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Crawley v. Combs

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division

February 28, 2017

DAVID CRAWLEY, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHN C. COMBS, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          HON. MICHAEL F. URBANSKI, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         David Crawley, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, filed a civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C § 1983, naming Assistant Warden John C. Combs as the sole defendant. Plaintiff alleges that Combs violated the First Amendment of the United States Constitution by approving Plaintiffs temporary suspension from the Virginia Department of Corrections' ("VDOC") Common Fare Diet ("Common Fare"). Combs filed a motion for summary judgment, and the time for Plaintiff to respond expired, making the matter ripe for disposition. After reviewing the record, the court grants Combs' motion for summary judgment.

         I.

         Plaintiff wrote the following single claim in the complaint:

Defendant John Combs [, ] Assistan[t] Warden of Wallens Ridge State Prison[, ] ¶ 12/1 l/16with prior knowledge that the Plaintiff w[as] not under any Common Fare diet contract[, ] [arbitrarily deprived the [P]laintiff of his [First] Amend[ment] Right to Freely Exercise his religion by suspending the [P]laintiff from participating in his religious diet.

         The rest of the record reveals the pertinent facts.

         On March 5, 2014, the Wallens Ridge State Prison ("WRSP") Institutional Classification Authority ("ICA") recommended that Plaintiff be approved to receive Common Fare on the basis of his religious beliefs.[1] Combs approved the ICA's recommendation on March 7, 2014.

         Common Fare is a diet designed to accommodate inmates who have religious dietary needs. VDOC Operating Procedure ("OP") 841.3. requires an inmate who wants to receive Common Fare to sign the "Common Fare Agreement, " which sets forth the requirements and penalties of the Common Fare program. One requirement is that an inmate receiving Common Fare must not eat the non-Common Fare food served in the dining hall, and the penalties are temporary suspensions from Common Fare.

         On December 9, 2015, the ICA convened to review Plaintiffs Common Fare status. The ICA heard testimony that Plaintiff took a regular, non-Common Fare tray on Thanksgiving. The ICA determined at the end of the hearing that Plaintiff violated the terms of the Common Fare Agreement and recommended his suspension from Common Fare for six months.

         Plaintiff filed an administrative request form to complain about the recommended suspension. He admitted that he took a non-Common Fare tray, claimed that he had "never signed nor been briefed about any Common Fare Agreement Contract, " and argued that the foods on the tray appeared to be Kosher.[2] The Assistant Warden's Office stamped it received on December 11, 2015, and someone whose signature is illegible responded that same day, noting, "It is my understanding that you ate a regular tray, which is a violation of the [Common Fare] agreement." On December 11, 2015, Combs approved the ICA's recommendation to suspend Plaintiff. Although Plaintiff alleges that his removal from the Common Fare diet occurred on December 11, 2016, it is clear from the record that it took place one year earlier.

         Plaintiff filed an administrative grievance on December 15, 2015, again admitting he ate the non-Common Fare meal and claiming that he had never signed a Common Fare Agreement. Plaintiff alleged that he had "advised Combs . . . through a request that I wasn't under any Contract, but Combs still suspended me with knowledge." The WRSP Warden deemed the grievance founded because Plaintiff had not signed a Common Fare Agreement after settling Crawley v. Holloway, et al, No. 7:14-cv-00084. The Warden noted Plaintiffs remedy would be reinstatement to Common Fare.

         On January 4, 2016, the ICA recommended that Plaintiff be reinstated to Common Fare.

         Plaintiff signed a Common Fare Agreement, and Combs approved the ICA's ...


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