Brian Davis v. George Wigen

PRECEDENTIAL UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE THIRD CIRCUIT ______________________ No. 21-3162 _______________________ BRIAN A. DAVIS; FREDRICKA K. BECKFORD, Appellants v. GEORGE C. WIGEN, Former Warden, Moshannon Valley Correctional Center; THE GEO GROUP, INC.; DONNA MELLENDICK, Former Administrator, Bureau of Prisons Privatization Management Branch; DAVID O’NEILL, Assistant Field Director, Department of Homeland Security _______________________ On Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania District Court No. 3-16-cv-00026 District Judge: The Honorable Kim R. Gibson __________________________ Argued December 13, 2022 Before: RESTREPO, McKEE, and SMITH, Circuit Judges (Filed: August 4, 2023) Stephen A. Fogdall [ARGUED] Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis 1600 Market Street Suite 3600 Philadelphia, PA 19103 Counsel for Appellants Dino L. LaVerghetta Sidley Austin 1501 K Street, N.W. Washington, DC 20005 Counsel for Amicus Appellants Morgan M.J. Randle Teresa O. Sirianni Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin 501 Grant Street Union Trust Building, Suite 700 Pittsburgh, PA 15219 Thomas A. Specht [ARGUED] 2 Marshall Dennehy Warner Coleman & Goggin P.O. Box 3118 Scranton, PA 18505 Counsel for Appellees George C. Wigen and GEO Group, Inc. Jacqueline C. Brown Adam N. Hallowell [ARGUED] Laura S. Irwin Office of United States Attorney 700 Grant Street Suite 4000 Pittsburgh, PA 15219 Counsel for Appellees Donna Mellendick and David O’Neill __________________________ OPINION OF THE COURT __________________________ SMITH, Circuit Judge. Plaintiff-Appellants are a former federal inmate, Brian Davis, and his fiancée, Fredricka Beckford. Davis served four years of his sentence at Moshannon Valley Correctional Center, a private prison that primarily houses alien inmates. During that time, he submitted a request to the prison that he be permitted to marry Beckford. Moshannon Valley officials denied the request despite Davis’s contention that he met all 3 requirements under the prison’s marriage policy. Plaintiffs filed suit and now appeal the dismissal of three claims: (1) a claim under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb-1; (2) a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1985; and (3) a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress. We conclude that Plaintiffs have stated a RFRA claim, but that their other two claims fail. Accordingly, we will vacate the District Court’s dismissal of Plaintiffs’ RFRA claim and affirm the remainder of the Court’s order. I. Factual Background We draw the following facts from averments in the Second Amended Complaint (SAC), which we accept as true for purposes of this appeal. Brian Davis and his fiancée Fredricka Beckford met when they were children. The two maintained a lifelong friendship, one that became a romantic relationship that lasted throughout Davis’s extensive period of incarceration. Davis and Beckford are both of Jamaican descent, and while Beckford is a U.S. citizen, Davis is not. In 1993, Davis was sentenced to life in prison for non- violent drug trafficking convictions. Despite the restrictiveness of Davis’s life sentence, he and Beckford remained close throughout Davis’s incarceration. Beckford wished to marry him, but Davis feared that he would never be able to support her because he expected to spend the …

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