(PC) Garcia v. Clark, et al., No. 1:2010cv00447 - Document 13 (E.D. Cal. 2010)

Court Description: FINDINGS and RECOMMENDATIONS Recommending Dismissal of Certain Claims 12 , signed by Magistrate Judge Dennis L. Beck on 9/20/10: Recommending that this action proceed against Defendants Palmer, Tolson, Turner, C. Walter, Santos, D. Ibarra, S. Knight, Sanez, F. Diaz, and K. Allison; Defendants Quintana, Sheron, Lais, and Ken Clark are dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; Objections to F&R due by 10/25/2010. (Hellings, J)
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(PC) Garcia v. Clark, et al. Doc. 13 1 2 3 4 5 6 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 7 EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 8 9 WILLIAM P. GARCIA, 10 11 CASE NO. 1:10-CV-00447-OWW-DLB PC Plaintiff, FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION RECOMMENDING DISMISSAL OF CERTAIN CLAIMS v. 12 KEN CLARK, et al., 13 (DOC. 12) Defendants. / OBJECTIONS, IF ANY, DUE WITHIN THIRTY DAYS 14 15 Findings And Recommendations 16 I. Background 17 A. 18 Plaintiff William P. Garcia (“Plaintiff”) is a prisoner in the custody of the California Procedural History 19 Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (“CDCR”). Plaintiff is proceeding pro se and in 20 forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Religious Land 21 Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”). Plaintiff initiated this action by filing his 22 complaint on March 12, 2010. On May 24, 2010, Plaintiff filed his first amended complaint. 23 B. 24 The Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a Screening Requirement 25 governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The 26 Court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if the prisoner has raised claims that are 27 legally “frivolous or malicious,” that fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or 28 that seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. 1 Dockets.Justia.com 1 § 1915A(b)(1),(2). “Notwithstanding any filing fee, or any portion thereof, that may have been 2 paid, the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that . . . the action or 3 appeal . . . fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.” 28 U.S.C. § 4 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii). 5 A complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the 6 pleader is entitled to relief . . . .” Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). Detailed factual allegations are not 7 required, but “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere 8 conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (citing 9 Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). Plaintiff must set forth “sufficient factual 10 matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim that is plausible on its face.’” Id. While factual 11 allegations are accepted as true, legal conclusions are not. Id. 12 II. Summary Of Complaint 13 Plaintiff is currently incarcerated at California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility 14 (“CSATF”) in Corcoran, California, where the events giving rise to this action occurred. 15 Plaintiff names as Defendants: warden Ken Clark, captain Lais, lieutenant R. Tolson, sergeant K. 16 Turner, correctional officer C. Palmer, free staff food supervisors C. Walters and R. Santos, 17 sergeant D. Ibarra, correctional officer Sanez, correctional officer S. Knight, correctional officer 18 F. Diaz, acting warden K. Allison, correctional officer Quintana, and Christian chaplain Sheron. 19 Plaintiff alleges the following. Plaintiff is Jewish, and filed grievances regarding changes 20 in procedure for feeding of Jewish inmates. Plaintiff alleges violations of the First Amendment, 21 Eighth Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment, and the RLUIPA by various Defendants. 22 Plaintiff request declaratory judgment, injunctive relief, and monetary damages. 23 III. Analysis 24 A. 25 Allegations of retaliation against a prisoner’s First Amendment rights to speech or to First Amendment - Retaliation 26 petition the government may support a § 1983 claim. Rizzo v. Dawson, 778 F.2d 527, 532 (9th 27 Cir. 1985); see also Valandingham v. Bojorquez, 866 F.2d 1135 (9th Cir. 1989); Pratt v. 28 Rowland, 65 F.3d 802, 807 (9th Cir. 1995). “Within the prison context, a viable claim of First 2 1 Amendment retaliation entails five basic elements: (1) An assertion that a state actor took some 2 adverse action against an inmate (2) because of (3) that prisoner’s protected conduct, and that 3 such action (4) chilled the inmate’s exercise of his First Amendment rights, and (5) the action did 4 not reasonably advance a legitimate correctional goal.” Rhodes v. Robinson, 408 F.3d 559, 5675 68 (9th Cir. 2005). 