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Haendel v. Clark

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

March 26, 2019

DAN HAENDEL, Plaintiff,
HAROLD W. CLARK, et al., Defendants.


          Hon. Jackson L. Kiser, Senior United States District Judge

         Dan Haendel, a former Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, commenced this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act ("RLUIPA"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-l et seq, against defendants associated with the Virginia Department of Corrections ("VDOC"), Haynesville Correctional Center ("HCC"), and Coffeewood Correctional Center ("CWCC").[1] Currently pending is a Motion for Civil Contempt of Court Order ("Motion") filed by Plaintiff against Defendant Gilmore. [ECF No. 45.] The Motion had been referred to a United States Magistrate Judge for a report and recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) (the "R&R") [ECF No. 78], and Plaintiff timely filed his objections [ECF No. 79]. For the reasons that follow, I will reject Plaintiffs objections and adopt the R&R in its entirety.

         I. Background

         In 2017, Plaintiff was a prisoner in the custody of the VDOC at Coffeewood. Plaintiff was transferred to Coffeewood in September 2015 so that Plaintiff could participate in VDOC's Common Fare Diet ("Common Fare"). Common Fare is a food service program developed the VDOC to meet the dietary needs of inmates that have food-related religious requirements that cannot be accommodated by foods on other VDOC menus. Plaintiff filed a complaint in this court alleging that certain prison officials violated his rights under § 1983 and RLUIPA by failing to provide him with a kosher diet under Common Fare consistent with his religious beliefs and by otherwise discriminating against him on the basis of those beliefs.

         In February 2018, Plaintiff filed a "Motion for Immediate Injunctive Relief seeking an order requiring the VDOC and Coffeewood to provide (1) "certified Kosher for Passover meals during Passover 2018 beginning March 30, 2018," and (2) "certified daily Kosher meals[, ] which Common Fare fails to do...." (Pl's Mot. for Inj. Relief 1 [ECF No. 34].) In an order entered on March 29, 2018 (the "Injunction Order"), I took under advisement Plaintiffs request for certified daily Kosher meals and granted, in part, Plaintiffs request for Kosher for Passover meals, providing the following directive:

[T]he Warden of Coffeewood shall allow Plaintiff to receive the donated Kosher for Passover meals already obtained and delivered for Plaintiff before the start of the VDOC's 2018 Passover program; Plaintiff must still comply with third party purchase requirement and other aspects of the VDOC's 2018 Passover program; and any Kosher for Passover meal to be delivered to Plaintiff as a result of this Order is still subject to Coffeewood's usual screening or security procedures to ensure and maintain institutional security.

(Order on Mot. for Inj. Relief 5 [ECF No. 42].)

         On April 12, 2018, Plaintiff filed the present Motion requesting that I "cite Warden Ivan Gilmore ... for civil contempt for flagrant violations of the [Injunction Order]." (Pl's Mot. for Civil Contempt 1 [ECF No. 45] ("Pl's Mot.").) In his Motion, Plaintiff alleged that Gilmore, along with other representatives of the VDOC, violated the Injunction Order by, inter alia, arbitrarily denying Plaintiff certain donated Kosher for Passover items shipped to Coffeewood by a third party. Opposing the Motion, Defendants asserted that the Coffeewood staff took great care to ensure compliance with the Injunction Order and that "Plaintiffs allegations are either factually inaccurate or utterly fabricated." (Defs.' Opp'n Br. 2 [ECF No. 47].)

         In the R&R, the magistrate judge recommended denying Plaintiffs motion.

         II. Standards of Review

         A. R&R

         In a report pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b), the magistrate judge makes only recommendations to the court. The recommendations have no presumptive weight, and responsibility for making a final determination remains with the court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270-71 (1976). The court is charged with making a de novo review of those portions of the report to which specific objection is made, and may "accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations" of the magistrate judge. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). In the absence of specific objections to the report, the court is not required to give any explanation for adopting the recommendation. Camby v. Davis, 718 F.2d 198, 199-200 (4th Cir. 1983). Objections that only repeat arguments raised before a magistrate judge are considered general objections to the entirety of the report and recommendation, which has the same effect as a failure to object. Veney v. Astrue, 539 F.Supp.2d 841, 845 (W.D. Va. 2008).

         B. Motion for Civil Contempt

         "There can be no question that courts have inherent power to enforce compliance with their lawful orders through civil contempt." Shillitani v. United States, 384 U.S. 364, 370 (1966). Contempt is a "drastic remedy" for which the movant carries the "heavy burden" to establish. Morgan v. Barry, 596 F.Supp. 897, 898 (D.D.C. 1984). The Fourth Circuit has held that to establish civil ...

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