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Case Name Greenhill v. Clarke PC-VA-0025
Docket / Court 7:16-cv-00068 ( W.D. Va. )
State/Territory Virginia
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Special Collection Solitary confinement
Case Summary
On February 19, 2016, the plaintiff, a Muslim inmate at the Red Onion State Prison, filed this pro se lawsuit alleging a violation of right to free expression in the District Court for the Western District of Virginia. He sued the Virginia Department of Corrections (VDOC) under 28 U.S.C. 2201, 48 ... read more >
On February 19, 2016, the plaintiff, a Muslim inmate at the Red Onion State Prison, filed this pro se lawsuit alleging a violation of right to free expression in the District Court for the Western District of Virginia. He sued the Virginia Department of Corrections (VDOC) under 28 U.S.C. 2201, 48 U.S.C. 1983, and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA). He sought declaratory judgment, preliminary and permanent injunctions, costs, damages, and a jury trial.

In the complaint, the plaintiff contested three specific prison policies that he alleged hindered his ability to practice his Sufi Islamic faith. First, he alleged that the prison's policy for Jum'ah, the weekly Islamic gathering, for inmates in solitary confinement like he is, violated his rights. In the general population, Jum'ah is broadcast in common spaces, but for inmates in solitary confinement, a taped version of Jum'ah is given to inmates with televisions. The plaintiff had neither a television nor a means to get a job that would allow him to purchase a television, since he alleged that he was being kept in solitary confinement as a result of his beard length. His second allegation stemmed from the prison's beard policies, saying that he was unable to grow his beard out to the four inches mandated by his faith due to the prison's quarter-inch beard policy. Finally, he focused on prison food policies, saying that his halal dinners no longer became halal once they entered the contaminated food slot all solitary confinement inmates use, and he was not given facilities to make his food halal again.

Judge James P. Jones denied the plaintiff's request for a preliminary injunction on all issues on March 23, 2016, saying that the claims presented in the complaint did not meet the bar of imminent harm. 2016 WL 1179225. The plaintiff appealed this decision on April 14, 2016. In a December 22, 2016 opinion, the Fourth Circuit upheld the District Court's decision regarding the halal food issue and beard issue, but remanded the Jum'ah decision, saying that the court did not provide specific facts to support its decision. 672 Fed.Appx. 259.

The case returned to the District Court, and on May 10, 2017, Judge Jones denied the plaintiff's request for preliminary injunctive relief on the issue of Jum'ah. 2017 WL 1929669, W.D. Va. This supported Magistrate Judge Pamela Meade Sargeant's recommendation to not grant injunctive relief on March 20, 2017 (2017 WL 9517164 W.D. Va.). This time, the Judge detailed that, since the prison gave him an option to improve his behavior to allow him to get a job that would pay for a television and the plaintiff did not take it, his religious exercise rights were not being infringed. The plaintiff appealed this decision on June 1, and the Fourth Circuit issued a short memorandum opinion declining to take the case on October 31, saying that it had enough information to uphold the District Court's decision. 699 Fed.Appx. 280.

On December 15, 2017, Judge Jones issued an opinion on the defendant's motion for summary judgment, which was filed back before the preliminary injunction appeals on July 13, 2016. He denied the motion for the plaintiff's claims under the RLUIPA, saying that the defendants did not counter the plaintiff's allegations that his continued stay in solitary confinement is related to his refusal to trim his beard as his religion instructs, and that this stay is blocking him from accessing televised Jum'ah. However, he granted summary judgment on the First Amendment free exercise claims on the beard, halal food, and Jum'ah policies, saying that these policies were not an undue burden under existing precedent.

The plaintiffs filed an amended motion for summary judgment addressing the RLUIPA issues on January 12, 2018, stating that the plaintiff remains in solitary confinement for disciplinary infractions unrelated to his beard length. Judge Jones granted this motion for summary judgment on September 19, 2018, saying that the defendants presented enough evidence to support this motion this time. 2018 WL 4512074, W.D. Va.

The plaintiff appealed this summary judgment decision on October 23, 2018. The Fourth Circuit vacated the summary judgment motion and remanded the case on December 6, 2019, saying that the VDOC's use of access to television for religious services as an incentive program unduly burdens the plaintiff's rights to practice a bona fide religious belief. The panel stated that religious practice should be a right, not a privilege that can be taken away through an incentive program. 944 F.3d 243.

