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Case Name Couch v. Jabe PC-VA-0021
Docket / Court No. 7:05-cv-00642-PMS ( W.D. Va. )
State/Territory Virginia
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Special Collection Post-PLRA Jail and Prison Private Settlement Agreements
Case Summary
On October 17, 2005, a Sunni Muslim incarcerated at Keen Mountain Correctional Center in Virginia filed this lawsuit, pro se, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia. The plaintiff sued officers at the Virginia Department of Corrections (VDOC) and the Keen Mountain ... read more >
On October 17, 2005, a Sunni Muslim incarcerated at Keen Mountain Correctional Center in Virginia filed this lawsuit, pro se, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia. The plaintiff sued officers at the Virginia Department of Corrections (VDOC) and the Keen Mountain Correctional Center under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA). The plaintiff alleged violations of his rights under the First Amendment. Specifically, he alleged that during his Ramadan fast the defendants deprived him of adequate nutrition and calories in 2002 – 2004, when instead of providing a full 2,200 calories including two hot meals, the defendants only provided 1,000 calories of cold-bag meals. As a result, the plaintiff said he lost 13 pounds and had a diminished religious experience because he was constantly hungry. Additionally, the plaintiff alleged the defendants refused to permit him and other Muslims to conduct the Eid prayer service and Eid-al-Fitr feast to celebrate the completion of Ramadan. Lastly, the plaintiff alleged the loss of nutrition and calories violated his right to Equal Protection and Due Process in violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. The plaintiff sought punitive damages of $545, declaratory relief, and injunctive relief requiring the defendants to revise the Ramadan menu to ensure all Ramadan fast participants received adequate nutrition and calories, the option for two hot meals, and the opportunity to participate in the Eid-al-Fitr Observance. The parties consented to proceedings before a Magistrate Judge and the case was assigned to Judge Pamela Meade Sargent.

On January 12, 2006, the defendants filed a motion for summary judgment arguing the plaintiff’s claims should be dismissed because the plaintiff voluntarily fasted and was permitted to partake in the Eid-al-Fitr prayer service and feast at a different time than alleged in the complaint.

On February 9, 2006, the plaintiff filed a motion to supplement his pleadings with similar allegations against the defendants for Ramadan 2005, which occurred in October and November 2005. Judge Sargant granted the motion on February 22, 2006.

As the 2006 Ramadan fast approached, the defendants indicated there would be no changes to their Ramadan procedures. In response, on August 30, 2006, the plaintiff filed a motion for a preliminary injunction ordering the defendants to provide an amount of food equivalent to that provided to non-fasting prisoners. On the same day, the plaintiff filed a motion to appoint counsel, but Judge Sargent denied the request for counsel on September 8, 2006.

On September 22, 2006, the court issued two orders on the outstanding motions for summary judgement and for preliminary injunctive relief. In ruling on the motion for summary judgment, the court granted it in part and denied it in part. 479 F.Supp.2d 569. In a 53 page opinion, the court found that the 2002 claims were barred by the statute of limitations and that the plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies under the Prison Litigation Reform Act for some of the 2003, 2004, and 2005 claims. The court denied summary judgment to the defendants on the following claims, and ordered they be set for trial:
-First Amendment and RLUIPA claims that he was denied adequate nutrition and calories during Ramadan 2004 and the associated Due Process claim regarding this allegation;
-First Amendment and RLUIPA claims that he was denied the Eid-al-Fitr meal following Ramadan 2003 and 2005;
- First Amendment and RLUIPA claims that he was deprived of the Eid-al-Fitr prayer service following Ramadan 2004.

In ruling on the motion for a preliminary injunction, the court granted the plaintiff's request and ordered the defendants to provide daily food containing approximately 2,200 calories, between sunset and dawn during the 2006 Ramadan period, beginning the next day. The court granted the preliminary injunction because the defendants did not present evidence to contradict the plaintiff’s claim that he suffered weight loss due to the reduced caloric intake during Ramadan and the same weight loss would likely happen during the 2006 Ramadan period. The court held that such weight loss was irreparable harm and the requested relief would not disrupt Keen Mountain food service.

On February 16, 2007, the parties participated in a settlement conference. On March 19, 2007, the parties reached an undisclosed settlement and moved for voluntary dismissal of the claims. Judge Sargent dismissed the case and the court retained jurisdiction to enforce the settlement agreement between the parties. The settlement agreement provided plaintiff a $2,250 cash payment and a change in policies surrounding the provision to allow prisoners to celebrate Muslim feasts and their yearly fasts. Prison officials agreed to determine dates for Ramadan in advance by mutual agreement with plaintiff and assistant of an expert from the Islamic Center of Virginia. Further, defendants agreed to not schedule a quarterly lockdown during the Ramadan period, unless emergency necessitated one. link to description of settlement agreement

Soojin Cha - 01/27/2016
Lisa Koo - 03/10/2019
Tiffany Chung - 11/01/2019


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Equal Protection
Free Exercise Clause
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief granted
Defendant-type
Corrections
Discrimination-basis
Religion discrimination
General
Conditions of confinement
Food service / nutrition / hydration
Religious programs / policies
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Religious Freedom Rest. Act/Religious Land Use and Inst. Persons Act (RFRA/RLUIPA)
Defendant(s) Virginia Department of Corrections
Plaintiff Description Plaintiff is a Sunni Muslim incarcerated in a state correctional facility, who worked for the facility's law library and served as chief liaison between the facility's officers and its Sunni Muslim group.
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se Yes
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Settlement
Form of Settlement Private Settlement Agreement
Order Duration 2007 - n/a
Filing Year 2005
Case Closing Year 2007
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
  Civil Rights Injunctions Over Time: A Case Study of Jail and Prison Court Orders
N.Y.U. Law Review
Date: May 2006
By: Margo Schlanger (Washington University Faculty)
Citation: 81 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 550 (2006)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ] [ External Link ]

  Judicial Policy Making and the Modern State: How the Courts Reformed America's Prisons
Book
Date: Jan. 1, 1998
By: Malcolm M. Feeley & Edward Rubin (UC Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law & Vanderbilt School of Law Faculty Faculty)
Citation: (1998)
[ Detail ]

Docket(s)
7:05-cv-00642-PMS (W.D. Va.)
PC-VA-0021-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/30/2009
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
PC-VA-0021-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/17/2005
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Supplemental Pleadings [ECF# 21-1]
PC-VA-0021-0007.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/09/2006
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 45] (W.D. Va.)
PC-VA-0021-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/08/2006
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion [ECF# 49] (479 F.Supp.2d 569) (W.D. Va.)
PC-VA-0021-0006.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 09/22/2006
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order dismissing motion for summary judgment in part [ECF# 50] (479 F.Supp.2d 569) (W.D. Va.)
PC-VA-0021-0004.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 09/22/2006
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion on Plaintiff's Motion for Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 51] (W.D. Va.)
PC-VA-0021-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/22/2006
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
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Judges Sargent, Pamela Meade (W.D. Va.) [Magistrate] show/hide docs
PC-VA-0021-0002 | PC-VA-0021-0005 | PC-VA-0021-0006 | PC-VA-0021-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Muse, William W. (Virginia) show/hide docs
PC-VA-0021-9000

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