Argued: June 21, 2013.
Michael J. Balch, New York, NY, for Plaintiff-Appellant.
Brian A. Sutherland, Assistant Solicitor General of Counsel (Barbara D. Underwood, Solicitor General, Michael S. Belohlavek, Senior Counsel, on the brief), for Eric T. Schneiderman, Attorney General
of the State of New York, New York, NY, for Defendants-Appellees.
Before: LIVINGSTON and CHIN, Circuit Judges, and RAMOS, District Judge.[*]
Plaintiff-Appellant Anthony Washington (" Washington" ) appeals from a judgment of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (Gardephe, J.), entered January 31, 2011, dismissing his pro se complaint alleging that New York state prison officials Paul Gonyea (" Gonyea" ), Tammi Chaboty (" Chaboty" ), and Keith Granger (" Granger" ) substantially burdened his First Amendment right to free exercise of religion in violation of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (" RLUIPA" ), 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-1, and infringed his due process and First Amendment rights in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (" § 1983" ). In an accompanying summary order filed today, we affirm in part and reverse in part the district court's rulings on Washington's § 1983 claims. For the reasons stated below, we conclude that Washington's RLUIPA claim must fail because RLUIPA does not authorize monetary damages against state officers in their official capacities, see Sossamon v. Texas,
__ U.S. __, 131 S.Ct. 1651, 179 L.Ed.2d 700 (2011), and does not create a private right of action against state officers in their individual capacities. We therefore affirm the judgment of the district court dismissing Washington's RLUIPA claim.
This appeal arises from an incident and subsequent disciplinary proceedings at the Woodbourne Correctional Facility, where Washington was an inmate. As relevant here, Defendants-Appellees Chaboty and Granger, corrections officers at Woodbourne, instigated a disciplinary proceeding against Washington, a Muslim, after an interaction on August 6, 2006 in which Washington gave Chaboty a Quran. Following a disciplinary hearing at which Defendant-Appellee Gonyea presided, Washington was found guilty of " harassment" and making " comments of a Personal nature to employees," in violation of 7 N.Y.C.R.R. § 270.2(B)(8)(ii). Gonyea imposed a penalty of 65 days' special housing confinement and loss of " rec[reation], packages, commissary, phones, and special events." The New York Appellate Division, Third Department ultimately annulled the disciplinary disposition in an Article 78 proceeding on the basis that the disposition was not supported by substantial evidence and that Washington's conduct was only " a continuation of a cordial relationship between the officer and petitioner." Washington v. Selsky, 48 A.D.3d 864, 865, 850 N.Y.S.2d 720 (3d Dep't 2008).
Washington commenced this pro se suit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York on November 5, 2009, alleging that Defendants-Appellees unconstitutionally retaliated against him for exercising his First Amendment rights to free exercise of religion and free speech and denied him due process in violation of § 1983, and that Defendants-Appellees substantially burdened his free exercise rights in violation
of RLUIPA. Defendants each moved to dismiss the complaint. As relevant here, the district court dismissed Washington's RLUIPA claims on the ground that Washington had not adequately pled that the Defendants-Appellees had placed " a substantial burden— or, indeed, any burden— on his religious practice." See Washington v. Chaboty, No. 09 Civ. 9199, 2011 WL 102714, at *9 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 10, 2011). Washington subsequently filed this timely appeal.
Section 3 of RLUIPA provides that " [n]o government shall impose a substantial burden on the religious exercise [of an institutionalized person]," 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-1(a), " in a program or activity that receives Federal financial assistance," id. § 2000cc-1(b)(1), or in a way that affects or would affect " commerce with foreign nations, among the several States, or with Indian tribes," id. § 2000cc-1(b)(2). RLUIPA creates an express private cause of action allowing individuals to " obtain appropriate relief against a government." Id. § 2000cc-2(a); see Sossamon v. Texas, 131 S.Ct. at 1656. The term " government" includes, inter alia, " a State, county, municipality, or other governmental entity created under ...