United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
Michael F. Urbanski United States District Judge
Crawley, a Virginia inmate and an adherent of the House of
Yahweh faith, filed two separate pro se civil actions under
28 U.S.C. § 1983 complaining that he was not provided
Passover meals while housed in administrative segregation at
the Wallens Ridge State Prison ("WRSP") in April
2015 in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments of
the United States Constitution.
various staff members at WRSP or the Virginia Department of
Corrections ("VDOC"), filed motions for summary
judgment, and Crawley responded, making these matters ripe
for disposition. Defendants claim qualified immunity,
contending that Crawley's failure to receive Passover
meals was not an intentional violation of his constitutional
rights. Rather, defendants contend, Crawley did not properly
ask to receive Passover meals.
reviewing the record, the court will dismiss all claims in
case No. 7:15cv00648, and all claims in case No. 7:15cv00647
except the claim asserted against Chaplain Mitchell. The
claims against the other defendants in case No. 7:15cv00647
and all of the defendants in case No. 7:15cv00648 rely solely
on conclusory allegations and allege only supervisory
liability on behalf of prison officials. As such, these
claims cannot proceed.
Mitchell is the only named defendant in either action who is
alleged to have had any personal involvement in failing to
grant Crawley's request for Passover meals. Chaplain
Mitchell filed an affidavit in support of his motion for
summary judgment stating that "I keep copies of all
offender requests regarding participation in holiday
observances. I did not receive any request forms concerning
Crawley participating in Passover 2015." Chaplain
Mitchell Aff, No. 7:15cv00647, ECF No. 31-1 at 2. Crawley
counters that he submitted Offender Request forms to
Counselor Rose asking that he be included on the Passover
meals list. According to documents produced by Crawley in his
opposition to summary judgment, Counselor Rose responded that
he sent emails to Chaplain Mitchell. Offender Request Forms,
No. 7:15cv00647, ECF No. 48-1, at 1-2. As Chaplain Mitchell
did not file a reply brief, the record is incomplete
concerning Chaplain Mitchell's receipt or response to the
emails from Counselor Rose. Thus, on this record, the court
cannot determine whether Crawley's omission from the
Passover list was inadvertent or intentional on Chaplain
Mitchell's part. Given the standard governing summary
judgment motions, requiring the court to consider the facts
in the light most favorable to Crawley, the disputed facts
concerning Chaplain Mitchell's conduct are not
appropriate for resolution at this stage.
summary judgment is GRANTED in case No. 7.T5cv00648 and that
case will be dismissed with prejudice in its entirety.
Summary judgment is GRANTED against defendants Fleming and
Ponton in case No. 7:15cv00647, and Crawley's allegations
against them in that case will be dismissed with prejudice.
Summary judgment is DENIED in case No. 7:15cv00647 as to the
sole remaining defendant Chaplain Mitchell as further factual
development is necessary to resolve Crawley's claim
Case No. 7:15cv00647.
complaint in case No. 7:15cv00647, Crawley names four
defendants: J. Michael Parsons, an Assistant Attorney General
of Virginia; Henry Ponton, a Regional Administrator for the
Virginia Department of Corrections ("VDOC"); Leslie
Fleming, the Warden of the Wallens Ridge State Prison; and J.
Mitchell, the Chaplain for WRSP inmates. The court dismissed
all claims against defendant Parsons on November 21, 2016. As
to the remaining defendants, Crawley claims that Chaplain
Mitchell refused to honor requests that Crawley be included
on the 2015 Passover meals list. Crawley complains that
Warden Fleming was "informed beforehand" that
Chaplain Mitchell was refusing to put him on the Passover
meals list and did nothing to intervene. Crawley complains
that VDOC Regional Administrator Ponton did not require WRSP
to allow Crawley to order Passover items from an outside
vendor, making him a participant in the First Amendment
violation. Crawley seeks monetary damages in the amount of
$1000.00 per claim and an injunction transferring him out of
the region. Complaint, No. 7:15cv00647, ECF No. 1.
respond that "Crawley seems to be suing Fleming and
Ponton due to their supervisory positions at Wallen Ridge and
VDOC, " Summary Judgment Brief, No. 7:15cv00647, ECF No.
