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Rouser v. White

December 10, 2009

WILLIAM ROUSER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
THEO WHITE, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



ORDER

Plaintiff, a state prisoner proceeding through counsel, is a practicing Wiccan. Plaintiff's operative complaint alleges that defendants, current and former Directors of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and wardens at two prisons, have impermissibly interfered with his ability to practice his religion. Plaintiff moves to supplement his complaint to add a claim for retaliation. The court resolves this motion on the papers and after oral argument. For the reasons stated below, the motion is granted in part.

I. BACKGROUND

This case has a long history, which the court recently surveyed in Rouser v. White, 630 F. Supp. 2d 1165 (E.D. Cal. 2009). Only the pertinent aspects are provided here.

From December 1990 to April 23, 1996, plaintiff was housed at California State Prison - Sacramento ("CSP-Sac"). Id. at 1173-74. Plaintiff was transferred to a number of different facilities between 1996 and 2007, ending up at Pleasant Valley State Prison ("PVSP"). Id. at 1174-75. Plaintiff argues that throughout this time, he was denied the ability to practice his religion.

Plaintiff's initial complaint was filed May 7, 1993. Plaintiff sought damages and injunctive relief from, inter alia, defendant White, warden of CSP-Sac, and defendant Gomez, former director of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation ("CDCR"). On December 5, 1997, the court dismissed the case pursuant to the parties' private settlement. In 2004, the court reopened the case to allow plaintiff, at the time proceeding in pro se, to seek an order enforcing the settlement agreement. See Order of March 23, 2004 (Doc. No. 149).

Plaintiff filed an amended complaint filed on January 30, 2006. (Doc. No. 229). This amended complaint added defendants and claims relating to plaintiff's treatment at Mule Creek State Prison. Id. at 6-10. The Magistrate Judge assigned to this case held that these amendments were proper insofar as they sought injunctive relief, but that claims for damages against these defendants would need to be brought in a separate action. Order and Findings and Recommendations of July 11, 2006 (Doc. No. 243)). The Magistrate Judge therefore ordered the complaint copied to a new action so that the new damages claims could be litigated separately, and for this action to be assigned to the same District and Magistrate Judges. Id., see also No. Civ. 2:06-cv-01527-LKK-GGH. The Magistrate Judge also recommended that defendants' motion for a stay be denied, and the court adopted this recommendation. Order of September 27, 2006 (Doc. No. 247).

In June of 2007, plaintiff was transferred to Pleasant Valley State Prison ("PVSP"). On April 21, 2008, three weeks before trial was set to commence, plaintiff retained counsel. (Doc. Nos. 354, 355). The court vacated the trial dates, and permitted plaintiff to file a second and third amended complaint. (Doc. Nos. 369, 383). The third amended complaint ("TAC") is the presently operative complaint.

The TAC brings seven claims against four defendants. These defendants are Theo White, former warden of CSP-Sac (TAC ¶ 6); James H. Gomez, former director of CDCR (¶ 7); Matthew Cate, Secretary of CDCR (¶ 8); and James A. Yates, warden at PVSP (¶ 9). All defendants are sued in both their official and individual capacities, and plaintiff seeks damages and injunctive relief. (¶¶ 11-12.) Plaintiff alleged that defendants Cate and Yates violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Person's Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc et seq. (first claim); that defendants White, Gomez, Cate and Yates violated the free exercise clauses of the Federal and California constitutions (second and fifth claims); and that defendants White, Cate, and Yates violated the establishment and equal protection clauses of the Federal and California constitutions (third, fourth, sixth, and seventh claims).

Defendants moved for summary judgment, arguing that plaintiff failed to raise a triable question as to any of his claims, and that defendants White and Gomez were entitled to qualified immunity on claims for damages against them. On May 15, 2009, the court denied the motion as to claims against Cate and Yates, and granted in part and denied in part the motion as to Gomez and White. Rouser, 630 F. Supp. 2d at 1204. As to the free exercise claims against Gomez, no evidence indicated that Gomez participated in the 1993 denial of a "witches' bible" to plaintiff while plaintiff was in administrative segregation, but the free exercise claims could proceed against Gomez insofar as they were based on other facts. Id. at 1189. As to the establishment clause and equal protection claims, no evidence indicated that defendants' denial of candles, incense, Tarot cards or access to a chapel in 1992 demonstrated a denominational preference. Id. at 1202-03. Defendants' motion was otherwise denied as to Gomez and White, including denial of their assertion of qualified immunity. Gomez and White filed an interlocutory appeal of the denial of qualified immunity. See Appeal No. 09-16221.

Plaintiff now seeks to supplement the TAC to include claims for conduct occurring after the TAC was filed. Plaintiff seeks to name as two additional defendants P. Ortiz and B. Flores, who are respectively Correctional Counselors II and I at PVSP. Plaintiff alleges that Ortiz and Flores retailed against his filing of grievances and litigation of this case by placing plaintiff administrative segregation and then causing plaintiff to be transferred from PVSP to California State Prison Los Angeles County ("LAC"). Ortiz and Flores allegedly provided, as justification for these acts, a "confidential memorandum" dated May 17, 2007 (prior to plaintiff's transfer to PVSP), and plaintiff alleges that this justification is pretextual. Plaintiff further seeks to allege that officials at LAC have further interfered with his religious practice, and plaintiff seeks to name Brian Haws, warden of LAC, as an additional defendant.

II. STANDARD

"Upon motion of a party the court may, upon reasonable notice and upon such terms as are just, permit the party to serve a supplemental pleading setting forth transactions or occurrences or events which have happened since the date of the pleading sought to be supplemented." Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(d). The purpose of Rule 15(d) is to promote as complete an adjudication of the dispute between the parties as possible by allowing the addition of claims which arise after the initial pleadings are filed. William Inglis & Sons Baking Co. v. ITT Continental Baking Co., Inc., 668 F.2d 1014, 1057 (9th Cir. 1981). As such, Rule 15(d) gives district courts broad discretion in allowing supplemental pleadings.

[Rule 15(d) motions are] [s]o useful . . . and of such service in the efficient administration of justice that they ought to be allowed as of course, unless some particular reason for disallowing them appears, though the court has the unquestioned right to impose terms upon their allowance when fairness appears to require them.

Keith v. Volpe, 858 F.2d 467, 473 (9th Cir. 1988) (quoting New Amsterdam Casualty Co. v. Waller, 323 F.2d ...


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