6 7 1. Defendant Palmer Plaintiff filed inmate grievances against Defendant Palmer regarding denying Plaintiff 8 days off from his job in 2008. (First Am. Compl. (“FAC”) 9.) Defendant Palmer answered 9 Plaintiff’s first inmate grievance against prison policy, then conspired with Defendant Tolson to 10 halt Plaintiff’s kosher meals by denying Plaintiff and other inmates reasonable accommodations. 11 (FAC 9.) Plaintiff’s reasonable accommodations had previously included being let out early to 12 pick up his kosher meals and take back to his cell for eating. (FAC 8.) Defendant Palmer 13 taunted Plaintiff openly over the P.A. system. (FAC 9.) Defendant Palmer sent Plaintiff’s 14 kosher meals back to the kitchen and told the staff that Plaintiff had refused his meal. (FAC 2215 23.) Defendant Palmer denied Plaintiff access to his medication in one instance in 2009. (FAC 16 25.) Plaintiff filed a grievance regarding this denial, and Defendant Palmer then issued a Rules 17 Violation Report against Plaintiff. (FAC 26.) 18 Plaintiff does not state a claim against Defendant Palmer for verbal harassment. 19 Oltarzewski v. Ruggiero, 830 f.2d 136, 139 (9th Cir. 1987). However, Plaintiff does state a 20 cognizable retaliation claim against Defendant Palmer for denial of food, denial of medication, 21 and issuing a retaliatory RVR. 22 23 2. Defendant Tolson Plaintiff alleges that he discussed with Defendant Tolson the denial of the religious 24 accommodation for Jewish inmates. (FAC 19.) Plaintiff complained that Defendant Tolson 25 retaliated against Plaintiff because of the grievances filed against Defendant Palmer and 26 Quintana. (FAC 19-20.) Plaintiff appears to allege the Defendant Tolson took away Plaintiff’s 27 religious accommodations because of Plaintiff’s inmate grievances against his subordinates. 28 Plaintiff’s allegations are sufficient to state a cognizable retaliation against Defendant Tolson. 3 1 2 3. Defendants Quintana, Lais, Clark, and Sheron Plaintiff alleges that in 2008, Defendant Quintana swore at Plaintiff and ordered him to 3 walk behind the handball wall, in violation of a CDCR rule. (FAC 10.) Defendant Quintana 4 took Plaintiff’s ID card which Defendant Quintana knew Plaintiff needed to receive medication 5 and kosher food. (FAC 10.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Quintana did this in a concerted 6 effort with Defendant Palmer and Defendant Tolson to retaliate against Plaintiff for filing 7 grievances regarding his religious practices. 8 This does not state a cognizable retaliation claim. Plaintiff is in effect alleging a 9 conspiracy by Defendant Quintana with Defendants Palmer and Tolson to retaliate against 10 Plaintiff for filing grievances regarding his religious practice. A conspiracy claim brought under 11 § 1983 requires proof of “‘an agreement or meeting of the minds to violate constitutional 12 rights,’” Franklin v. Fox, 312 F.3d 423, 441 (9th Cir. 2001) (quoting United Steel Workers of 13 Am. v. Phelps Dodge Corp., 865 F.2d 1539, 1540-41 (9th Cir. 1989) (citation omitted)), and an 14 actual deprivation of constitutional rights, Hart v. Parks, 450 F.3d 1059, 1071 (9th Cir. 2006) 15 (quoting Woodrum v. Woodward County, Oklahoma, 866 F.2d 1121, 1126 (9th Cir. 1989)). “‘To 16 be liable, each participant in the conspiracy need not know the exact details of the plan, but each 17 participant must at least share the common objective of the conspiracy.’” Franklin, 312 F.3d at 18 441 (quoting United Steel Workers, 865 F.2d at 1541). 19 The federal system is one of notice pleading, and the court may not apply a heightened 20 pleading standard to plaintiff’s allegations of conspiracy. Empress LLC v. City and County of 21 San Francisco, 419 F.3d 1052, 1056 (9th Cir. 2005); Galbraith v. County of Santa Clara, 307 22 F.3d 1119, 1126 (2002). However, although accepted as true, the “[f]actual allegations must be 23 [sufficient] to raise a right to relief above the speculative level . . . .” