United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
K. MOON SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
James, a Virginia inmate, filed this civil rights action
alleging several Virginia Department of Corrections
(“VDOC”) employees: (1) failed to provide
reasonable accommodations to his various health issues; (2)
failed to allow the performance of certain Sabbath
ceremonies; and (3) failed to offer a Kosher diet that
adequately considered his other dietary restrictions. The
Court will grant the defendants' motions for summary
judgment because (1) VDOC reasonably accommodated James's
health issues, (2) James failed to exhaust administrative
remedies before filing his suit, and (3) the combination of
meals, medication, and counseling offered by VDOC did not
substantially burden James's religious
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.
The Court recounts the following facts drawing all reasonable
inferences in James's favor. Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-24 (1986).
1, 2015, James arrived at the Wallens Ridge State Prison
(“WRSP”) wearing medical braces on his back and
his right knee. During intake, the security supervisor
advised James that such braces were not allowed at WRSP. In
the following days, James was kept at the infirmary while
medical staff evaluated his medication, his need for the
braces, and waited for a bottom bunk to open up. James was
waiting for a bottom bunk to open up because a previous
facility had determined James required a lower bunk because
of his knee and back issues, a conclusion WRSP agreed with.
During this time he was denied regular access to the dining
hall, out-of-cell activities, the recreation area, visits,
and the commissary. On May 11, 2015, James received a bottom
bunk assignment in the general population. Later, James was
transferred to other prisons for various medical
consultations. On his return, he had to wait in the infirmary
for two other periods (of twelve and seven days respectively)
while again waiting for a bottom bunk.
2015, James separately asked various VDOC employees for
matzah and two four-ounce cups of grape juice to perform
Sabbath ceremonies. However, he never filed the
“Request for Approval of Faith Object” form
identified in VDOC Operating Procedure 841.3. These forms are
available to prisoners upon request. Because James never
submitted this request, the Faith Review Committee was
unaware of his desire for matzah bread and grape juice.
James has a history of high cholesterol. At WRSP, James was
given Kosher “Common Fare” food trays because he
is Jewish. This tray frequently includes eggs or products
that contain eggs. Worried about the impact of eggs on his
cholesterol level, James sought a “cardiac” meal
tray from various defendants. While WRSP made a cardiac tray
available for regular and vegetarian fare meals, it did not
have a cardiac-specific version of the Common Fare tray. WRSP
believed the Common Fare tray was “heart healthy”
in spite of the eggs. Dieticians and doctors also met with
James to prescribe medicine for his high cholesterol and
counsel him on what foods he should eat. James refused to
take the prescribed medicine because he believed it was
ineffective and continued to buy unhealthy food from the
commissary. James claimed his egg-yolk consumption caused
chest pain, light headedness, shortness of breath, cold
sweats, and acute head pain. WRSP started excluding eggs from
James's tray on October 28, 2016.
Court works through each of James's three claims,
collectively addressing the various arguments put forward in
defendants' motions for summary judgment.
Claim 1, James alleges the VDOC, Director Clarke, Warden
Fleming, Officer Christy Church, and Dr. Dulaney violated the
Eighth Amendment, the Americans with Disabilities Act
(“ADA”), and the Rehabilitation Act
(“RA”) by placing him in the infirmary. As stated
above, the periods of isolation occurred when James was being
transferred back to WRSP, his medical issues were being
evaluated, and the defendants were waiting for an available
bottom bunk to become available. James has knee and back
problems, requiring him to use a bottom bunk.
order to make out an Eighth Amendment violation based on
prison conditions, “a plaintiff must show both (1) a
serious deprivation of a basic human need; and (2) deliberate
indifference to prison conditions on the part of prison
officials.” King v. Rubenstein, 825 F.3d 206,
218 (4th Cir. 2016) (citation omitted). “The first
prong is objective and requires that the deprivation be
‘sufficiently serious'; the second requires us to
determine whether subjectively ‘the officials acted
with a sufficiently culpable state of mind.'”
states he was excluded from several activities and programs
while in medical isolation and segregation, but he does not
allege that he suffered any serious injury or substantial
risk of injury. James's claim must fail because his
evidence of temporary inconvenience cannot sustain an Eighth
Amendment claim. See Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S.
1, 9 (1992) (“[E]xtreme deprivations are required to
make out a conditions-of-confinement claim. Because routine
discomfort is ‘part of the penalty that criminal
offenders pay for their offenses against society, ' only
those deprivations denying ‘the minimal civilized
measure of life's necessities' are sufficiently grave
to form the basis of an Eighth Amendment violation.”);
Jackson v. Ray, No. 7:06-CV-00167, 2006 WL 840317,
at *2 (W.D. Va. Mar. 28, 2006) (“While being confined
in segregation may be restrictive and inconvenient, the
plaintiff does not allege that he has suffered a serious
mental or physical injury as a result of his conditions of
confinement in segregation, and there is no indication that
the conditions pose an unreasonable risk of serious
all disputed facts and reasonable inferences in favor of
plaintiff, the Court concludes James fails to demonstrate a
genuine dispute of material fact here.
ADA and RA
alleges the same conduct also gave rise to claims under the
ADA and RA. In order to establish a violation of the ADA or
the RA, James must prove: (1) he has a disability; (2) he is
otherwise qualified for the benefit in question; and (3) he
was excluded from the benefit due to discrimination on the
basis of the disability.Doe v. Univ. of Md. Med. Sys.
Corp., 50 F.3d 1261, 1264-65 (4th Cir. 1995);
Pennsylvania Dep't of Corr. v. Yeskey, 524 U.S.
206, 213 (1998) (“[T]he plain text of Title II of the
ADA unambiguously extends to state prison inmates[.]”).
The statutory rights created by the ADA and the RA
“must be considered in light of reasonable requirements
of effective prison administration.” Gates v.
Rowland, 39 F.3d 1439, 1446 (9th Cir.
1994). Importantly, however, the Department of
Justice has issued regulations clarifying that
“[u]nless it is appropriate to make an exception,
” the ADA is violated when a state prison denies an
inmate access to services by discriminatorily placing him in
an infirmary unit when he is not receiving ...