United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
K. MOON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Maxwell, a Rastafarian inmate proceeding pro se,
filed a complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Maxwell
names five defendants: Harold Clarke, the Director of the
Virginia Department of Corrections (“VDOC”); A.
David Robinson, the Chief of Corrections Operations for the
VDOC; Terry Glen, an administrator for VDOC's contracts;
Henry Ponton, a VDOC Regional Administrator; and Leslie
Fleming, the Warden of the VDOC's Wallens Ridge State
Prison (“WRSP”). Maxwell alleges that the
defendants violated the Fourteenth Amendment, the Religious
Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act
(“RLUIPA”), and the Code of the United States
Virgin Islands (“USVI”) by confining him in
segregation for two years. Defendants filed a motion for
summary judgment, and Maxwell responded. Upon consideration
of this action, I conclude that the defendants are not liable
because they are entitled to qualified immunity and none of
the defendants' personal acts or omissions are
responsible for the alleged deprivations. Consequently, I
will grant their motion for summary judgment.
a native and convict of the USVI, was transferred from the
USVI and into the VDOC pursuant to a contract between the
VDOC and USVI to house USVI inmates in VDOC facilities (the
“Contract”). Maxwell complains that he was housed
in segregation without cause from approximately July 2013
until July 2015.
began his stay in segregation in July 2013 after a
correctional officer charged him with assaulting another
inmate. Maxwell was not convicted of the institutional charge
but nevertheless remained assigned to segregation for two
years. In the complaint, Maxwell does not identify who
ordered his continued segregation, but documents show that
none of the defendants ordered his continued segregation.
However, Maxwell blames the former warden of WRSP for his
two-year confinement in segregation, but defendant Fleming
actually ordered Maxwell released from segregation upon
becoming Warden of WRSP. A couple of weeks after being
released from segregation, a corrections officer
“thought” he saw Maxwell use gang signs and
charged him with using gang codes. Based on the officer's
testimony that he thought he saw Maxwell use gang signs, the
hearings officer convicted Maxwell of the institutional
charge, and Maxwell returned to segregation for forty-five
days until August 10, 2015, which was shortly before Maxwell
commenced this action.
alleges that, as a consequence of being in segregation, he
had a diminished ability to practice his religion, had
limited or no access to educational or rehabilitative
classes, and was limited to three showers a week and three
hours of recreation each day. To support his religion claim,
Maxwell argues that segregation prevented him from observing
his Rastafarian holy days and using congo drums during
religious service, and he complains that the services were
not led by a Rastafarian “priest.” Consequently,
Maxwell argues that the conditions he experienced for two
years in segregation violate the Fourteenth Amendment, the
RLUIPA, the contract between the VDOC and the USVI, and 5 VIC
§ 4503. Maxwell seeks declaratory relief, a transfer
back to the USVI, and damages.
filed a motion for summary judgment arguing, inter
alia, the defense of qualified immunity. Qualified
immunity permits “government officials performing
discretionary functions . . . [to be] shielded from liability
for civil damages insofar as their conduct does not violate
clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of
which a reasonable person would have known.” Harlow
v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982). Once a
defendant raises the qualified immunity defense, a plaintiff
bears the burden to show that a defendant's conduct
violated the plaintiff's right. Bryant v. Muth,
994 F.2d 1082, 1086 (4th Cir. 1993).
is entitled to summary judgment if the pleadings, the
discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any
affidavits show that there is no genuine dispute as to any
material fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Material facts are those
necessary to establish the elements of a party's cause of
action. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S.
242, 248 (1986). A genuine issue of material fact exists if,
in viewing the record and all reasonable inferences drawn
therefrom in a light most favorable to the non-moving party,
a reasonable fact-finder could return a verdict for the
non-movant. Id. The moving party has the burden of
showing - “that is, pointing out to the district court
- that there is an absence of evidence to support the
nonmoving party's case.” Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986). If the movant
satisfies this burden, then the non-movant must set forth
specific, admissible facts that demonstrate the existence of
a genuine issue of fact for trial. Id. at 322-23. A
party is entitled to summary judgment if the record as a
whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find in
favor of the non-movant. Williams v. Griffin, 952
F.2d 820, 823 (4th Cir. 1991); see Ennis v. Nat'l
Ass'n of Bus. & Educ. Radio, Inc., 53 F.3d 55,
62 (4th Cir. 1995) (“Mere unsupported speculation . . .
is not enough to defeat a summary judgment motion.”).
However, summary judgment is not appropriate where the
ultimate factual conclusions to be drawn are in dispute.
Overstreet v. Ky. Cent. Life Ins. Co., 950 F.2d 931,
937 (4th Cir. 1991). A court may not resolve disputed facts,
weigh the evidence, or make determinations of credibility.
Russell v. Microdyne Corp., 65 F.3d 1229, 1239 (4th
Cir. 1995); Sosebee v. Murphy, 797 F.2d 179, 182
(4th Cir. 1986). Instead, a court accepts as true the
evidence of the non-moving party and resolves all internal
conflicts and inferences in the non-moving party's favor.
Charbonnages de France v. Smith, 597 F.2d 406, 414
(4th Cir. 1979).
are entitled to qualified immunity and summary judgment
because Maxwell fails to establish that any defendant was
personally involved in the alleged deprivation of rights. To
state a cause of action under § 1983, a plaintiff must
establish a deprivation of rights guaranteed by the
Constitution and that this deprivation resulted from conduct
committed by a person acting under color of state law.
West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42 (1988). Consequently, a
plaintiff must affirmatively allege that the named defendants
were personally involved in the alleged violations of his
constitutional rights. See, e.g.,
Garraghty v. Va. Dep't of Corr., 52 F.3d 1274,
1280 (4th Cir. 1995); Wright v. Collins, 766 F.2d
841, 850 (4th Cir. 1985); Barrow v. Bounds, 98 F.2d
1397 (4th Cir. 1974). However, Maxwell states his claims in
generalities and does not describe how any defendant was
personally involved in any alleged deprivation.
names Clarke and Robinson as defendants merely because they
are executives of the VDOC. A government official may not be
held liable via § 1983 for the unconstitutional conduct
of their subordinates under a theory of respondeat
superior. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 676
(2009); Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S.
658, 691 (1978). Likewise, Maxwell names Glenn as a defendant
because Glenn administers VDOC contracts, ostensibly
including the contract between the VDOC and USVI, but Maxwell
fails to associate Glenn with any personal act or omission
that resulted in an alleged deprivation of federal rights.
“Because vicarious liability is inapplicable to Bivens
and § 1983 suits, a plaintiff must plead that each
Government-official defendant, through the official's own
individual actions, has violated the Constitution.”
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 676. Maxwell has failed to do so
for Clarke, Robinson, and Glenn.
names Ponton and Fleming as defendants because they allegedly
denied Maxwell's request for a transfer. Their alleged
denials of transfer requests do not create a cognizable claim
via § 1983 because inmates do not have a
constitutionally-protected right to choose where they are
housed. See, e.g., Olim v. Wakinekona, 461
U.S. 238, 247-48 (1983); Meachum v. Fano, 427 U.S.
215, 224-25 (1976). Accordingly, Maxwell fails to establish
how Ponton and Fleming violated a ...