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 24 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citations omitted). A plaintiff must set forth “the grounds of his 25 entitlement to relief[,]” which “requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic 26 recitation of the elements of a cause of action . . . .” Id. (internal quotations and citations 27 omitted). As such, a bare allegation that Defendants conspired to violate Plaintiff's constitutional 28 rights will not suffice to give rise to a conspiracy claim under § 1983. 4 1 Without a conspiracy claim, Plaintiff does not state a cognizable retaliation claim against 2 Defendant Quintana. Defendant Quintana taking Plaintiff’s identification card is not because of 3 Plaintiff’s First Amendment activities. 4 Plaintiff likewise fails to state a claim against Defendants Clark and Lais. Plaintiff 5 alleges Defendant Clark and Defendant Lais acted in concert with other defendants to violate 6 Plaintiff’s constitutional rights. (FAC 11.) Bare allegations of conspiracy are insufficient to state 7 a claim. 8 Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Sheron yelled at Plaintiff regarding Plaintiff’s issues with 9 Defendants Palmer and Tolson. (FAC 14-15.) Plaintiff again alleges that Defendant Sheron and 10 the other defendants worked in concert to stop the Jewish kosher orthodox food program. (FAC 11 15.) Verbal harassment alone is not sufficient to state a constitutional deprivation. Oltarzewski 12 v. Ruggiero, 830 F.2d 136, 139 (9th Cir. 1987) (citations and internal quotations omitted). 13 Plaintiff makes a bare allegation of conspiracy, which is not sufficient to state a cognizable 14 conspiracy claim against Defendant Sheron. 15 B. 16 “The right to exercise religious practices and beliefs does not terminate at the prison door. First Amendment - Exercise of Religion 17 The free exercise right, however, is necessarily limited by the fact of incarceration, and may be 18 curtailed in order to achieve legitimate correctional goals or to maintain prison security.” 19 McElyea v. Babbitt, 833 F.2d 196, 197 (9th Cir. 1987) (citing O’Lone v. Shabazz, 482 U.S. 342 20 (1987)); see Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 545 (1979). Only beliefs which are both sincerely 21 held and rooted in religious beliefs trigger the Free Exercise Clause. Shakur v. Schriro, 514 F.3d 22 878, 884-85 (9th Cir. 2008) (citing Malik v. Brown, 16 F.3d 330, 333 (9th Cir. 1994)); Callahan 23 v. Woods, 658 F. 2d 679, 683 (9th Cir. 1981)). Under this standard, “when a prison regulation 24 impinges on inmates’ constitutional rights, the regulation is valid if it is reasonably related to 25 legitimate penological interests.” Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78, 89 (1987). First, “there must be 26 a valid, rational connection between the prison regulation and the legitimate government interest 27 put forward to justify it,” and “the governmental objective must itself be a legitimate and neutral 28 one.” Id. A second consideration is “whether there are alternative means of exercising the right 5 1 that remain open to prison inmates.” Id. at 90 (internal quotations and citation omitted). A third 2 consideration is “the impact accommodation of the asserted right will have on guards and other 3 inmates, and on the allocation of prison resources generally.” Id. “Finally, the absence of ready 4 alternatives is evidence of the reasonableness of a prison regulation.” Id. 5 Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Turner took away Plaintiff’s reasonable accommodations, 6 forcing Plaintiff to starve or eat regular non-kosher food. (FAC 27-28.) Plaintiff alleges 7 thatSKO.Investiture Defendants C. Walter and Santos, who are in charge of preparing the meals, 8 served food that was opened, had foreign objects, or was rotten. (FAC 31-32.) Plaintiff alleges 9 that Defendants D. Ibarra, S. Knight, Sanez, and F. Diaz denied Plaintiff the reasonable 10 accommodation to take his food to his cell or prepare a place for the Jewish inmates to eat in 11 peace without being degraded, and have taken Plaintiff’s food away from him. (FAC 33-37.) At 12 the pleading stage, Plaintiff states a cognizable claim for violation of the Free Exercise Clause of 13 the First Amendment against Defendants Turner, C. Walter, Santos, D. Ibarra, S. Knight, Sanez, 14 and F. Diaz. Plaintiff also states a cognizable claim against Defendants Palmer and Tolson for 15 the reasons stated above. 