United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
MICHAEL F. URBANSKI CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Lavell Washington, currently incarcerated at the Wallens
Ridge State Prison (WRSP), claims that his rights under the
Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, 42
U.S.C. § 2000cc-l, et seq., (RLUIPA), the Free Exercise
Clause, the Equal Protection Clause, the Cruel and Unusual
Punishment Clause, the Virginia Constitution, and Virginia
statutes are being violated in various ways by the
defendants. ECF No. 25-1. This court previously entered
summary judgment dismissing a number of Washington's
claims and found that all the defendants except Natarcha
Gregg were entitled to qualified immunity to the extent they
were sued in their individual capacities. The court directed
the state defendants to file a supplemental motion for summary
judgment on the remaining claims against Gregg and on
Washington's claims for injunctive relief. ECF No. 78.
is the supplemental motion for summary judgment brought by
the remaining state defendants to which Washington has
responded. For the reasons discussed more fully below, the
court GRANTS the defendants'
supplemental motion for summary judgment and
DISMISSES Washington's causes of action.
practices the Rastafarian religion and one tenet of the
religion is that adherents let their hair grow long and wear
it in dreadlocks. When Washington arrived at the Nottaway
Correctional Center of the Virginia Department of Corrections
(VDOC) on June 3, 2014, he was forced to cut his hair and was
placed in segregation. When he later was transferred to the
WRSP on April 5, 2016, he was placed in a special unit for
offenders who refuse to cut their hair, known as the Grooming
Standards Violator Housing Unit (VHU).
when Washington was placed in the VHU, he was in "Phase
I." Because of his classification, he was not allowed to
have a personal television, could not order or receive a
quarterly Securepak,  could not buy the maximum at the
commissary, and did not get five hours of pod recreation. He
could only watch television in the common area and the
television was set to play only one Christian channel.
stayed in Phase I on the VHU for two years and 10
months but has since been allowed to participate
at the Phase II level. He now is able to receive all of his
"fundamental privileges." ECF No. 88 at 9. He
worked as a pod recreation worker from April 13, 2017 to July
23, 2017 and has worked as a houseman since that time.
However, without cutting his hair he is not allowed to have a
job working in the kitchen or to enroll in a trade.
tenet of the Rastafarian religion is that its adherents are
vegetarians and do not eat eggs. Washington sometimes is
served eggs alone or incorporated into other food. At one
point, VDOC had a special Rastafarian meal plan that has
since been discontinued, while no other religious based meal
plan has been discontinued. In addition, in the VHU, die same
food trays left over at lunch are often served for dinner and
the food is not properly stored between the meals, creating a
risk for food-borne illnesses. Also, the WRSP kitchen staff
serve inadequate portions as a way to punish inmates in the
VHU for not complying with grooming standards.
previous memorandum opinion, the court dismissed
Washington's claims based on his being forced to cut his
hair after finding they were time-barred and unexhausted. The
court also dismissed Washington's claims against the
Keefe defendants-Joey O'Quinn, Everleane Randolph, and
Regina Sturgill Witt-for failure to state a claim. In
addition, the court entered summary judgment in favor of the
following state defendants based on qualified immunity to the
extent they were sued in their individual capacities: Terry
McAuliffe, Brian Moran, Harold W. Clarke, A. David Robinson,
S. Stallard, M. Broyles, Stout, Belcher, Evans, B.J. Ravizee,
Ferris, J. Collins, C. King, Anderson, S. Collins, D. Cooke,
D. Byington, C. Rutherford, CA. Caudill, Carmony, Leslie J.
Fleming, J.C. Combs, Robert H. Bivens, and Marcus Elam. In
addition, the court further found that all the state
defendants were entitled to summary judgment as to damages
sought based on Washington's RLUIPA claims.
following claims remain: (1) Washington's claim against
defendant Natarcha Gregg in her individual capacity alleging
that her failure to provide an egg substitute violates his
rights under RLUIPA, the Free Exercise Clause, the Equal
Protection Clause, and the Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Clause; (2) Washington's request for injunctive relief
asking that defendants Gregg and S. Stallard be ordered to
authorize an egg substitute, to serve adequate quantities of
food, and to forbid serving old, cold food; (3)
Washington's claim for injunctive relief seeking to have
defendants Clarke and Robinson modify the grooming policy set
out in Operating Procedure (OP) 864.1 because it violates his
religious freedom rights and discriminates against him as a
black male; and (4) Washington's claim that Defendants
Fleming, Combs, J. Collins, Anderson, and King should be
ordered to restore Washington's fundamental privileges.