The case returned to District Court, where the defendants could file another motion for summary judgment consistent with the Fourth Circuit's ruling. The case is ongoing as of May 25, 2020.

Ellen Aldin - 05/25/2020


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Free Exercise Clause
Defendant-type
Corrections
Discrimination-basis
Religion discrimination
General
Bathing and hygiene
Conditions of confinement
Food service / nutrition / hydration
Religious programs / policies
Sanitation / living conditions
Solitary confinement/Supermax (conditions or process)
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983
Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
Religious Freedom Rest. Act/Religious Land Use and Inst. Persons Act (RFRA/RLUIPA)
Defendant(s) Virginia Department of Corrections
Plaintiff Description Inmate at the Red Onion State Prison who is a practicing Muslim.
Class action status sought No
Class action status outcome Not sought
Filed Pro Se Yes
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief None yet
Source of Relief None yet
Filed 02/19/2016
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
Court Docket(s)
W.D. Va.
06/08/2020
7:16-cv-00068-JPJ-PMS
PC-VA-0025-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
W.D. Va.
02/19/2016
Complaint [ECF# 1]
PC-VA-0025-0002.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
W.D. Va.
03/23/2016
Opinion [ECF# 13] (2016 WL 1179225)
PC-VA-0025-0003.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
U.S. Court of Appeals
12/22/2016
Memorandum Opinion (672 Fed.Appx. 259)
PC-VA-0025-0004.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
W.D. Va.
03/20/2017
Report and Recommendation [ECF# 41] (2017 WL 9517164)
PC-VA-0025-0005.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
W.D. Va.
05/10/2017
Opinion and Order [ECF# 43] (2017 WL 1929669)
PC-VA-0025-0006.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
U.S. Court of Appeals
10/31/2017
Memorandum Opinion (699 Fed.Appx. 280)
PC-VA-0025-0007.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
W.D. Va.
12/15/2017
Opinion and Order [ECF# 53]
PC-VA-0025-0008.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
W.D. Va.
09/19/2018
Opinion and Order [ECF# 60] (2018 WL 4512074)
PC-VA-0025-0009.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
U.S. Court of Appeals
01/21/2019
Brief Amici Curiae of Former Corrections Officials Dan Pacholke, Jeanne Woodford, Phil Stanley, Dick Morgan, and Eldon Vail in Support of Plaintiff-Appellant and Reversal [Ct. of App. ECF# 28-1]
PC-VA-0025-0001.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
U.S. Court of Appeals
12/06/2019
Notice of Judgment [Ct. of App. ECF# 81] (944 F.3d 243)
PC-VA-0025-0010.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Hamilton, Clyde H. (D.S.C., Fourth Circuit) show/hide docs
PC-VA-0025-0004 | PC-VA-0025-0007
Jones, James Parker (FISC, W.D. Va.) show/hide docs
PC-VA-0025-0003 | PC-VA-0025-0006 | PC-VA-0025-0008 | PC-VA-0025-0009 | PC-VA-0025-9000
Motz, Diana Jane Gribbon (Fourth Circuit) show/hide docs
PC-VA-0025-0004 | PC-VA-0025-0007
Niemeyer, Paul Victor (D. Md., Fourth Circuit) show/hide docs
PC-VA-0025-0004 | PC-VA-0025-0007
Sargent, Pamela Meade (W.D. Va.) [Magistrate] show/hide docs
PC-VA-0025-0005 | PC-VA-0025-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Edson, Scott Michael (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-VA-0025-9000
Lehman, Kathryn Stewart (Georgia) show/hide docs
PC-VA-0025-9000
O'Brien, Kevin Jordan (Virginia) show/hide docs
PC-VA-0025-9000
Reiling, Jarred Lee (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-VA-0025-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Cahill, Laura Haeberle (Virginia) show/hide docs
PC-VA-0025-0004 | PC-VA-0025-0007 | PC-VA-0025-9000
Miller, Mary Grace (Virginia) show/hide docs
PC-VA-0025-0007 | PC-VA-0025-9000
Other Lawyers Hagerty, Elizabeth (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-VA-0025-0001
Pare, Claudia (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-VA-0025-0001
Pegg, Allen P (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-VA-0025-0001

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