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Adkins v. Woodford

August 24, 2009

DUPREE LAMONT ADKINS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
J. WOODFORD, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding without counsel in an action brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. On October 24, 2007, the court found that plaintiff's second amended complaint, when liberally construed, stated cognizable retaliation claims against defendants Sanchez and Armoskous. On October 10, 2008, defendants filed a motion for summary judgment on the ground that neither defendant retaliated against plaintiff in violation of his constitutional rights and that defendants are entitled to qualified immunity. The court has considered the moving and opposing papers and concludes that defendants' motion for summary judgment must be granted.

I. Facts

The following facts are undisputed, except as noted below. Plaintiff is an inmate in the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) and housed at Richard J. Donovan Correctional Center, in San Diego, California. Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J., Stmt. of Undisp. Facts in Supp. Thereof ("SUF") 1; Pl.'s Opp'n, Mem. of P. & A. in Supp. Thereof ("Pl.'s P. & A.") at 4. Plaintiff alleges he is a practicing Rastafarian who has taken the Vow of the Nazarite. Pl.'s Second Am. Compl. ("Compl.") ¶¶ 1, 3. Plaintiff further alleges that he has grown seven bunal locks and a beard, and believes that if he shaves, he will lose his strength and die. Id. at ¶ 4.

In April and May 2004, plaintiff was housed at High Desert State Prison (HDSP). SUF 2; Pl.'s P. & A. at 4. He arrived at HDSP in 1997. SUF 3. He began styling his hair into "dreadlocks" in 1998. SUF 4. While styling his hair in this manner, plaintiff did not cut his hair, even though he knew it violated the CDCR inmate grooming policy.SUF 4, 5, 6.

In April 2004, a correctional sergeant warned plaintiff that his hairstyle violated the inmate grooming policy, however, plaintiff did not trim his hair. SUF 7. Thereafter, plaintiff filed an administrative grievance against this correctional sergeant. SUF 8.

On April 28, 2004, defendant Sanchez, a correctional officer, warned plaintiff that his hairstyle violated the inmate grooming policy. SUF 9. Despite the warning, plaintiff did not trim his hair. SUF 10. On May 1, 2004, Sanchez again warned plaintiff that his hairstyle violated the inmate grooming policy and that further violation would result in plaintiff being issued a CDC 115 Rules Violation Report (RVR).*fn1 SUF 11. After speaking with plaintiff, Sanchez intended to place a Counseling Chrono in plaintiff's file that documented his repeated warning of plaintiff to trim his hair. SUF 12. However, Sanchez did not sign the Counseling Chrono until May 9, 2004. Id.

On May 2, 2004, Sanchez issued a CDC 115 RVR to plaintiff for violating inmate grooming standards. SUF 13. At his deposition, plaintiff testified that he believed that Sanchez filed the CDC 115 RVR not because of plaintiff's hair, but in retaliation for plaintiff having filed an administrative grievance against another correctional sergeant. Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. B at 29; see also Compl., Ex. B at unnumbered pages 10, 11.

A hearing was held on the CDC 115 RVR, and during the hearing plaintiff admitted that he knew his hairstyle violated the inmate grooming policy, but nonetheless, refused to trim his hair. SUF 14. Plaintiff was found guilty of violating the CDCR's grooming standards. Id.

Subsequently, plaintiff filed an administrative grievance claiming that Sanchez was required to file a Counseling Chrono before issuing the CDC 115 RVR, and that Sanchez's CDC 115 RVR falsely stated that plaintiff had received a prior violation of the grooming policy. SUF 15; Compl., Ex B at unnumbered pages 2, 3. Upon reevaluation, plaintiff's CDC 115 RVR was reduced to an administrative RVR. SUF 15; Compl., Ex. B at unnumbered pages 5-8.

Finally, plaintiff alleges that in September 2004, defendant Armoskous, an associate warden at HDSP, transferred plaintiff to a higher-security level within HDSP. Compl. ¶ 7, Ex. C. Plaintiff contends the transfer was in retaliation for plaintiff's refusal to cut his hair and for filing administrative grievances against various correctional officers. Pl.'s P. & A. at 3. Plaintiff further alleges that the transfer resulted in plaintiff's inability to use the prison chapel for religious observance, in violation of plaintiff's First Amendment right to practice his religion.Compl. ¶ 7.

II. Summary Judgment Standards

Summary judgment is appropriate when it is demonstrated that there exists "no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c).

Under summary judgment practice, the moving party always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, ...


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