United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
Andrew Plaster, Pro Se Plaintiff.
P. Jones United States District Judge
Walter Andrew Plaster, a state inmate proceeding pro se, has
filed a civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983,
alleging that jail officials have refused to provide him with
the diet required by his religious beliefs. He has also filed
a motion for preliminary injunctive relief. After review of
his submissions, I conclude that this action must be
summarily dismissed as moot.
Plaster filed his Complaint, he was confined at the Southwest
Virginia Regional Jail Authority (“SWVRJA”)
facility located in Duffield, Virginia. He contended that
jail officials had refused to accommodate his requests to
receive “common affair” or “common
fair” meals in keeping with his Asatru religious
beliefs. Compl. 2, ECF No. 1; Mot. Prelim. Inj. Attach. 1,
Pl.'s Decl. 4, ECF No. 4-1. His Complaint named two
administrators at the Duffield jail as defendants, asking the
court to order them to provide the Common Fare diet,
or to pay him $110 per day if he continued to be
housed at the jail past February 14, 2019, or to
transfer him to a different facility where he could receive
the Common Fare diet. Compl. 2, ECF No. 1. In a letter dated
February 12, 2019, Plaster notified the court that he had
been transferred to another SWVRJA facility in Meadowview,
an event occurs while a case is pending . . . that makes it
impossible for the court to grant any effectual relief
whatever to a prevailing party, the [case] must be dismissed,
” because federal courts have “no authority to
give opinions upon moot questions or abstract propositions,
or to declare principles or rules of law which cannot affect
the matter in issue in the case before it.” Church
of Scientology of Cal. v. United States, 506 U.S. 9, 12
(1992) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). It
is well established that a prisoner's transfer or release
from a particular jail moots his claims for injunctive and
declaratory relief with respect to his incarceration there.
See Incumaa v. Ozmint, 507 F.3d 281, 286- 87 (4th
Cir. 2007); Williams v. Griffin, 952 F.2d 820, 823
(4th Cir. 1991) (holding that inmate's transfer rendered
moot his claims for injunctive and declaratory relief).
has been transferred away from the jail in Duffield.
Therefore, the only defendants he has named no longer have
authority to provide him with the religious diet he desires.
For this reason, Plaster's claims for injunctive relief
against these defendants (to give him Common Fare meals or
transfer him) are now moot and must be dismissed. His motion
seeking preliminary injunctive relief is also moot, for the
same reasons. Furthermore, it is clear from the record that
Plaster was transferred away from the jail before his
self-imposed deadline when monetary damages would begin
accruing. Thus, I cannot find that he has stated any claim
for damages against the defendants in this case and will
dismiss those claims as well.
separate Final Order will be entered herewith.
 He clearly means the Common Fare diet,
which is designed by prison authorities to meet the religious
dietary needs of various faiths. See Braxton v. Dir. of
Health Servs., No. 1:17CV340(TSE/IDD), 2018 WL 6072003,
at *3 n.3 (E.D. Va. Nov. 19, 2018).
 In any event, Plaster has not stated a
§ 1983 claim that jail officials violated his
constitutional rights because he failed to show that he could
not find religiously acceptable food items from the selection
already offered. See Ephraim v. Angelone, 313
F.Supp.2d 569, 579 (E.D. Va.), aff'd, 68 Fed.Appx. 460
(4th Cir. 2003) (unpublished) (holding that there is no
constitutional requirement for prison to offer special diet
for individual inmate if he can self-select acceptable food
items from meal choices already provided); Abernathy v.
Cunningham, 393 F.2d 775, 778 (4th Cir. 1968) (finding
that if an inmate's religious diet can be accommodated
through choices offered on the regular serving line, special
diet need not be provided).
Dismissal of this case without prejudice leaves
Plaster free to file a new and separate case about his
religious dietary needs against jail officials at his current
facility if circumstances there violate his constitutional
rights. Before filing a lawsuit on that subject, however, he
must first exhaust available ...