ECF No. 78 at 14-16; 19-20.
Summary Judgment Standard
to Rule 56(a), the court must "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." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett. 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Glynn v. EDO
Corp.. 710 F.3d 209, 213 (4th Cir. 2013). When making
this determination, the court should consider "the
pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and
admissions on file, together with . . . [any]
affidavits" filed by the parties. Celotex, 477
U.S. at 322. Whether a fact is material depends on the
relevant substantive law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby.
Inc.. 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). "Only disputes over
facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the
governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary
judgment. Factual disputes that are irrelevant or unnecessary
will not be counted." Id. (citation omitted).
The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating
the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.
Celotex. 477 U.S. at 323. If that burden has been
met, the non-moving party must then come forward and
establish the specific material facts in dispute to survive
summary judgment. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith
Radio Corp.. 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986).
determining whether a genuine issue of material fact exists,
the court views die facts and draws all reasonable inferences
in die light most favorable to the non-moving party.
Glynn. 710 F.3d at 213 (citing Bonds v.
Leavitt. 629 F.3d 369, 380 (4th Cir. 2011)). Indeed,
"[i]t is an 'axiom tiiat in ruling on a motion for
summary judgment, die evidence of the nonmovant is to be
believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in
his favor.'" McAirlaids. Inc. v. Kimberly-Clark
Corp.. 756 F.3d 307, 310 (4th Cir. 2014) (internal
alteration omitted) (citing Tolan v. Cotton. 134
S.Ct. 1861, 1863 (2014) (per curiam)). Moreover,
"[c]redibility determinations, die weighing of the
evidence, and die drawing of legitimate inferences from die
facts are jury functions, not those of a judge."
Anderson. 477 U.S. at 255. The non-moving party
must, however, "set forth specific facts mat go beyond
the 'mere existence of a scintilla of
evidence.'" Glynn, 710 F.3d at 213 (quoting
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252). The non-moving party
must show that "there is sufficient evidence favoring
the nonmoving party for a jury to return a verdict for that
party." Res. Bankshares Corp. v. St. Paul Mercury
Ins. Co.. 407 F.3d 631, 635 (4th Cir. 2005) (quoting
Anderson. 477 U.S. at 249). "In other words, to
grant summary judgment die [c]ourt must determine that no
reasonable jury could find for the nonmoving party on the
evidence before it." Moss v. Parks Corp.. 985
F.2d 736, 738 (4th Cir. 1993) (quoting Perini Corp. v.
Perini Constr.. Inc.. 915 F.2d 121, 124 (4th Cir.
1990)). Even when facts are not in dispute, the court cannot
grant summary judgment unless there is "no genuine issue
as to the inferences to be drawn from" those facts.
World-Wide Rights Ltd. P'ship v. Combe Inc.. 955
F.2d 242, 244 (4th Cir.1992).
regard to prison inmates, RLUIPA provides die following:
(a) General rule No government shall impose a substantial
burden on the religious exercise of a person residing in or
confined to an institution . . . even if the burden results
from a rule of general applicability, unless the government
demonstrates that imposition of the burden on that person-
(1) is in furtherance of a compelling government interest;
(2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that
compelling government interest.
42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-l (a). RLUIPA claims are analyzed
under the strict scrutiny standard and are to be construed
'"in favor of broad protection of religious
exercise."' Lovelace v. Lee, 472 F.3d 174,
186 (2006) (quoting 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-3(g)). The inmate
bears the initial burden of showing that a prison's
policy creates a substantial burden on his religious
exercise. If he makes such a showing, the burden shifts to
the defendant to show that its policy furthers a compelling
state interest by the least restrictive means. 42 U.S.C.
