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Mello v. Riagoza

April 6, 2009

WILLIAM DOUGLAS MELLO, PLAINTIFF,
v.
J.R. MARTINEZ AND RIAGOZA, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sandra M. Snyder United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER FINDING CERTAIN CLAIMS COGNIZABLE and DISMISSING CERTAIN CLAIMS WITH PREJUDICE

(Doc. 13)

I. FINDINGS

William Douglas Mello ("Plaintiff") is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis. Plaintiff filed the Complaint on September 7, 2006. (Doc. 1.) Plaintiff consented to jurisdiction by U.S. Magistrate Judge on September 21, 2006. (Doc. 4.) On January 17, 2007, Plaintiff filed the First Amended Complaint. (Doc. 8.) The First Amended Complaint was screened and dismissed with leave to amend on November 25, 2008. (Doc. 12.) On December 22, 2008, Plaintiff filed the Second Amended Complaint -- which is presently before the Court. (Doc. 13.)

A. Screening Requirement

The Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if the prisoner has raised claims that are legally "frivolous or malicious," that fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1),(2). "Notwithstanding any filing fee, or any portion thereof, that may have been paid, the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that . . . the action or appeal . . . fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).

A complaint, or portion thereof, should only be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted if it appears beyond doubt that Plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of the claim or claims that would entitle him to relief. See Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984), citing Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957); see also Palmer v. Roosevelt Lake Log Owners Ass'n, 651 F.2d 1289, 1294 (9th Cir. 1981). In reviewing a complaint under this standard, the court must accept as true the allegations of the complaint in question, Hospital Bldg. Co. v. Rex Hospital Trustees, 425 U.S. 738, 740 (1976), construe the pleading in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and resolve all doubts in the plaintiff's favor. Jenkins v. McKeithen, 395 U.S. 411, 421 (1969).

B. Summary of Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint

Plaintiff is a state prisoner, currently housed at High Desert State Prison in Susanville, California. Plaintiff complains of acts which occurred at California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison ("SATF") in Corcoran, California while he was being processed for transfer to another facility. Plaintiff names Correctional Officers J.R. Martinez and Riagoza as the only defendants in this action. Plaintiff seeks monetary damages and a temporary restraining order.

Plaintiff alleges that, while Correctional Officers Martinez and Riagoza were processing his personal belongings for transfer, they unilaterally decided that his religious artifacts were contraband. They then gave Plaintiff the choice to have them mailed home, donated, or destroyed and presented him with various forms to sign. Plaintiff refused to agree to any of the options offered to him since he was not provided consideration or value for his items. Correctional Officers Martinez and Riagoza then decided not to follow the policies and procedures for such matters, and knowing that the items were central to the customary practice of Plaintiff's religious beliefs, destroyed Plaintiff's religious artifacts in front of him. Plaintiff alleges that these acts by Correctional Officers Martinez and Riagoza were unauthorized and an intentional deprivation of his religious property.

C. Plaintiff's Claims

1. Religion

a. First Amendment -- Free Exercise

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that "Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . . ." U.S. Const., amend. I. Prisoners "retain protections afforded by the First Amendment," including the free exercise of religion. O'Lone v. Estate of Shabazz, 482 U.S. 342, 348, 107 S.Ct. 2400 (1987). The protections of the Free Exercise Clause are triggered when prison regulations burden the practice of a prisoner's religion by preventing him from engaging in conduct which he sincerely believes is consistent with his faith. ...


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