United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
Michael F. Urbanski Chief United States District Judge.
Moore, a Jewish inmate proceeding pro se, commenced
this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and
§§ 2OOOcc, et seq., against officials at
Red Onion State Prison ("ROSP") and the Virginia
Department of Corrections ("VDOC"). Plaintiff
alleges in the amended complaint (ECF Nos. 18, 33) that
Defendants violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments and
the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act
("RLUIPA") when they delayed approving him for a
diet in conformity with his religious beliefs for
approximately 57 days.Defendants filed a motion for summary
judgment, and Plaintiff responded, making this matter ripe
for adjudication. After reviewing the record, the court
dismisses the RLUIPA claims as' moot and grants
Defendants' motion for summary judgment as to the
after arriving at ROSP in September 2015, Plaintiff believed
his Jewish faith compelled him to consume a Kosher diet. In
January 20, 2016, Plaintiff applied to receive the VDOC's
Common Fare Diet ("Common Fare"). Common Fare is a
food menu that is designed to meet inmates' religious
dietary restrictions, including restrictions of the Jewish
noted on his Common Fare application that he began practicing
Judaism in April 2013 but did not officially declare Judaism
as his religion until January 9, 2015. He also noted that he
had previously participated in the VDOC's Ramadan
program, which is an Islamic holiday, and had been convicted
of serious institutional charges during the last two years.
In addition to the Common Fare application, Plaintiff signed
up to participate in the Jewish holidays of the Fast of
Esther scheduled for March 23, 2016, and Passover scheduled
between April 23 and 30, 2016.
counselor prepared a report for the Common Fare application.
The counselor noted that Plaintiff had reported being Jewish
for three years and had possessed a lot of literature to
support the application. However, the counselor noted
Plaintiff had at least six institutional charges within the
past year, had not participated in Jewish religious
services/programs for six months or at the rate of twice per
month, and had not contacted the Chaplain's Office for
religious guidance, literature, or information. The counselor
also noted that Plaintiff had participated in Protestant
services at his prior prison.
the Institutional Classification Authority ("ICA")
and a unit manager reviewed the report and the application
and recommended approval. Both recommendations were completed
before the Fast of Esther or Passover.
Baker, who is ROSP's Institutional Programs Manager,
denied Plaintiffs Common Fare application on April 10, 2016,
which was after the Fast of Esther and before Passover. Baker
questioned Plaintiffs sincere need for Common Fare, noting,
"[N]o evidence of participation in Jewish holy days. He
has attended Protestants services for several years in the
past. He has several-charges which are significant. ..."
12, the ICA reconsidered Plaintiffs application and issued an
updated report that again recommended approval. The ICA noted
for the first time that Plaintiff had possessed Jewish
literature and had participated in the Fast of Esther and
Passover. The ICA explained that, although Plaintiff had
participated in these holidays, his name had been
accidentally omitted from the inmate enrollment list.
approved Plaintiffs application for Common Fare on June 5
based on the ICA's updated report. Baker no longer
questioned Plaintiff sincerity and specifically noted in her
second report that Plaintiff had possessed Jewish literature
and had participated in the Jewish holidays.
filed a grievance on May 14 about Baker's initial
decision denying the Common Fare application. Defendant Artrip,
who was Red Onion's Assistant Warden, responded on May 23
and deemed the grievance unfounded because Baker's
decision did not violate prison procedures. Artrip reiterated
that the record had not fully demonstrated a sincere need for
Common Fare based on the lack of participation in Jewish
holidays, but Artrip told Plaintiff he could
alleges that he was injured by not being approved for Common
Fare for 57 days. He says he suffered headaches,
lightheadedness, nausea, cramps, hunger pains, weight loss,
and spiritual discomfort. Plaintiff specifically seeks
damages and declaratory relief.
filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing, inter
alia, that they are entitled to qualified immunity.
Qualified immunity permits "government officials
performing discretionary functions ... [to be] shielded from
liability for civil damages insofar as their conduct does not
violate clearly established statutory or constitutional
rights of which a reasonable person would have known."
Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800. 818 (1982). Once
a defendant raises the qualified immunity defense, a
plaintiff bears ...