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Prosha v. Robinson

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division

January 25, 2018

ERIC L. PROSHA, Plaintiff,
DAVID ROBINSON, et al., Defendants.


          M. Hannah Lauck United States District Judge.

         Eric L. Prosha, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed this civil action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.[1] The action proceeds on Prosha's Particularized Complaint ("Complaint, " ECF No. 21). Defendants Robinson, Parker, and Springs ("Defendants") have moved to dismiss the action.[2] (ECF No. 28.) Defendants provided Prosha with Roseboro[3]Notice. (ECF No. 30.) Prosha has responded. (ECF No. 33.) For the reasons that follow, the Motion to Dismiss will be GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART.

         I. Standard for Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim

         "A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of a complaint; importantly, it does not resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses." Republican Party of N.C. v. Martin, 980 F.2d 943, 952 (4th Cir. 1992) (citing 5 A Charles A. Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1356 (1990)). In considering a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, a plaintiffs well-pleaded allegations are taken as true and the complaint is viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Mylan Labs., Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993); see also Martin, 980 F.2d at 952. This principle applies only to factual allegations, however, and "a court considering a motion to dismiss can choose to begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009).

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure "require[ ] only 'a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ' in order to 'give the defendant fair notice of what the ... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Bell Ail. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (second alteration in original) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). Plaintiffs cannot satisfy this standard with complaints containing only "labels and conclusions" or a "formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action." Id. (citations omitted). Instead, a plaintiff must allege facts sufficient "to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, " id. (citation omitted), stating a claim that is "plausible on its face, " id. at 570, rather than merely "conceivable." Id. "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Bell All. Corp., 550 U.S. at 556). In order for a claim or complaint to survive dismissal for failure to state a claim, the plaintiff must "allege facts sufficient to state all the elements of [his or] her claim." Bass v. E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., 324 F.3d 761, 765 (4th Cir. 2003) (citing Dickson v. Microsoft Corp., 309 F.3d 193, 213 (4th Cir. 2002); Iodice v. United States, 289 F.3d 270, 281 (4th Cir. 2002)). Lastly, while the Court liberally construes pro se complaints, Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978), it will not act as the inmate's advocate and develop, sua sponte, statutory and constitutional claims that the inmate failed to clearly raise on the face of his or her complaint. See Brock v. Carroll, 107 F.3d 241, 243 (4th Cir. 1997) (Luttig, J., concurring); Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985).

         II. Summary of Allegations and Claims

         In his Complaint, Prosha alleges, in relevant part:[4]

Plaintiff is now, and at all times relevant to the events described herein, an adherent of the House of Yahweh. The House of Yahweh is a religious organization whose adherents believe it [is] necessary to abide by the Torah. Adherents must . . . keep annual festivals of the Old Testament, including the assembling of members, once a year on the evening before Passover, to hold a solemn observance of Yashua's Memorial.
On April 3, 2015, Plaintiff, although the House of Yahweh group had previously arranged with Chaplain Wiggins to receive the proper meals for the Passover of the Unleavened Bread, was served meals that contained yeast (egg noodles). Plaintiff notified the S-3 Cluster Kitchen Supervisor (Jane/John Doe) and the correctional officer on duty at the time that the meal was incorrect. Defendant Jane/John Doe and the correctional officer both told Plaintiff that was all they had to give him. Plaintiff, due to the requirements and beliefs of his religion, was unable to eat these meals.
On April 4, 2015, Plaintiff was again given meals with non-kosher foods on them. Plaintiff again notified defendant John/Jane Doe that the meals were not proper for his religious beliefs. Plaintiff asked for the Kitchen Supervisor's name and was told no one knew what it was.
At every meal through April 11, 2015, Plaintiff was served items that did not meet the requirements of the House of Yahweh. At each meal, Plaintiff informed the correctional officer on duty and attempted to notify the Kitchen Supervisor. [In] each instance, Plaintiff was told that was all they had to give him.
On April 4, 2015, Plaintiff sent a request form to Chaplain Wiggins informing him that food service was not providing the proper food items at meals. This request form was never returned to Plaintiff.

(Compl. ¶¶ 12-16.)

         A. Allegations with Respect to Defendant Springs

         As to Defendant Springs, Prosha asserts that:

It is well known that adherents of the House of Yahweh are not allowed to consume commercial dairy products such as milk, butter, ice cream, yogurt or cheese blends because they contain trace amounts of blood from unhealthy cows. Yet, Plaintiff was served milk each day and butter regularly at meals. It is also known that adherents must eat kosher foods only.

(Id. ¶ 19.) Prosha further asserts that Defendant Springs was "aware of the requirements for the meals of the Passover of the Unleavened Bread." (Id.) Prosha, however, fails to allege facts that suggest that Defendant Springs was aware that Prosha was not receiving food that complied with his religious tenets.

         B. Allegations with Respect to Defendant Parker

         As to Defendant Parker, Prosha makes the following allegations:

Under the provisions of VDOC Operating Procedure 866.1, Defendant Parker, as Warden of [GCC], reviewed and determined Plaintiffs grievances with respect to the failure to provide adequate and religiously correct meals in those instances when Plaintiffs complaints regarding the nature or extent of proper meals he had, or not had, received is not resolved to Plaintiffs satisfaction on an informal basis.

(Id. ¶ 20.) Prosha further alleges that he raised the issue of not receiving meals that complied with his dietary requirement in "an informal complaint... on April 9, 2015 ... and followed it with a formal grievance. Plaintiff further filed complaints and grievances on September 22, 2015, and December 4, 2015." (Id. ¶ 17.)

         C. Allegations with Respect to Defendant Robinson

         With respect to Defendant Robinson, Prosha simply alleges, "Plaintiff mailed a letter to Robinson on April 6, 2015 setting out the deficiencies in the meals being provided Plaintiff during the Passover of the Unleavened Bread. Plaintiff did not receive a response to this letter." (Id. ¶ 21.)

         D. Prosha's ...

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