§ 2000cc-2 (b); Incumaa v. Stirling. 791 F.3d
517, 525 (4th Cir. 2015).
the statute does not define "substantial burden,"
the Supreme Court has defined the term in the context of the
Free Exercise Clause as "putting substantial pressure on
an adherent to modify his behavior and violate his
beliefs," Thomas v. Review Bd. Of Ind. Employment
Sec. Div.; 459 U.S. 707, 718 (1981), or
"one that forces a person to 'choose between
following the precepts of her religion and forfeiting
[governmental] benefits, on the one hand, and abandoning one
of the precepts of her religion ... on the other
hand.'" Lovelace. 472 F.3d at 187 (quoting
Sherbert v. Verner. 374 U.S. 3981, 404 (1963)).
Government action does not create a substantial burden if it
makes the religious exercise more expensive or difficult, as
long as it does not pressure, the adherent to violate his or
her religious beliefs or abandon one of the precepts of his
religion. Al-Azim v. Everett, No. 3:14CV339, 2017 WL
1097219 at * 3 (E.D. Va. 2017) (citing Living Water
Church of God v. Charger Twp. Of Meridian. 258 Fed.Appx.
729, 739 (6th Cir. 2007)).
retain protections provided by the First Amendment, including
its directive that no law shall prohibit the free exercise of
religion. O'Lone v. Estate of Shabazz. 482 U.S.
342, 348 (1987). Nevertheless, inmates' rights are
evaluated in the context of their incarceration and courts
accord deference to prison officials. Lovelace. 472
F.3d at 199. In the context of prison regulations, "when
a prison regulation impinges on inmates' constitutional
rights, the regulation is valid if it is reasonably related
to legitimate penological interests. In our view, such a
standard is necessary if'prison administrators ..., and
not the courts, [are] to make the difficult judgments
concerning institutional operations.'" Turner v.
Safley. 482 U.S. 78, 89 (1987) (quoting Jones v.
North Carolina Prisoners' Union. 433 U.S. 119, 128
(1977)). Thus, the First Amendment affords less protections
to inmates' free exercise rights than does RLUIPA.
Lovelace. 472 F.3d at 199-200.
Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment requires
that persons who are similarly situated be treated alike by
the government. City of Cleburne v. Cleburne Living Ctr..
Inc.. 473 U.S. 432, 439-41 (1985). To establish a
violation of the Equal Protection Clause, a plaintiff must
show that he has been treated differently from others who are
similarly situated and that the unequal treatment was
intentional or purposeful. If a plaintiff makes such a
showing, the court then determines whether the disparity in
treatment can be justified under the requisite level of
scrutiny. Morrison v. Garraghty, 239 F.3d 648, 654
(4th Cir. 2001).
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Eighth Amendment protects convicted inmates from cruel and
unusual living conditions. Rhodes v. Chapman, 452
U.S. 337, 345-346 (1991). The Constitution does not mandate
comfortable prisons, but neither does it allow inhumane ones.
Id; Helling v. McKinney, 509 U.S. 25, 31 (1993).
Prison officials must provide humane conditions of
confinement, including adequate food, clothing, shelter, and
medical care, and also must take reasonable measures to
ensure the safety of inmates. Farmer v. Brennan, 511
U.S. 825, 832 (1994) (citing Hudson v. Palmer. 468
U.S. 517, 526-527 (1984)). "To make out a prima facie
case that prison conditions violate the Eighth Amendment, 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."
Strickler v. Waters. 989 F.2d 1375, 1379 (4th Cir.
1993) (internal quotations and citations omitted). "[I]n
order to withstand summary judgment on an Eighth Amendment
challenge to prison conditions[, ] a plaintiff must produce
evidence of a serious or significant physical or emotional
injury resulting from the challenged conditions."
Id. at 1381.
Failure to Provide ...