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Wilcox v. Brown

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

December 5, 2017

TORREY F. WILCOX, Rastafarian, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
BETTY BROWN, Chaplain; DWAYNE TERRELL, Superintendant, Marion Correctional Institution; RANDY TEAGUE, Superintendant of Programs (Assistant), Marion Correctional Institution; CHAPLAIN MENHINICK, Marion Correctional Institution, Defendants-Appellees.

          Argued: October 25, 2017

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, at Asheville. Frank D. Whitney, Chief District Judge. (1:13-cv-00333-FDW)

         ARGUED:

          Charlie Hogle, NORTHWESTERN PRITZKER SCHOOL OF LAW, Chicago, Illinois, for Appellant.

          Ryan Y. Park, NORTH CAROLINA DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Raleigh, North Carolina, for Appellees.

         ON BRIEF:

          David M. Shapiro, Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center, NORTHWESTERN PRITZKER SCHOOL OF LAW, Chicago, Illinois, for Appellant.

          Josh Stein, Attorney General, Kimberly D. Grande, Assistant Attorney General, NORTH CAROLINA DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Raleigh, North Carolina, for Appellees.

          Before TRAXLER, KING, and DUNCAN, Circuit Judges.

          TRAXLER, CIRCUIT JUDGE

         Torrey F. Wilcox appeals a district court order dismissing his in forma pauperis § 1983 action, see 42 U.S.C. § 1983, for failure to state a claim and failure to exhaust administrative remedies. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand to the district court for further proceedings.

         I.

         Wilcox is a prisoner of the State of North Carolina. He brought this in forma pauperis § 1983 action in federal district court, alleging the following facts.

         Wilcox is an adherent of the Rastafarian faith. The Rastafarian worship services at the prison where he was housed, Marion Correctional Institution ("MCI"), were suspended on September 12, 2013, by Superintendent Dwayne Terrell and Assistant Superintendent of Programs Randy Teague. With no chaplain on staff, the prison administration refused to provide certified non-custodial staff to monitor the group service even though it had done so for other religious groups. The discontinuation of the service deprived Wilcox of "a reasonable opportunity to worship according to [his] Rastafarian tenets, beliefs, customs, and practices." J.A. 4.

         Wilcox filed a grievance challenging the discontinuation of the services and appealed the resulting adverse decision through all three steps of the grievance process that the North Carolina Department of Correction provides for prison complaints. See Moore v. Bennette, 517 F.3d 717, 721-22 (4th Cir. 2008) (describing process). At Step One, Wilcox was told that the Office of Religious Services, which was headed by Betty Brown, had authorized Terrell and Teague to close the service. At Step Two, an administrative investigator reviewing Wilcox's grievance determined that the prison had "adequately addressed" his complaint. J.A. 10. In the final step of the procedure, an inmate grievance examiner adopted that determination and concluded that no further action was warranted. The final decision was issued on November 22, 2013.

         MCI hired Chaplain Menhinick on or about November 20, 2013. Menhinick told Wilcox on December 12, 2013, that the Rastafarian service would restart on December 16, 2013. However, on December 13, 2013, Menhinick informed Wilcox that "Terrell had made an executive decision to not open the Rastafarian worship service." J.A. 5.[1]

         Wilcox's lawsuit names Brown, Terrell, Teague, and Menhinick as defendants and requests damages from each in the amount of $75, 000, ...


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