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Bayadi v. Clarke

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

September 25, 2017

HASAN BAYADI, Plaintiff,
v.
HAROLD CLARKE, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          NORMAN K. MOON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Hasan Bayadi, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, filed a complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 naming three staff of the Virginia Department of Corrections (“VDOC”) and Wallens Ridge State Prison (“Wallens Ridge”) as defendants in both their individual and official capacities. Bayadi contends that the VDOC's grooming policy, Operating Procedure (“OP”) 864.1, violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution; the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-1, et seq.; Article 1, Section 16 of the Virginia Constitution, and Virginia Code § 8.01-42.1. Bayadi seeks declaratory relief, damages, and a permanent injunction. Defendants filed a second motion for summary judgment, and Bayadi responded, making this matter ripe for disposition.[1] Having considered the record, I conclude that defendants' second motion for summary judgment must be denied as to the RLUIPA claim, but granted as to each of the other claims.

         I.

         Bayadi arrived at Wallens Ridge on September 1, 2015, and shortly thereafter, he shaved his beard. Bayadi was housed in general population when he commenced this action in November 2015.

         Bayadi explains that he wants to grow his beard to an indeterminate length in conformity with his religious beliefs. Bayadi contends that he feels compelled to shave his beard per OP 864.1 in violation of his religious beliefs because, if he does not, he thinks he will be placed in segregated housing until the earlier of 1) cutting his beard, and thus violating a religious belief, or 2) a year's confinement in punitive segregation, at which time he transfers to the “grooming general-population pod” where he is not allowed to attend a weekly Islamic congregational service, Jummah.[2] Bayadi alleges that no recognized inmate religious groups but Muslims are forced to choose between violating religious beliefs by cutting a beard or violating religious beliefs by forfeiting a weekly congregational service.

         OP 864.1 establishes uniform personal grooming standards for male inmates in the VDOC. Beards of one-quarter inch maximum length are permitted in order to accommodate religious, medical, and secular reasons without the need for prior approval.[3] Longer beards are prohibited, according to VDOC, because they could conceal contraband; create a health, hygiene, or sanitation hazard; or significantly compromise the ability to identify an offender. Prison officials explain that the length limitation promotes institutional security, sanitation and allows prison officials to identify markings, such as scars and tattoos, that would be hidden under beards of indeterminate length. The length limitation gives officials more control over the concealment of contraband that can be used as weapons. Prison officials also explain that prison hygiene can be compromised with indeterminate length beards because infestations and medical complications from ringworms, lice, and other insects are more likely to occur and may be undetected under beards of indeterminate length.

         Inmates who violate the beard policy may be charged with Disciplinary Offense Code 133, “Refusal to Obey an Order.” OP 864.1 allowed inmates who refuse to shave their beards to transfer to a special general population housing unit known as the Grooming Standards Violator Housing Unit (“VHU”). This policy has changed over time. When Bayadi arrived at Wallens Ridge on September 1, 2015, an inmate should have met the following criteria before moving to the VHU: an institutional conviction of Refusing to Obey an Order; completed the VDOC's Challenge Series workbooks while in restrictive housing for six months; six months' free of more serious charges; and three months' free of less serious charges. The Warden of Wallens Ridge could allow an inmate to move into the VHU without having met all of the criteria. On August 1, 2016, OP 864.1 was amended to remove the six-month restrictive housing requirement, and thus, the eligibility criteria for the VHU are merely a “Refusal to Obey an Order” conviction and no history of disruptive or assaultive behavior.

         However, even after August 1, 2016, the VHU consists of two phases in two pods. VHU inmates are first assigned to Phase I, which has “fewer incentives” than Phase II. Phase I inmates are housed alone in a single cell, have only one hour of in-pod recreation daily; have only one hour of outside exercise five times per week; have a commissary limit of $10.00 per week for consumable and hygiene items; and do not participate in the SecurePak Program.[4]Phase I inmates must comply with all mandated programming and cell regulations for six months before graduating to Phase II, and that programming is dependent on the inmate's Risk/Needs Assessment and may include the VDOC's Challenge Series workbooks. Phase II inmates are housed with a cellmate; enjoy five hours of out-of-cell activity daily; enjoy one hour of outside recreation daily; have access to gymnasium recreation; have a commissary limit of $50.00 per week for consumable and hygiene items; and may participate in the SecurePak Program. Regardless of the phase, all inmates in the VHU receive meals in the pod; consume meals in their cells; may have jobs; and have access to the chaplain, television programming, approved religious and educational programming, approved individual faith objects, two hours of non-contact visitation weekly, and re-entry services. Notably, Phase I inmates are not allowed to participate in scheduled group religious services, but Phase II inmates are. This means that an inmate would not be able to attend Jummah, or other group services, for six months after he began to grow a beard longer than a quarter-inch.

