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Williams v. Cate

November 10, 2009


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


Plaintiff Allen B. Williams ("Plaintiff") is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff is in the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and is incarcerated at Kern Valley State Prison in Delano, California ("KVSP"). Plaintiff is suing under section 1983 for the violation of his rights under the U.S. Constitution and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 ("RLUIPA"). Plaintiff names Cheryl Wegman (community partnership manager), Rebecca Grissom (business service manager), Paul Gonzales (business manager), Ambrose Rogers (food service manager), Mark Howard (food service manager), Daniel Mehlman (Jewish chaplain), Michael Bradley (Protestant chaplain), Tom Arlitz (warden), Nate Dill (associate warden), D. D. Ortiz (associate warden), F. Hernandez (associate warden), D. Traverse (associate warden), J. Castro (chief deputy warden), K. Harrington (warden), G. D. Lewis (chief deputy warden), P. R. Sanchez (captain), G. R. Hudson (captain), L. Wood (captain), E. G. Flores (captain), T. Billings (appeals coordinator), D. Tarnoff (appeals coordinator), B. Daveiga (appeals coordinator), C. Pfeifer (appeals coordinator), W. Adams (appeals coordinator), Francisco Diaz (Catholic chaplain), C/O Murphy (officer), C/O Riezebos (officer), N. Grannis (chief inmate appeals), Matthew Cate (secretary, Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation), and A. Hedgpeth (former warden) as defendants. For the reasons set forth below, The Court finds that Plaintiff's complaint states some cognizable claims and orders Plaintiff either to notify the Court of his willingness to proceed only on the claims found to be cognizable in this order, or to file an amended complaint to cure the deficiencies found in his non-cognizable claims.

I. 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).

In determining whether a complaint fails to state a claim, the Court uses the same pleading standard used under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a). Under Rule 8(a), a complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). "[T]he pleading standard Rule 8 announces does not require 'detailed factual allegations,' but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). "[A] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). "[A] complaint [that] pleads facts that are 'merely consistent with' a defendant's liability . . . 'stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.'" Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557). Further, although a court must accept as true all factual allegations contained in a complaint, a court need not accept a plaintiff's legal conclusions as true.

Id. "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

II. Background

A. Procedural Background

Plaintiff filed the Original Complaint in this action on March 12, 2009. (Doc. #1.) The Court screened Plaintiff's Original Complaint on July 31, 2009. (Doc. #11.) Plaintiff's Original Complaint was dismissed for failing to comply with the requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8. Plaintiff was given leave to file an amended complaint. Plaintiff filed his First Amended Complaint on August 28, 2009. (Doc. #12.) This action proceeds on Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint.

B. Factual Background

Plaintiff is a practicing member of "The House of Yahweh Faith." (Compl. 9:22-26.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendants are violating his constitutional rights as well as his rights under the RLUIPA by interfering with his practice of religion.

Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Cheryl Wegman is the "Community Partnership Manager for Religious Services Department." (Compl. 12:1-5.) Plaintiff complains that Wegman violated his rights by ignoring his inmate appeals requesting religious accommodation. Plaintiff alleges that Wegman circulated a memorandum falsely accusing the House of Yahweh for being a hate group, "forged" Plaintiff's "religious events package"*fn1 , denied requests for accommodations for the religious "Feast of Passover meal," and has shown bias toward the House of Yahweh faith by giving preferential treatment toward Jewish inmates and chaplains. (Compl. 12:8-26.) Specifically, Plaintiff made requests for kosher meals and the request was denied by Wegman. (Compl. 12:20-13:6.) Plaintiff requested an eight day "Feast of Passover/Unleavened Bread" and was told that he would only receive a one-day meal. (Compl. 13:15-18.) Defendant Howard further told Plaintiff that he would not receive Jewish kosher meals because Jewish inmates have special dietary privileges and a separate food budget which is not distributed to other religious groups. (Compl. 13:19-27.) Plaintiff complains that Defendant Gonzales ignored his requests for information, pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act, detailing the budgetary expenditures for inmate religious services.

Plaintiff claims that Defendant Bradley was KVSP's main chaplain and as such was a "Facilitator of the House of Yahweh Faith Group" for "Sabbath Day Chapel services." (Compl. 14:16-18.) Plaintiff complains that Bradley failed to show up for the services and thus refused to accommodate the needs of House of Yahweh practitioners. (Compl. 14:18-21.) Bradley would refuse to sign "service memorandums" causing Plaintiff and other House of Yahweh inmates to be unable to use the prison's chapel. (Compl. 14:21-27.) Bradley also sent "Hate Group Propoganda" against the House of Yahweh to Wegman and other administrators. (Compl. 14:27-15:3.) Bradley also returned "religious artifact orders" from Plaintiff and other House of Yahweh inmates back to vendors. (Compl. 15:15-17.) Bradley, Wegman, and Gonzales refused to distribute money from the "Religious Service Budget" to accommodate the needs of House of Yahweh members, while spending it on Christian and Jewish inmates. (Compl. 15:18-21.) Specifically, Plaintiff requested funds for purchasing "House of Yahweh Holy Scriptures," but was told to seek a donation of books and other materials from group leaders outside the prison. (Compl. 15:21-25.)

Plaintiff claims that Defendant C/O Riezebos falsified a "Disciplinary Rules Violation Report" ("RVR") just before Plaintiff's appearance before the "Board of Prison Terms/Hearings," which prejudiced Plaintiff's consideration for release on parole. (Compl. 16:6-12.) Plaintiff lost phone, yard, and quarterly package privileges and was denied parole for 5 years. (Compl. 16:11-13.)

Plaintiff claims that Defendant Diaz was asked to intervene on behalf of House of Yahweh members to prevent strip searches in the "main chapel area." (Compl. 16:25-27.) Plaintiff complains that correctional officers strip searched Plaintiff and other House of Yahweh inmates while they were conducting religious services in the chapel. (Compl. Ex. B.) Defendant Diaz was asked to talk to Wegman about the incident, but did nothing. (Compl. 16:27-28.)

Plaintiff claims that Defendant Matthew Cate failed to perform his duties as secretary of CDCR, causing Plaintiff's rights to be violated. Plaintiff alleges that Cate, the chief of inmate appeals (Defendant Grannis), and wardens at KVSP failed to take appropriate disciplinary action against the other defendants who committed the violations. (Compl. 17: 25-28.)

III. Discussion

A. Free Exercise of ...

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