31, at 5, and that his allegations run afoul of the
well-established rule against vicarious liability in §
1983 suits. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal. 556 U.S. 662, 676
(2009) ("[B]ecause vicarious liability is inapplicable
to Bivens and § 1983 suits, a plaintiff must
plead each Government-official defendant, through the
official's own individual actions, has violated the
Constitution."). Defendants' motion included an
affidavit from B. Ravizee, the Institutional Ombudsman at
WRSP, containing Crawley's grievances concerning Passover
in 2015. Importantly, none of these grievances suggest any
personal involvement by Warden Fleming or VDOC Regional
Administrator Henry Ponton in Crawley's Passover meal
request until after Passover had concluded. Rather,
Crawley's consistent complaint in the grievances is that
Chaplain Mitchell ignored his request for inclusion on the
Passover meal list.
Mitchell seeks summary judgment on Crawley's
constitutional claim by asserting that he could have received
Passover meals had he requested them, but that "[i]t
appears that Crawley did not follow this requirement because
Mitchell has no record of receiving a written request from
Crawley to participate in Passover 2015." No.
7:15cv00647, ECF No. 31, at 7. Defendants also claim
entitlement to qualified immunity because they "did not
violate any of Crawley's clearly established statutory or
constitutional rights. While Crawley has an established First
Amendment right to freely exercise his religion to the extent
permitted in a prison environment, a reasonable person could
not have known that Defendants' conduct, as established
by Defendants' evidence, violated that right."
Id. at 8. Defendants' response included an
affidavit from Chaplain Mitchell stating that he "did
not receive any request forms concerning Crawley
participating in Passover 2015, " No. 7:15cv00647, ECF
No. 31-1 at 2, and VDOC and WRSP Memoranda concerning
procedures for the 2015 Passover.
opposition to the motion for summary judgment, Crawley
attaches two documents, each entitled "Offender Request,
" in which he asks his prison counselor to be put on the
Passover list. The forms contain responses from Crawley's
counselor indicating that Chaplain Mitchell had been emailed
the requests. No. 7:15cv00647, ECF No. 48-1, at 1-2. The
December 29, 2014 response also stated that "[y]ou need
to write the Chaplain as well." Id. at 1. As
regards defendants Ponton and Fleming, Crawley asserts in his
response in opposition to summary judgment that "both
defendants Ponton and Fleming during rounds received
constructual and actual knowledge from the plaintiff as to
his religious desires, 841.3 policy, and the chaplain failure
to respond to plaintiff counselor Rose e-mails." No.
7:15cv00647, ECF No. 48, at 3.
Case No. 7:15cv00648.
complaint in case No. 7:15cv00648, Crawley again names Warden
Fleming and adds claims against Marcia Hensley, WRSP
Institutional Programs Manager ("IPM"), and A.
David Robinson, VDOC Chief of Corrections Operations
("CCO") for failing to provide Crawley with
Passover meals in 2015. Crawley claims in this case that
Warden Fleming violated the Constitution for his
"failure to ensure plaintiff receive the Passover meal
while in (SHU), after learning from plaintiff during rounds
Mar. 9th, 2015 at his seg. cell- A-310 approx.
2:45 pm that plaintiff was Yahwists." Complaint, No.
7:15cv00648, ECF No. 1, at 2. Similarly, Crawley claims that
IPM Hensley discriminated against him on the basis of his
faith by failing to ensure Crawley received Passover meals.
Crawley complains that VDOC CCO Robinson failed to send out a
memorandum making it clear that persons of the Yahweh faith
could obtain Passover treats from ...