         The VDOC centralizes the housing of inmates in the VHU for inmates who violate OP 864.1 because beards of indeterminate length pose a security risk and health hazard, and thus, chronic violators are more easily managed in a single facility. For example, the VHU reduces potential staffing and training costs that would be incurred to monitor indeterminate length beards throughout all VDOC facilities by instead containing those beards in two pods in one prison. Furthermore, the VHU mitigates security and sanitation complications that would occur if indeterminate length beards were allowed throughout all VDOC facilities.

         Bayadi claims that this policy, OP 864.1, violates RLUIPA, the First and Fourteenth Amendments, the Virginia Constitution, and a Virginia law prohibiting religious harassment. He claims that defendants' reasons for not allowing beards of indeterminate length are “false and without merit” because he feels the VHU proves that indeterminate length beards do not pose a security threat or hygiene problem. Bayadi claims that because prison officials have crafted a workable solution on a small scale, the solution can be expanded and beards of indeterminate length can be grown in any pod in any VDOC facility. Bayadi also claims that long-bearded inmates do not pose a security threat because officers can search beards “as easily as they can search an inmate's pockets.” Bayadi claims that no hygiene problems would result from allowing beards of indeterminate length because each of VDOC's commissaries sells numerous hair care products. Lastly, Bayadi claims that long hair and beards actually “enhance” officials' ability to identify inmates because inmates who grow beards have to get updated photographs.

         II.

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that a court should grant summary judgment “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” “As to materiality . . . [o]nly disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). In order to preclude summary judgment, the dispute about a material fact must be “‘genuine, ' that is, if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id.; see also JKC Holding Co. v. Washington Sports Ventures, Inc., 264 F.3d 459, 465 (4th Cir. 2001). If, however, the evidence of a genuine issue of material fact “is merely colorable or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250. In considering a motion for summary judgment under Rule 56, a court must view the record as a whole and draw all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See, e.g., Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-24 (1986); Shaw v. Stroud, 13 F.3d 791, 798 (4th Cir. 1994). A plaintiff may not amend a complaint through argument in a brief opposing summary judgment. Cloaninger v. McDevitt, 555 F.3d 324, 336 (4th Cir. 2009).

         III.

         Defendants claim that they are entitled to qualified immunity from damages. Qualified immunity is “an immunity from suit rather than a mere defense to liability, ” and it is therefore “effectively lost if a case is erroneously permitted to go to trial.” Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 231 (2009) (quoting Mitchell v. Forsyth, 472 U.S. 511, 526 (1985)). Indeed, the “driving force” behind the doctrine is the “desire to ensure that insubstantial claims against government officials [will] be resolved prior to discovery.” Id. (alteration in original). Even when a plaintiff's constitutional rights have been violated, qualified immunity applies to bar the claim if, based on the facts presented, “a reasonable officer could have believed [his actions] to be lawful, in light of clearly established law and the information the . . . officers possessed.” Anderson v. Creighton, 483 U.S. 635, 641 (1987); see In re Allen, 106 F.3d 582, 593 (4th Cir. 1997) (“[A]n official may claim qualified immunity as long as his actions are not clearly established to be beyond the boundaries of his discretionary authority.”).

         Bayadi does not identify a personal act or omission by defendants Harold Clarke, who is the Director of the VDOC, or Leslie Fleming, who is the Warden of Wallens Ridge.[5]Accordingly, Clarke and Fleming are entitled to qualified immunity and summary judgment in their individual capacities about OP 864.1's prohibition of beards of indeterminate length in all facilities.

         IV.

         Defendants are entitled to summary judgment as to damages sought under RLUIPA. RLUIPA does not authorize damages against a public official under the Spending Clause of the United States Constitution.[6] See Sossamon v. Texas, 563 U.S. 277, 282 n.1, 293 (2011) (prohibiting damages claims against state officials in their official capacity under the Spending Clause); Rendelman v. Rouse, 569 F.3d 182, 189 (4th Cir. 2009) (same for individual capacity). Accordingly, Bayadi cannot recover damages against defendants under RLUIPA.

         V.

         Defendants are not entitled to summary judgment in their official capacities as to OP 864.1's restriction on indeterminate beard length under RLUIPA, but they are entitled to summary judgment in their ...


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