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Henderson v. Schoville

February 12, 2009

THOMAS HENDERSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
G. SCHOVILLE, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Margaret M. Morrow United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS' REQUEST FOR PARTIAL JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS

I. BACKGROUND

On February 8, 2001, plaintiff Thomas Henderson, proceeding pro se, filed in this Court a "Civil Rights Complaint Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983" (hereinafter "Complaint"), requesting monetary damages and injunctive relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Court screened the Complaint pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Local Rules of the Central District of California and 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A. Although screening revealed that the Complaint was prolix and difficult to follow, the Court construed the Complaint as presenting, inter alia, the following claims: (1) plaintiff's due process rights were violated because prison officials falsified reports that plaintiff's hair did not comply with prison grooming standards; (2) plaintiff's equal protection rights were violated because prison officials allow white inmates to wear their hair longer than permitted by prison grooming regulations while enforcing those same grooming regulations against black inmates; (3) prison officials conspired against plaintiff by filing grooming charges; and (4) prison officials retaliated against plaintiff because plaintiff had filed prior grievances and civil rights complaints against them. (October 16, 2001 Report and Recommendation, p. 6.)

On November 27, 2001, the Court dismissed plaintiff's Complaint for failure to exhaust prison administrative remedies through the third and final level of appeal (the Director's Level), as required by 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a), and on December 10, 2001, plaintiff filed a Notice of Appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Subsequent to this Court's judgment dismissing the case, the Ninth Circuit held that exhaustion under 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a) is an affirmative defense rather than a pleading requirement. See Wyatt v. Terhune, 315 F.3d 1108, 1119 (9th Cir. 2003). Thus, on February 20, 2003, the Ninth Circuit vacated the district court's judgment and remanded the matter for further proceedings. See Henderson v. Schoville, 56 Fed. Appx. 406 (9th Cir. 2003) (mem.).

On April 18, 2003, this Court dismissed plaintiff's Complaint with leave to amend to allow plaintiff to correct deficiencies in the remaining viable claims. Specifically, the Court explained that: (1) plaintiff's claims of conspiracy were conclusory; (2) plaintiff had not alleged facts sufficient to show that a deprivation of constitutional rights resulted from the alleged conspiracy; (3) plaintiff's claims of retaliation were conclusory; and (4) plaintiff had not alleged facts sufficient to show that his right to equal protection against invidious discrimination based on race had been violated. (April 18, 2003 Order, p. 2.) The Court granted plaintiff twenty-eight days to file an amended complaint. (Id.)

This Court filed a Report and Recommendation on January 29, 2004, wherein it was recommended that the action be dismissed with prejudice for plaintiff's failure to prosecute and comply with the Court's orders; the Court noted that plaintiff was specifically ordered to file a First Amended Complaint by a certain date, and that plaintiff not only failed to file an amended complaint, but expressly stated his intent not to do so. (January 29, 2004 Report and Recommendation, pp. 4-5.) On July 16, 2004, having considered plaintiff's objections, the Court withdrew its January 29, 2004 Report and Recommendation and reinstated plaintiff's February 8, 2001 Complaint; the Court explained that the matter would proceed on the Complaint as filed. (July 16, 2004 Order, p. 1.)

On January 24, 2005, defendants filed an Answer to plaintiff's Complaint. On December 29, 2005, defendants G. Schoville, P. Collier, S. White, K. Spearman, R. Thurman, M. Terry, W. Mitchell, L. Melching, E. Comstock, and R. Van Gorder filed a "Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings," wherein defendants argued that plaintiff: (1) failed to exhaust administrative remedies; and (2) failed to state a claim for violation of due process or equal protection. On January 11, 2006, plaintiff filed an opposition to defendants' Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings. On September 28, 2006, this Court denied defendants' Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings.

On January 22, 2007, defendants filed a Request for Partial Judgment on the Pleadings (hereinafter "Request"), along with a "Memorandum of Points and Authorities" (hereinafter "MPA"). On January 29, 2007, plaintiff filed an Objection to Defendants' Request. On March 2, 2007, this Court provided defendants the opportunity to clarify the results of plaintiff's request for a third level of administrative review; defendants filed a Clarification in support of their Request (hereinafter "Clarification") on April 18, 2007.

The matter is deemed under submission and ready for decision.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that "[a]fter the pleadings are closed but within such time as not to delay the trial, any party may move for judgment on the pleadings." Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c). The standard governing a Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings is essentially the same as that governing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion. For a Rule 12(c) motion, the allegations of the nonmoving party must be accepted as true, while the allegations of the moving party that have been denied are assumed to be false. Hal Roach Studios, Inc. V. Richard Feiner & Co., 896 F.2d 1542, 1550 (9th Cir. 1990) (citation omitted). The motion will be granted if, accepting as true all material allegations contained in the nonmoving party's pleadings, the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Torbet v. United Airlines, Inc., 298 F.3d 1087, 1089 (9th Cir. 2002). Materials properly attached to a complaint as exhibits may be considered. See Amfac Mortg. Corp. v. Arizona Mall of Tempe, Inc., 583 F.2d 426, 429-30 & n. 2 (9th Cir. 1978). However, judgment on the pleadings is improper when the district court goes beyond the pleadings to resolve an issue; such a proceeding must properly be treated as a motion for summary judgment. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c); see also Hal Roach Studios, Inc., 896 F.2d at 1550.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Exhaustion

The Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 amended 42 U.S.C. § 1997e to provide that "[n]o action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under [42 USC § 1983], or any other Federal law, by a prisoner confined in any jail, prison, or other correctional facility until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted." 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). In determining whether a plaintiff is a "prisoner confined in jail," the Courts look to the status of the plaintiff at the time he brings suit. See Page v. M.L. Torrey, 201 F.3d 1136, 1140 (9th Cir. 2000); see also Witzke v. Femal, 376 F.3d 744, 750 (7th Cir. 2004). Although once within the discretion of the district court to enforce, exhaustion in prisoner cases covered by § 1997e(a) is now mandatory. Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 122 S.Ct. 983, 988, 152 L.Ed. 2d 12 (2002). All available remedies must now be exhausted; those remedies "need not ...


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