16 Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Allison was informed and well aware of actions taken 17 against Plaintiff by her subordinates, but failed to act or intervene. (FAC 38-39). Supervisory 18 personnel are generally not liable under § 1983 for the actions of their employees under a theory 19 of respondeat superior and, therefore, when a named defendant holds a supervisorial position, the 20 causal link between him and the claimed constitutional violation must be specifically alleged. 21 See Fayle v. Stapley, 607 F.2d 858, 862 (9th Cir. 1979); Mosher v. Saalfeld, 589 F.2d 438, 441 22 (9th Cir. 1978). To state a claim for relief under § 1983 based on a theory of supervisory 23 liability, plaintiff must allege some facts that would support a claim that supervisory defendants 24 either: personally participated in the alleged deprivation of constitutional rights; knew of the 25 violations and failed to act to prevent them; or promulgated or “implemented a policy so 26 deficient that the policy ‘itself is a repudiation of constitutional rights’ and is ‘the moving force 27 of the constitutional violation.’” Hansen v. Black, 885 F.2d 642, 646 (9th Cir. 1989) (internal 28 citations omitted); Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989). As stated recently by the 6 1 United States Supreme Court, supervisory defendants are civilly liable for their own conduct. 2 Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949. A supervisory defendants’ mere knowledge of his subordinates’ 3 misconduct is insufficient to state a claim. Id. Plaintiff alleges direct knowledge by Defendant 4 Allison in condoning the allegedly unconstitutional actions by her subordinates. At the pleading 5 stage, Plaintiff states a cognizable claim against Defendant Allison. 6 Plaintiff fails to state a cognizable claim against Defendant Ken Clark. There is no 7 allegation that suggests Defendant Ken Clark knew of any constitutional violations and failed to 8 act. Mere respondeat superior liability is insufficient to state a claim. 9 C. RLUIPA 10 The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (“RLUIPA”) provides: 11 No government shall impose a substantial burden on the religious exercise of a person residing in or confined to an institution. . . , even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability, unless the government demonstrates that imposition of the burden on that person– (1) is in furtherance of a compelling government interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling government interest. 12 13 14 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-1. Plaintiff bears the initial burden of demonstrating that defendants 15 substantially burdened the exercise of his religious beliefs. Warsoldier v. Woodford, 418 F.3d 16 989, 994-95 (9th Cir. 2005). If plaintiff meets his burden, defendants must demonstrate that “any 17 substantial burden of [plaintiff’s] exercise of his religious beliefs is both in furtherance of a 18 compelling governmental interest and the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling 19 governmental interest.” Id. (emphasis in original). “RLUIPA is to be construed broadly in favor 20 of protecting an inmate’s right to exercise his religious beliefs.” Id. 21 At the pleading stage, Plaintiff states a cognizable RLUIPA claim against Defendants 22 Palmer, Tolson, Turner, C. Walter, Santos, D. Ibarra, S. Knight, Sanez, F. Diaz, and K. Allison. 23 D. Eighth Amendment 24 The Eighth Amendment protects prisoners from inhumane methods of punishment and 25 from inhumane conditions of confinement. Morgan v. Morgensen, 465 F.3d 1041, 1045 (9th Cir. 26 2006). Extreme deprivations are required to make out a conditions of confinement claim, and 27 only those deprivations denying the minimal civilized measure of life’s necessities are 28 7 1 sufficiently grave to form the basis of an Eighth Amendment violation. Hudson v. McMillian, 2 503 U.S. 1, 9 (1992) (citations and quotations omitted). In order to state a claim for violation of 3 the Eighth Amendment, Plaintiff must allege facts sufficient to support a claim that officials 4 knew of and disregarded a substantial risk of serious harm to him. E.g., Farmer v. Brennan, 511 5 U.S. 825, 837 (1994); Frost v. Agnos, 152 F.3d 1124, 1128 (9th Cir. 1998). Mere negligence on 6 the part of the official is not sufficient to establish liability, but rather, the official’s conduct must 7 have been wanton. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 835; Frost, 152 F.3d at 1128. 