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Sampson v. Clarke

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

December 28, 2018

HAROLD W. CLARKE, et al., Defendants.


          Robert E. Payne Senior United States District Judge

         Orvin Lee Sampson, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action. Sampson names the following individuals as defendants: Harold W. Clarke, Director of the Virginia Department of Corrections ("VDOC"); A. David Robinson, Director of Corrections Operations; D. Ratliffe-Walker, Warden of Lunenburg Correctional Center ("LCC"); Charlene Davis, Regional Administrator for the VDOC; B. Reed, Food Director; and, Phyllis Hughes, Assistant Food Director (collectively, "Defendants"). The matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss and the Court's responsibility to review prisoner actions under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). For the reasons that follow, the Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 13) will be granted.


         "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 5A 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 plaintiff's 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).

         While the Court liberally construes pro se complaints, Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978), it does not act as the inmate's advocate, sua sponte developing statutory and constitutional claims the inmate failed to clearly raise on the face of his 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).


         At all times pertinent to the Complaint, Sampson was confined in LCC. (Compl. ¶ 2.) "Sampson is a Messianic Jew." (Id. ¶ 41.) As a Messianic Jew, on the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, Sampson was and is required to fast for twenty-four hours, from sundown to sundown. (Id. ¶¶ 12, 15.) Sampson, also alleges, in a somewhat confusing fashion that, "during the Messianic fast, he can only eat prior to sunrise and after sunset." (Id. ¶ 41.) On July 1, 2015, Defendant Robinson implemented a policy that provides that those observing the Day of Atonement will be provided with only two meals at the conclusion of their twenty-four hour fast. (Id. ¶ 15.)

         In 2016, Sampson was employed in the Food Service Department at LCC. (Id. ¶¶ 27, 30.) After sundown on October 12, 2016, Sampson began fasting in observance of the Day of Atonement. (Id. ¶ 12.) On October 13, 2016, Sampson "was given breakfast before the sun came up and nothing else to eat until the sundown of the day. After sundown [Sampson] was given a dinner tray plus a bag meal to meet the calorie intake of the day . . . ." (Id. ¶¶ 41, 42.) Sampson noticed that the bag meal "was not properly equipped with the calories dietary count intake for that day . . . ." (Id. ¶ 43.)

         Sampson brought the perceived inadequacy of the bag meal to the attention of Food Service Director Reed. (Id. ¶ 44.) Defendant Reed directed Sampson to take the issue up with Assistant Food Service Director Hughes. (Id.) Defendant Hughes told Sampson, "I don't know what to tell you." (Id.)

         Sampson then went Food Service Supervisor Bennet. (Id. ¶ 45.) Mr. Bennet acknowledged that Sampson was "missing a meal." (Id.) Sampson asked Mr. Bennet if he could put, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, vegetables, and fruit in a bag. (Id.) Mr. Bennet agreed to allow Sampson to put the above items in a bag. (Id.)

         Upon discovering Sampson's actions, Defendant "Reed sent [Sampson] back to his housing unit due to preparing unauthorized food and putting extra in the snack bags." (Id. ¶ 13.) Additionally, on October 13, 2016, Defendant Reed requested that Sampson be terminated from his job with Food Service Department on the grounds that, inter alia, Sampson was "unwilling to follow policy, instructions, and directives within the Food Service Operation.7' (ECF No. 1-1, at 12.)

         On November 1, 2016, Sampson filed a grievance complaining about his termination from his job for placing extra food in the bag meals provided for after the fast of Yom Kippur. (Id. at 8.) Defendant Ratliffe-Walker denied Sampson's grievance noting, Sampson "played one supervisor against another" and placed extra food in the bags when you were told by Defendants Hughes and Reed to follow the memo. (Id. at 9.) Sampson appealed the denial of his grievance. (Compl. ¶ 22.) Defendant Davis denied Sampson's appeal. (Id.)


         Sampson contends that the Defendants' actions violated his "constitutional right to be employed, and to practice his religion in a proper manner . . . ." (Compl. ¶ 9.) Sampson contends that by failing to provide him proper meals to break the fast of Yom Kippur and then terminating him from his job Defendants violated his rights under the First Amendment, the Eighth Amendment, the Fourteenth Amendment, and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act ("RLUIPA") .[1] (Id. ¶¶ 10, 28, 40, 51.) Sampson also claims that Defendants' action violated his rights under the Fifth Amendment, [2] the Sixth Amendment, [3] the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, [4] and Article 1, section 8 of the Virginia Constituion.[5] (See, e.g., Compl. ¶¶ 28, 50.) It is appropriate the summary dismiss these claims, as Sampson fails to suggest how the Fifth Amendment, Sixth Amendment, and Article 1, section 8 of the Virginia Constituion are implicated, much less violated, by Defendants' actions. Furthermore, the Supreme Court has found that Congress exceeded its powers by applying RFRA to states and localities under Section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment. City of Boerne v. Flores, 521 U.S. 507, 536 (1997). Accordingly, any claim under RFRA, the Fifth Amendment, the Sixth Amendment, Article 1, section 8 of the Virginia Constitution will be dismissed.

         IV. ANALYSIS

         A. RLUIPA AND ...

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