoye is proceeding pro se, however, the court will GRANT Hoye's Motion for Reconsideration, VACATE its March 20th Dismissal Order, and consider Hoye's objections. Finding they have no merit, the objections will be OVERRULED, the magistrate judge's report and recommendation ADOPTED, defendants' motion for summary judgment GRANTED, and this case DISMISSED for the reasons set forth below.
Rule 72(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure permits a party to "serve and file specific, written objections" to a magistrate judge's proposed findings and recommendations within fourteen days of being served with a copy of the report. See also 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). The Fourth Circuit has held that an objecting party must do so "with sufficient specificity so as reasonably to alert the district court of the true ground for the objection." United States v. Midgette, 478 F.3d 616, 622 (4th Cir. 2007).
To conclude otherwise would defeat the purpose of requiring objections. We would be permitting a party to appeal any issue that was before the magistrate judge, regardless of the nature and scope of objections made to the magistrate judge's report. Either the district court would then have to review every issue in the magistrate judge's proposed findings and recommendations or courts of appeals would be required to review issues that the district court never considered. In either case, judicial resources would be wasted and the district court's effectiveness based on help from magistrate judges would be undermined.
Id. The district court must determine de novo any portion of the magistrate judge's report and recommendation to which a proper objection has been made. "The district court may accept, reject, or modify the recommended disposition; receive further evidence; or return the matter to the magistrate judge with instructions." Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3); accord 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).
If, however, a party "makes general or conclusory objections that do not direct the court to a specific error in the magistrate judge's proposed findings and recommendations, '" de novo review is not required. Diprospero v. Colvin, No. 5:13-cv-00088-FDW-DSC, 2014 WL 1669806, at *1 (W.D. N.C. Apr. 28, 2014) (quoting Howard Yellow Cabs, Inc. v. United States, 987 F.Supp. 469, 474 (W.D. N.C. 1997) (quoting Orpiano v. Johnson, 687 F.2d 44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982))). "The court will not consider those objections by the plaintiff that are merely conclusory or attempt to object to the entirety of the Report, without focusing the court's attention on specific errors therein." Camper v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., No. 4:08cv69, 2009 WL 9044111, at *2 (E.D. Va. May 6, 2009); see Midgette, 478 F.3d at 621 ("Section 636(b)(1) does not countenance a form of generalized objection to cover all issues addressed by the magistrate judge; it contemplates that a party's objection to a magistrate judge's report be specific and particularized, as the statute directs the district court to review only those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made.'"). Such general objections "have the same effect as a failure to object, or as a waiver of such objection." Moon v. BWX Technologies, 742 F.Supp.2d 827, 829 (W.D. Va. 2010), aff'd, 498 F.Appx. 268 (4th Cir. 2012); see also Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 154 (1985) ("[T]he statute does not require the judge to review an issue de novo if no objections are filed").
Additionally, objections that simply reiterate arguments raised before the magistrate judge are considered to be general objections to the entirety of the report and recommendation. See Veney v. Astrue, 539 F.Supp.2d 841, 844-45 (W.D. Va. 2008). As the court noted in Veney:
Allowing a litigant to obtain de novo review of [his] entire case by merely reformatting an earlier brief as an objection "mak[es] the initial reference to the magistrate useless. The functions of the district court are effectively duplicated as both the magistrate and the district court perform identical tasks. This duplication of time and effort wastes judicial resources rather than saving them, and runs contrary to the purposes of the Magistrates Act." Howard [v. Sec'y of Health & Human Serv.], 932 F.2d [505, ]  509 [(6th Cir. 1991)].
539 F.Supp.2d at 846. A plaintiff who reiterates his previously-raised arguments will not be given "the second bite at the apple he seeks;" instead, his re-filed brief will be treated as a general objection, which has the same effect as would a failure to object. Id.
Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a), the court must "grant summary judgment 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); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Glynn v. EDO Corp., 710 F.3d 209, 213 (4th Cir. 2014). When making this determination, the court should consider "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with... [any] affidavits" filed by the parties. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. Whether a fact is material depends on the relevant substantive law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). "Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment. Factual disputes that are irrelevant or unnecessary will not be counted." Id . (citation omitted). The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. If that burden has been met, the non-moving party must then come forward and establish the specific material facts in dispute to survive summary judgment. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986).
In determining whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, the court views the facts and draws all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Glynn, 710 F.3d at 213 (citing Bonds v. Leavitt, 629 F.3d 369, 380 (4th Cir. 2011)). Indeed, "[i]t is an axiom that in ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the evidence of the nonmovant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in [her] favor.'" McAirlaids, Inc. v. Kimberly-Clark Corp., No. 13-2044, 2014 WL 2871492, at *1 (4th Cir. June 25, 2014) (internal alteration omitted) (citing Tolan v. Cotton, 134 S.Ct. 1861, 1863 (2014) (per curiam)). Moreover, "[c]redibility determinations, the weighing of the evidence, and the drawing of legitimate inferences from the facts are jury functions, not those of a judge...." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. However, the non-moving party "must set forth specific facts that go beyond the mere existence of a scintilla of evidence.'" Glynn, 710 F.3d at 213 (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252). Instead, the non-moving party must show that "there is sufficient evidence favoring the non[-]moving party for a jury to return a verdict for that party." Res. Bankshares Corp. v. St. Paul Mercury Ins. Co., 407 F.3d 631, 635 (4th Cir. 2005) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249). "In other words, to grant summary judgment the Court must determine that no reasonable jury could find for the non[-]moving party on the evidence before it." Moss v. Parks Corp., 985 F.2d 736, 738 (4th Cir. 1993) (citing Perini Corp. v. Perini Constr., Inc., 915 F.2d 121, 124 (4th Cir. 1990)).
In his objections to the magistrate judge's report and recommendation, Hoye concedes all claims under Counts One and Two of the Complaint. See Dkt. No. 40 at *6, *13-15. Hoye objects to the magistrate judge's findings as to Counts Three, Four, Five, and Six. The magistrate judge addressed Hoye's claims in the following manner: (A) Free Exercise; (B) RLUIPA; (C); Equal Protection; (D) Due Process; (E) ADA, ...