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Crawley v. Parsons

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

July 12, 2017

DAVID CRAWLEY, Plaintiff,
v.
J. MICHAEL PARSONS, et al., Defendants. DAVID CRAWLEY, Plaintiff,
v.
MR. MITCHELL, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Hon. Michael F. Urbanski Chief United States District Judge.

         David Crawley, a Virginia inmate and an adherent of the House of Yahweh faith, filed these actions pro se under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The remaining defendant in case 7:15-cv-00647 is Chaplain Mitchell of the Wallens Ridge State Prison ("WRSP"), and the defendants in case 7:16-cv-00211 are Chaplain Mitchell; Leslie Fleming, the Warden of WRSP; Henry Ponton, a Virginia Department of Corrections ("VDOC") Regional Administrator; and David Robinson, the VDOC's Chief of Corrections Operations.[1] Plaintiff alleges that these defendants violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution by preventing his participation in the prison's observances of Passover in April 2015 and the Feast of Tabernacles in September 2015.[2]

         These two cases are ripe for the court's review to adjudicate Chaplain Mitchell's supplemental motion for summary judgment in case 7:15-cv-00647 and Chaplain Mitchell, Fleming, Ponton, and Robinson's first motion for summary judgment in case 7:16-cv-00211.

         In accordance with the court's prior memorandum opinion entered in cases 7:15-cv-00647 and 7:15-cv-00648, Fleming, Ponton, and Robinson are entitled to qualified immunity and summary judgment for all claims against them. Further, all defendants are entitled to qualified immunity and summary judgment about the Feast of Tabernacles. However, the claims about Passover against Chaplain Mitchell shall proceed to jury trial.

         I.

         A. 7:15-cv-00647

         The court previously had granted summary judgment to defendants Parsons, Ponton, and Fleming in case 7:15-cv-00647 because they had not violated a federal right, leaving Chaplain Mitchell as the only remaining defendant. Plaintiff claims that Chaplain Mitchell refused to honor his requests that he be included on the 2015 Passover list in accordance with policy, which prevented Plaintiff from receiving Passover meals or making Passover-related commissary purchases.

         On April 9, 2015, Plaintiff filed an informal complaint, stating:

In the month of Mar[ch] 2015 and April 3rd through 10th, 2015, I was discriminated against and arbitrarily deprive[d] of my right to freely exercise religious beliefs because of my chosen faith, Yahweh. After sending approx[imately] 12 request[s] to the Chaplain (Mitchell) between Aug[ust] 2014 through Mar[ch] 2015, and two E-mails from my counselor[, ] Rose, all instructing the Chapl[a]in to add my name to the Yahweh's PASSOVER list. I, nor my counselor[, ] received a reply. Therefore in Mar[ch] 2015 I was denied my religious privileges to order Kosher items attached to the Yahweh Passover celebration and riot permitted to participate in my religious faith celebrated Passover meal after complying with [Operating Procedure ("OP")] 841.3[].

         Defendant Chaplain Mitchell responded on April 13, 2015, after Passover ended, writing, "Sorry, you were not on the List."

         Plaintiff filed a regular grievance, writing:

The reason my name isn't on the list to participate in ... Passover [is because] the Chapl[a]in at WRSP fails to answer request or emails, and fails to acknowledge my religion as suitable to worship. This Chapl[a]in doesn't provide literature for Yahweh worshipers, nor ever make rounds in the segregation units so any offender can make inquiries about religious matters.
His failure to follow any policy is solely the reason I was arbitrarily deprived of participating in... Passover, and why also Mar[ch] 2015 I was subject to discrimination when denied my right to order Passover items.

         Warden Fleming deemed the grievance "unfounded, " and Plaintiff alleged in the appeal of the regular grievance:

On [December 29, 2014] and [March 16, 2015] I had Counselor Rose send emails specifically informing [Chaplain] Mitchell to add my name to the Passover list because .. . Chaplain Mitchell was refusing to respond to my request. Per 841.3 4.) Procedure, A. Access to Religious Services, 5.-K. on page 4, it states the Chaplain will be provided a computer and all standard office supplies in order to carry out their [sic] duties. Therefore, [is] Counselor Rose also lying about sending E-mails, or are you now going to say the Chaplain ...

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