8 Plaintiff fails to state a cognizable Eighth Amendment claim. Plaintiff alleges that 9 Defendants deprived Plaintiff of accommodations regarding religious food. This is not sufficient 10 to demonstrate that Defendants knew of and disregarded a substantial risk of serious harm to 11 Plaintiff’s health. 12 E. 13 Plaintiff alleges a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Fourteenth Amendment Fourteenth Amendment 14 contains both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause. 15 1. Due Process 16 The Ninth Circuit has found that 17 [t]o establish a violation of substantive due process . . . , a plaintiff is ordinarily required to prove that a challenged government action was clearly arbitrary and unreasonable, having no substantial relation to the public health, safety, morals, or general welfare. Where a particular amendment provides an explicit textual source of constitutional protection against a particular sort of government behavior, that Amendment, not the more generalized notion of substantive due process, must be the guide for analyzing a plaintiff’s claims. 18 19 20 21 Patel v. Penman, 103 F.3d 868, 874 (9th Cir. 1996) (citations, internal quotations, and brackets 22 omitted); see County of Sacramento v. Lewis, 523 U.S. 833, 842 (1998). In this case, the First 23 Amendment “provides [the] explicit textual source of constitutional protection . . . .” Patel, 103 24 F.3d at 874. Therefore, the First Amendment rather than the Due Process Clause of the 25 Fourteenth Amendment governs Plaintiff’s claims. 26 27 2. Equal Protection “The Equal Protection Clause . . . is essentially a direction that all persons similarly 28 situated should be treated alike.” City of Cleburne v. Cleburne Living Ctr., Inc., 473 U.S. 432, 8 1 439 (1985) (citing Plyler v. Doe, 457 U.S. 202, 216 (1982)). A prisoner is entitled “to ‘a 2 reasonable opportunity of pursuing his faith comparable to the opportunity afforded fellow 3 prisoners who adhere to conventional religious precepts.’” Shakur v. Schriro, 514 F.3d 878, 891 4 (9th Cir. 2008) (quoting Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319, 321-22 (1972) (per curiam)). To state a 5 claim, a plaintiff must allege facts sufficient to support the claim that prison officials 6 intentionally discriminated against him on the basis of his religion by failing to provide him a 7 reasonable opportunity to pursue his faith compared to other similarly situated religious groups. 8 Cruz, 405 U.S. at 321-22; Shakur, 514 F.3d at 891; Serrano v. Francis, 345 F.3d 1071, 1082 (9th 9 Cir. 2003); Lee v. City of Los Angeles, 250 F.3d 668, 686 (9th Cir. 2001); Freeman v. Arpaio, 10 125 F.3d 732, 737 (9th Cir. 1997), overruled in part on other grounds, Shakur, 514 F.3d at 88411 85. 12 Plaintiff alleges that Defendants discriminated against Jewish inmates by failing to 13 provide him with reasonable accommodations regarding his food. At the pleading stage, Plaintiff 14 sufficiently alleges a cognizable Equal Protection claim against Defendants Palmer, Tolson, 15 Turner, C. Walter, Santos, D. Ibarra, S. Knight, Sanez, F. Diaz, and K. Allison. 16 IV. Conclusion And Recommendation 17 Based on the foregoing, it is HEREBY RECOMMENDED that: 18 1. This action proceed against Defendants Palmer, Tolson, Turner, C. Walter, 19 Santos, D. Ibarra, S. Knight, Sanez, F. Diaz, and K. Allison for violation of the 20 First Amendment, the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and 21 the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000; and 22 23 24 2. Defendants Quintana, Sheron, Lais, and Ken Clark are dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. These Findings and Recommendations will be submitted to the United States District 25 Judge assigned to the case, pursuant to the provisions of Title 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). Within 26 thirty (30) days after being served with these Findings and Recommendations, the plaintiff may 27 file written objections with the court. The document should be captioned “Objections to 28 Magistrate Judge’s Findings and Recommendations.” Plaintiff is advised that failure to file 9 1 objections within the specified time may waive the right to appeal the District Court’s order. 2 Martinez v. Ylst, 951 F.2d 1153 (9th Cir. 1991). 3 4 IT IS SO ORDERED. Dated: 3b142a September 20, 2010 /s/ Dennis L. Beck UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 10