Argued: November 15, 2017
from the United States District Court for the Western
District of Virginia, at Roanoke. Elizabeth Kay Dillon,
District Judge. (7:16-cv-00123-EKD-RSB)
Michael Shapiro, NORTHWESTERN PRITZKER SCHOOL OF LAW,
Chicago, Illinois, for Appellant.
Matthew Robert McGuire, OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF
VIRGINIA, Richmond, Virginia, for Appellees.
R. Herring, Attorney General, Stuart A. Raphael, Solicitor
General, Trevor S. Cox, Deputy Solicitor General, OFFICE OF
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF VIRGINIA, Richmond, Virginia, for
TRAXLER and FLOYD, Circuit Judges, and J. Michelle CHILDS,
United States District Judge for the District of South
Carolina, sitting by designation.
TRAXLER, CIRCUIT JUDGE.
Carter brought a pro se § 1983 action primarily alleging
violations of his rights under the First Amendment's Free
Exercise Clause and the Religious Land Use and
Institutionalized Persons Act ("RLUIPA"),
see 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000cc, et seq.,
as the result of his former prison's failure to
accommodate his religious dietary needs. The district court
granted summary judgment against him, and Carter appeals.
Because we conclude that the court erred in granting summary
judgment, we reverse and remand to the district court for
is a prisoner in the Virginia Department of Corrections.
Because his religion (Nation of Islam) has certain dietary
restrictions, Carter participated in a prison program known
as Common Fare (the "Program"). Under the Program,
the prison provided "an appropriate religious diet that
meets or exceeds minimum daily nutritional requirements"
in exchange for the prisoner's agreement "to abide
by all requirements of th[e] program, " including not
"eating . . . or possessing unauthorized food items from
the main line." J.A. 112. On November 26, 2015, Carter
was observed accepting a Thanksgiving Day lunch tray from the
main line instead of a Common Fare meal. He was suspended
from the Program for one year as a result. Carter filed a
grievance within the prison system challenging the suspension
on the basis that the Common Fare agreement was already void
when he took the meal. He specifically claimed that the
prison had violated the Common Fare agreement by changing the
menu on October 1, 2015, to include items, such as fried
foods, that violated the dietary rules of the Nation of
Islam. Carter failed to obtain relief, however.
subsequently brought suit in federal district court alleging
violations of his religious freedom rights under the First
Amendment's Free Exercise Clause and the
RLUIPA. He named as defendants the warden and two
other officials at the Wallens Ridge State Prison
("WARSP"), where he was incarcerated, as well as
the VDOC dietician. He sought declaratory and injunctive
relief, compensatory and punitive damages, and attorneys'
district court granted summary judgment against Carter,
finding that he had "fail[ed] to disprove the
reasonableness of the suspension policy, " J.A. 163, and
that he had not created a genuine factual dispute as to
whether his religious exercise was substantially burdened by
the content of the Common Fare menu, considering that all
foods on the Common Fare menu were halal and
argues that the district court erred in granting summary
judgment against him on his First Amendment and RLUIPA
claims. He contends that each of these claims encompasses
challenges both to the changes to the Common Fare menu and
the suspension and that, with regard to each ...