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Washington v. McAuliffe

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division

March 26, 2019

TERRY MCAULIFFE, et al., Defendants.



         Torrey 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[1] 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.

         Pending 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.


         Washington 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).

         Initially 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, [2] 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.

         Washington stayed in Phase I on the VHU for two years and 10 months[3] 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.

         Another 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.

         In its 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.

         The 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.


         I. Summary Judgment Standard

         Pursuant 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).

         In 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).

         II. RLUIPA

         With 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; and
(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).

         Although 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)).

         III. First Amendment

         Inmates 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.

         IV. Equal Protection

         The 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).

         V. Cruel and Unusual Punishment

         The 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.


         I. Failure to Provide ...

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