United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Harrisonburg Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Elizabeth K. Dillon United States District Judge
case involves constitutional challenges brought by publisher
Prison Legal News (PLN) after materials it sent to prisoners
at the Northwestern Regional Adult Detention Center (NRADC)
were sent back to it with a notation that they had been
refused, per jail policy. The remaining named defendants are
the Northwestern Regional Jail Authority (NRJA), which
operates NRADC, and jail superintendent James F.
Whitley. Whitley was in charge of all operations at
the jail and was the individual who approved the policy that
PLN challenges. After this suit was filed, the parties
engaged in settlement discussions. They subsequently provided
to the court two consent decrees, both of which were entered
by the court. Those orders effectively granted the injunctive
relief sought by PLN.
parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment, raising a
host of issues. In ruling on those motions, the court found
NRJA liable as a matter of law on PLN's due process
claim, but found that disputes of fact precluded summary
judgment on PLN's First Amendment claim. As the court
explained, its ruling left only a few issues for trial: (1)
whether PLN can prevail on its First Amendment claim against
NRJA; and (2) the compensatory damages, if any, that PLN is
entitled to on its First Amendment claim in Count I and its
due process claim in Count II.
court's opinion also discussed PLN's Fourteenth
Amendment equal protection claim and denied PLN's motion
for summary judgment on this claim. However, because
defendants' motion for summary judgment did not expressly
ask for judgment in its favor on the equal protection claim,
the court could not grant judgment in defendants' favor
on that claim. (Mem. Op. 7 n.2, 26-Dkt. No. 89.) Rather, by
separate order (Dkt. No 91), the court gave notice of its
intent to grant summary judgment in defendants' favor as
to the equal protection claim for the same reasons it denied
PLN's motion (Mem. Op. 26-29) and gave PLN a reasonable
opportunity to respond. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(f).
parties filed timely responses concerning PLN's equal
protection claim. (Dkt. Nos. 92, 93.) For the reasons
discussed below, the court concludes that summary judgment in
defendants' favor as to PLN's equal protection claim
PLN's operative complaint, the second amended complaint,
its equal protection claim is based only on the following
58. The prohibition of “secular” books while
allowing “religious” books and [sic] violates the
equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the
United States Constitution.
59. As a direct and proximate result of the conduct of
Defendants, Plaintiff has and will continue to suffer harm as
(Second Am. Compl. ¶¶ 58-59, Dkt. No. 25.)
in light of these allegations, the court's analysis in
its prior opinion was based on a discussion of PLN's
assertion that it was treated differently than religious
publishers. Moreover, that was the only issue briefed in the
first round of summary judgment briefing. In its supplemental
briefing, however, PLN argues for the first time that
defendants violated its equal protection rights when they
intentionally and purposefully discriminated against
PLN's written speech by censoring its educational books
and magazines, while allowing similarly situated senders of
other educational material to communicate with prisoners at
the jail. (Pl.'s Supp. Br. 2-3, Dkt. No. 92.) That is,
PLN argues that defendants clearly intended to treat
educational books differently from other written speech, and
by excluding PLN's educational publications defendants
intentionally and purposefully discriminated against PLN.
(Id. at 3-4.)
supplemental briefing focuses entirely on a new theory and
basis for its equal protection claim, one that was not pled
in its complaint nor previously argued before the
court.Although defendants respond by addressing
the merits of that new claim, the court concludes that the
new claim is not before the court. Quite simply, PLN may not,
through briefing or argument, amend its complaint to plead a
new “theory” of equal protection violation.
S. Walk at Broadlands Homeowner's Ass'n, Inc. v.
OpenBand at Broadlands, LLC, 713 F.3d 175, 184 (4th Cir.
2013) (“It is well-established that parties cannot
amend their complaints through briefing or oral
the court will grant summary judgment in defendants'
favor as to PLN's equal protection claim for the reasons
set forth in the court's ...