United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division
MOMOLU V.S. SIRLEAF, JR., Plaintiff,
EDDIE PEARSON, et al, Defendants.
Hannah Laucfi United States District Judge.
V.S. Sirleaf, Jr., a Virginia inmate proceeding pro
se and in forma pauperis, filed this civil
action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In his Complaint, Sirleaf
argues that, during his incarceration at the Greensville
Correctional Center ("GCC"),
Defendants have violated his right to practice his
religion as a member of "the Jewish race and... the
Jewish religion." (Compl. ¶¶ 2, 12 ECF No.
The Court construes Sirleaf to raise the following claims for
Claim One: Defendants placed a substantial burden on Sirleaf
s exercise of his religion in violation of (a) the Religious
Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act
("RLUIPA") and (b) the First Amendment right to free
exercise of his religion by placing Sirleaf s housing unit on
lockdown for a bi-annual shakedown, which prevented Sirleaf
from celebrating Rosh Hashanah in September 2014.
(Id. ¶¶ 5-6, 12.)
Claim Two: Defendants violated Sirleaf s Fourteenth
Amendment right to equal protection of the law by
"allow[ing] the KAIROS retreat to be held, but den[ying]
the scheduled Jewish holy day Rosh Hashanah to be held on the
2d and last day" in September 2014. (Id. ¶
matter is now before the Court on Defendants' Motion for
Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 23.) Despite providing Sirleaf
with appropriate Roseboronotice, Sirleaf has not
responded. This matter is ripe for judgment. For the reasons
stated below, Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment
will be GRANTED.
Summary Judgment Standard
judgment under Rule 56 is appropriate only when the Court,
viewing the record as a whole and in the light most favorable
to the nonmoving party, determines that there exists no
genuine issue of material fact and that the moving party is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Celotex
Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-24 (1986);
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S.
242, 248-50 (1986). "A fact is material if the existence
or non-existence thereof could lead a jury to different
resolutions of the case." Thomas v. FTS USA,
LLC, No. 3:13cv825, October 2014 (id. End. B);
(4) a copy of a September 21, 2014 Incident Report regarding
GCC Cluster S3 (id. End. C); and, (5) a copy of the
2014 calendar for KAIROS at GCC (id End. D).
Sirleaf did not respond to the Motion for Summary Judgment,
he has sworn to the contents of the Complaint under penalty
of perjury. (Compl. 5.) Sirleaf has also submitted a
Declaration of Religious Beliefs, which sets forth an
overview of his "sincerely held religious beliefs."
(ECF No. 4, at 1.) Because this document makes no reference
to Rosh Hashanah, the Court has not considered it for
purposes of summary judgment.
light of the foregoing submissions, the following facts are
established for the Motion for Summary Judgment. The Court
draws all permissible inferences in favor of Sirleaf.
Virginia Department of Corrections' ("VDOC")
guidelines, all institutions that are classified as Security
Level 3, such as GCC, must "complete a facility lockdown
search at least twice per year." (Jarratt Aff. ¶
4.) GCC "consists of three Clusters, with each cluster
being the approximate size of a normal correctional
facility." (Id.) Therefore, each cluster
conducts a shakedown twice per year. (Id.)
a shakedown, "all activities of the Cluster are locked
down and cancelled and offenders are restricted to their
cell[s]." (Id.) Offenders continue to receive
basic necessities such as food, hygiene, and medical
services. (Id. ¶¶ 4, 5.) "[M]ost
programs and services are severely curtailed and offenders
are not allowed out-of-cell activities." (Id.
¶ 4.) Religious services are suspended, but offenders
are permitted to practice their faith inside their cells.
(Id. ¶ 5.) During shakedowns, "regular
functions and activities must be suspended in order to
accomplish priority security measures, including searches for
contraband." (Id.) "Of paramount
importance during a lockdown is the preservation of security
and maintaining the safety and welfare of all offenders and
Warden Jarratt "schedule[s] institutional lockdowns at
the beginning of each year." (Id. ¶ 6.)
When scheduling lockdowns, he "make[s] every effort to
avoid known major holidays and observances. However, it would
be essentially impossible to accommodate every religious
holiday observed by offenders at" GCC. (Id.) In
September 2014, the shakedown of Cluster S3 was scheduled to
occur September 21-26, 2014. (Id. End. A.) A search
of Housing Unit 7 in Cluster S3, to which Sirleaf was
assigned, was scheduled for September 22-23, 2014.
(Id. ¶ 6; id End. A.)
September 4, 2014, an Institutional Chaplain at GCC sent to
the Institutional Programs Manager a memorandum that provided
guidance as to when the Jewish High Holy Days of Rosh
Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkoth would be observed in 2014.
(Id. End. B, at 1.) According to the memorandum,
adherents of the Messianic Jewish and House of Yahweh faiths
could observe Rosh Hashanah from sundown on September 25,
2014, through sundown on September 26, 2014. (Id. at
2.) No special meals were authorized, but group Rosh Hashanah
services for offenders in Cluster S3 were scheduled to occur
on September 26, 2014. (Id.) The Institutional
Programs Manager approved the memorandum on September 23,
2014. (Id. at 1.)
lockdown of Cluster S3 began at 10:45 a.m. on September 21,
2014. (Jarratt Aff. ¶ 9.) "Although offender
Sirleaf was unable to participate in a group service during
the lockdown, he was allowed to observe Rosh Hashanah in his
cell." (Id. ¶ 8.) The shakedown of Cluster
S3 was completed on September 25, 2014. (Id. End. C,
at 1.) During the shakedown, staff confiscated five weapons,
as well as suspected marijuana and heroin. (Id.)
Accordingly, Cluster S3 was placed on modified lockdown
"beginning with the breakfast meal on Friday, September
26, 2014 and return[ed] to normal operations on Saturday,
September 27, 2014." (Id.) On September 27,
2014, after the modified lockdown concluded, offenders in
Cluster S3 who adhere to the KAIROS faith were able to meet
for the scheduled reunion. (Jarratt Aff. ¶ 11; see
also Id. Encl. D.)
requested that GCC provide "an alternative day of
congregational observance for Rosh Hashanah." (Compl.
¶ 8.) However, the request was denied.
(Id.)The Institutional Chaplain had advised
staff at GCC that "Jewish tenets do not allow its
followers to change the Rosh Hashanah observance."
(Jarratt Aff. ¶ 10.)
RLUIPA and Free Exercise Claims
provides, in pertinent part, that:
government shall impose a substantial burden on the religious
exercise of a person residing in or confined to an
institution . . . unless the government ...