United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
KELVIN A. CANADA, Plaintiff,
EARL BARKSDALE, Defendants.
A. Canada, Pro Se Plaintiff;
Hull Davidson, Office of the Attorney General, Richmond,
Virginia, for Defendants.
P. JONES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
plaintiff, Kelvin A. Canada, an inmate proceeding pro se,
filed this civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983
seeking to invalidate a policy barring Virginia inmates from
receiving or possessing nude photographs. After review of the
record, I conclude that the defendants' Motion for
Summary Judgment must be granted. Canada's claims are
both moot and without merit.
commenced this § 1983 action against two defendants,
Earl Barksdale, the Warden of the Red Onion State Prison
(“ROSP”), and Harold Clarke, the Director of the
Virginia Department of Corrections (“VDOC”).
Canada believes the defendants violated his First and
Fourteenth Amendment rights under the United States
Constitution because VDOC Operating Procedures
(“OP”) 803.1 and 803.2 prohibited him from
purchasing or possessing nude photos and magazines. Canada
sues the defendants in their official capacities, seeking
only injunctive relief to repeal the nudity prohibitions
found in OP 803.1 and 803.2.
records and the VDOC inmate locator program indicate that
Canada is serving life in prison, a sentence imposed by a
Virginia court. Canada was housed at ROSP and subject to OP
803.1 and 803.2 when he commenced this action. Several months
later, Canada was transferred out of ROSP to a prison in
Rhode Island. His submissions indicate that he remains
incarcerated in a Rhode Island prison facility to this day,
pursuant to an agreement between Virginia and Rhode Island.
defendants have filed a Motion for Summary Judgment,
asserting that Canada's action should be dismissed as
moot because he is no longer subject to the challenged
policies. Canada has responded to the motion and admits that
the VDOC ban of nude photographs does not apply to him in the
Rhode Island prison system.
circumstances, a prisoner's transfer or release from a
particular prison moots his claims for injunctive and
declaratory relief with respect to his conditions of
confinement there. See, e.g., Incumaa v. Ozmint, 507
F.3d 281, 286-87 (4th Cir. 2007) (dismissing former
inmate's constitutional challenge to prison mail policy);
Williams v. Griffin, 952 F.2d 820, 823 (4th Cir.
1991) (holding prisoner transfer mooted requests for
declaratory and injunctive relief).
To be justiciable under Article III of the Constitution, the
conflict between the litigants must present a “case or
controversy” both at the time the lawsuit is filed
and at the time it is decided. If intervening
factual or legal events effectively dispel the case or
controversy during pendency of the suit, the federal courts
are powerless to decide the questions presented.
Ross v. Reed, 719 F.2d 689, 693-94 (4th Cir. 1983)
(dismissing inmate's policy challenge case as moot after
his release to writ of habeas corpus). “A case is moot
when the issues presented are no longer ‘live' or
the parties lack a legally cognizable interest in the
outcome. . . . A case becomes moot only when it is
impossible for a court to grant any effectual relief
whatever to the prevailing party.” Brown &
Pipkins, LLC v. Serv. Emps. Int'l Union, 846 F.3d
716, 728 (4th Cir. 2017).
argues that this case is not moot because he believes that he
will be transferred back to Virginia at some time in the
future. He provides no evidence to support this speculative
allegation. Canada also contends that in the event that he is
returned to a VDOC facility, he should not be put to the
financial burden of having to file another lawsuit to renew
his challenge to the constitutionality of the VDOC nudity
no merit to Canada's arguments. Canada did not seek
monetary damages in his Complaint and is no longer subject to
the allegedly unconstitutional policy from which he sought
injunctive relief. Moreover, he may litigate only his
individual claim and cannot continue the challenge to VDOC
policy on behalf of other inmates still incarcerated in VDOC
prisons. Ross, 719 F.2d at 694. Thus, Canada now
lacks the requisite interest in the outcome of this action
and no longer presents the court with a “dispute[ ] [it
is] capable of resolving, ” United States Parole
Comm'n v. Geraghty, 445 U.S. 388, 397 (1980), or any
“injury to himself that is likely to be redressed by a
favorable decision.” Simon v. Eastern Ky. Welfare
Rights Org., 426 U.S. 26, 38 (1976).
this case also does not satisfy the exception to the general
rule of mootness in cases that are “capable of
repetition, yet evading review.” Murphy v.
Hunt, 455 U.S. 478, 482 (1982). “First, the
challenged action - application of the regulation to prison
inmates - does not avoid review because of durational limits,
but rather can be adequately challenged by the regular
process of individualized litigation.” Ross,
719 F.2d at 694. Second, Canada fails to demonstrate a
“reasonable expectation” or a “demonstrated
probability” that the same controversy will recur
between himself and the defendants in the future.
Murphy, 455 U.S. at 482; see also Buie v.
Jones, 717 F.2d 925, 927 (4th Cir. 1983) (claim of
“capable of repetition” was insufficient where no
evidence that plaintiff would again be subject to allegedly
unconstitutional treatment); Lyons v. Meese, No.
88-7765, 1990 WL 101608, at *1 (4th Cir. June 22, 1990)
(unpublished) (dismissing Virginia inmate's § 1983
case as moot based on transfer to prison in another state for
court proceedings there).
stated reasons, I conclude that Canada's case has been
rendered moot by his transfer from the Virginia prison
system. On that ground, I will grant the defendants'
Motion for ...