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Davila v. Gladden

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit

January 9, 2015

ANTHONY DAVILA, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
ROBIN GLADDEN, National Inmate Appeals Coordinator, et al., Defendants-Appellees

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Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Georgia. D.C. Docket No. 2:12-cv-00005-LGW-JEG.

For Anthony Davila, Plaintiff - Appellant: John Christopher Amabile, Schiff Hardin, LLP, Atlanta, GA.

Anthony Davila, Plaintiff - Appellant, Pro se, Jesup, GA.

For ROBIN GLADDEN, National Inmate Appeals Coordinator, Defendant - Appellee: Scott Grubman, Rogers & Hardin, LLP, Atlanta, GA; Sanjay S. Karnik, Melissa Stebbins Mundell, R. Brian Tanner, Edward J. Tarver, U.S. Attorney's Office, Savannah, GA.

For R. E. HOLT, Regional Administrative Remedies Coordinator, ANTHONY HAYNES, in their individual and official capacities, Bruce Cox, Defendants - Appellees: Scott Grubman, Rogers & Hardin, LLP, Atlanta, GA; Sanjay S. Karnik, Melissa Stebbins Mundell, Edward J. Tarver, U.S. Attorney's Office, Savannah, GA.

Before MARTIN, JULIE CARNES, and ANDERSON, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

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MARTIN, Circuit Judge:

Anthony Davila, a federal prisoner and a Santeria priest, filed a pro se complaint against a number of prison employees (the Defendants[1]) in their official and individual capacities. He alleges violations of the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb, and seeks injunctive and monetary relief. Mr. Davila has alleged that his religious beliefs require him to wear a unique set of beads and shells that are infused with the spiritual force Ache. His lawsuit asserts that the Defendants violated his rights by refusing to allow him to receive his personal beads and shells from his goddaughter. The District Court dismissed Mr. Davila's claims for money damages under RFRA. It also granted summary judgment to the Defendants on Mr. Davila's First Amendment claims and on his claim for injunctive relief under RFRA. Mr. Davila, now counseled, asks us to reverse. After careful consideration, and having the benefit of oral argument, we conclude that the District Court erred in granting summary judgment on Mr. Davila's claim for injunctive relief under RFRA. We affirm the remainder of the District Court's holdings.

I. BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

This case involves the Santeria faith, a belief system that has been a recurring subject of litigation in federal courts. Briefly, " [t]he basis of the Santeria religion is the nurture of a personal relation with . . . orishas [spirits], and one of the principal forms of devotion is an animal sacrifice." Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc. v. City of Hialeah, 508 U.S. 520, 524, 113 S.Ct. 2217, 2222, 124 L.Ed.2d 472 (1993) (emphasis omitted). " According to Santeria teaching, the orishas are powerful but not immortal. They depend for survival on the sacrifice." Id. at 525, 113 S.Ct. at 2222. In particular, " [s]acrifices are performed . . . for the initiation of new members and priests." Id.

Mr. Davila is a long-time practitioner of Santeria. During his seven-day initiation ceremony to become a priest, he received a set of personal Santeria beads and Cowrie shells that were infused with a spiritual force called " Ache," which he believes to be the spiritual presence of an orisha. According to Mr. Davila, Ache is infused into the beads and shells during this ceremony by soaking the beads and shells in animal blood, and then rinsing them in an " elixir" containing dozens of plants and minerals. Mr. Davila states that he now wears these unique beads and shells " for personal protection and spiritual guidnaces [sic] as an essential element of [his] faith." For Mr. Davila, wearing beads and shells that have not been infused with Ache would be useless, if not blasphemous.

In June 2011, Mr. Davila, then and now a prisoner at the Federal Correctional Institution in Jesup, Georgia, made a request under the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) regulations to have his personal Santeria necklaces and Cowrie shells delivered to him in prison by his goddaughter, who is a Santeria priestess. Dr. Cox, the prison's Supervising Chaplain, denied the request, stating that religious items must be received only from " approved vendors" listed in the prison catalog, and that " [f]or

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the purpose of security, authorization to grant family members, friends, and acquaintances send in [sic] religious articles for inmates will be prohibited."

Mr. Davila appealed this decision, first to the prison warden, and then to the BOP Regional Director. Both denied his request. The Regional Director cited the BOP's Program Statement concerning Religious Beliefs and Practices, which says that religious items " will be purchased either from commissary stock or through an approved catalog[] source using the Special Purpose Order process." BOP Program Statement 5360.09, Religious Beliefs and Practices, ¶ 14(a). While the existing catalog offers bead necklaces and Cowrie shells, these items have not been infused with Ache through animal sacrifice.

On January 9, 2012, Mr. Davila filed this suit in federal court. He alleged that the Defendants violated his rights under the First Amendment's Free Exercise Clause and RFRA.[2] He seeks an injunction and money damages against the Defendants in their individual and official capacities. The Defendants filed a motion to dismiss Mr. Davila's action, and the District Court granted that motion as to his claims for money damages under RFRA against the Defendants in their individual and official capacities. The District Court also dismissed Mr. Davila's First Amendment money damages claim against the Defendants in their official capacities. At that time, the District Court allowed the RFRA claim for injunctive relief and the remaining First Amendment claims to go forward. The Defendants then filed a motion for summary judgment on Mr. Davila's remaining claims, and the District Court granted that motion. We now consider Mr. Davila's appeal of those rulings.

II. STANDARDS OF REVIEW

We review " de novo a district court's denial of summary judgment, applying the same legal standards that governed the district court." Carter v. City of Melbourne, Fla., 731 F.3d 1161, 1166 (11th Cir. 2013) (per curiam). A court " shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). We " view the evidence and all factual inferences therefrom in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and resolve all reasonable doubts about the facts in favor of the non-movant." Carter, 731 F.3d at 1166 (quoting Skop v. City of Atlanta, Ga., 485 F.3d 1130, 1143 (11th Cir. 2007)).

Likewise, " [w]e review a district court order granting a motion to dismiss de novo, applying the same standard as the district court." Randall v. Scott, 610 F.3d 701, 705 (11th Cir. 2010). We " accept as true the facts as set forth in the complaint and draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor." Id.

III. RFRA CLAIM FOR INJUNCTIVE RELIEF

We first address Mr. Davila's claim for injunctive relief under RFRA, on which the District Court entered summary judgment in favor of the Defendants. " Congress enacted RFRA . . . in order ...


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