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Tillman v. Allen

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

May 10, 2016

MICHAEL A. TILLMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
CHARLES H. ALLEN, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

James R. Spencer, Senior U.S. District Judge.

Michael A. Tillman, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed this civil action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.[1] The action proceeds on his Particularized Complaint (ECF No. 32). In the Particularized Complaint, Tillman argues that, during his incarceration at the Haynesville Correctional Center ("HCC"), Defendant Charles H. Allen, the Warden of HCC, has violated his right to practice his Wiccan religion. The Court construes Tillman to raise the following claims for relief:[2]

Claim One: Defendant Allen placed a substantial burden on Tillman's exercise of his religion in violation of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act ("RLUIPA")[3] by:

(a) failing to allow him to attend Wiccan congregational services and to celebrate Wiccan holidays;
(b) failing to allow him to partake in the Common Fare diet;
(c) failing to allow him to possess and use Wiccan religious objects;
(d) denying Tillman the ability to transfer back to Powhatan Correctional Center where he was able to practice Wicca; and,
(e) confiscating Tillman's religious property.

Claim Two: Defendant Allen violated Tillman's First Amendment[4] right to free exercise of his religion by:

(a) failing to allow him to attend Wiccan congregational services and to celebrate Wiccan holidays;
(b) failing to allow him to partake in the Common Fare diet;
(c) failing to allow him to possess and use Wiccan religious objects;
(d) denying Tillman the ability to transfer back to Powhatan Correctional Center where he was able to practice Wicca; and,
(e) confiscating Tillman's religious property.

The matter is now before the Court on Defendant Allen's Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 41.) Despite providing Tillman with appropriate Roseboro[5] notice, Tillman has not responded. This matter is ripe for judgment. For the reasons stated below, Defendant Allen's Motion for Summary Judgment will be GRANTED. Claims One (b), (c), and (e) and Claims Two (b), (c), and (e) will be DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE because Tillman failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. Defendant Allen does not meet his burden to demonstrate that Tillman failed to exhaust his administrative remedies for Claims One (a) and (d) and Claims Two (a) and (d). Nevertheless, these claims will be DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE because Tillman fails to demonstrate a violation of RLUIPA or his First Amendment rights.

I. SUMMARY JUDGMENT

A. 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)).

Defendant Allen asks the Court to dismiss Tillman's claims, inter alia, because Tillman failed to exhaust his administrative remedies as required by 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). Because the exhaustion of administrative remedies is an affirmative defense, Defendant Allen bears the burden of pleading and proving lack of exhaustion. Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 216 (2007). In support of his Motion for Summary Judgment, Defendant Allen submits: (1) his own affidavit (Mem. Supp. Mot. Summ. J. Ex. I ("Allen Aff."), ECF No. 42-1); (2) the affidavit of Rose T. Brown, the Grievance Coordinator at HCC (Id. Ex. II ("Brown Aff), ECF No. 42-2); (3) a copy of Virginia Department of Corrections ("VDOC") Operating Procedure § 866.1 (id. Encl. A ("Operating Procedure § 866.1"));[6] (4) copies of grievances material submitted by Tillman (id Encl. B-F); (5) the affidavit of L. Baker, the Property ...


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