Argued: December 11, 2013
Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia, at Roanoke. Jackson L. Kiser, Senior District Judge. (7:11-cv-00191-JLK-RSB).
Elizabeth Scott Turner, COLLEGE OF WILLIAM & MARY, Williamsburg Virginia, for Appellant.
Earle Duncan Getchell, Jr., OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF VIRGINIA, Richmond, Virginia, for Appellees.
Tillman J. Breckenridge, Washington, D.C., Robert M. Luck III, REED SMITH LLP, Richmond, Virginia; Patricia E. Roberts, WILLIAM & MARY LAW SCHOOL APPELLATE AND SUPREME COURT CLINIC, Williamsburg, Virginia, for Appellant.
Kenneth T. Cuccinelli, II, Attorney General of Virginia, Michael H. Brady, Assistant Solicitor General, Patricia L. West, Chief Deputy Attorney General, Wesley G. Russell, Jr., Deputy Attorney General, OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF VIRGINIA, Richmond, Virginia, for Appellees.
Before GREGORY, DAVIS, and WYNN, Circuit Judges.
In this appeal we review the application of a state prison's policy conditioning an inmate's request for a religious accommodation on his possession of physical indicia of faith. We also address whether the inmate's claims for equitable relief were mooted after the prison abandoned the policy. We vacate the district court's summary judgment order granting the defendants qualified immunity on the plaintiff's claims for monetary relief. We also vacate the district court's decision that the prison's abandonment of the policy mooted the claims for equitable relief. We remand to the district court for such further proceedings as may be appropriate.
The plaintiff, Gary Wall, is a state prisoner housed at Red Onion State Prison ("ROSP") in Pound, Virginia. As a member of the Nation of Islam, in 2008 and 2009 Wall was allowed to observe the holy month of Ramadan while in state custody. To accommodate Ramadan observance, prison officials provide participating inmates with special meals served before and after sunset. While at ROSP, Wall also received "common fare" meals, which satisfied his religious beliefs.
Prior to 2010, Muslim inmates at ROSP simply had to sign up to participate in Ramadan. In 2009, approximately half of the inmate population signed up. ROSP staff later determined that a significant number of the participating inmates were not, in fact, practicing Muslims. As a result, ROSP devised a new eligibility policy for 2010: in addition to signing up, inmates had to provide some physical indicia of Islamic faith, such as a Quran, Kufi, prayer rug, or written religious material obtained from the prison Chaplain's office. ROSP inmates who did not have such materials or refused to acquire them were deemed insincere in their religious beliefs and were prohibited from participating in Ramadan.
Wall was one of the inmates who was not allowed to participate. After initially signing up, Wall was asked by defendants James Wade, C. Selyers, and J. Stallard to provide physical evidence of the sincerity of his beliefs in accordance with the new policy. Wall stated that all his belongings, including his articles of faith, had been lost during his transfer to ROSP. He showed Wade a state court judgment against the Commonwealth as proof that VDOC had lost his possessions. Wall also produced documents showing that he was receiving common fare meals in accordance with his faith, and he informed the officers that he had observed Ramadan in ...