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Rupe v. Cate

February 1, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Edward F. Shea United States District Judge


Before the Court, without oral argument, are Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (Ct. Rec. 33) and Motion to Strike (Ct. Rec. 34). Plaintiff filed his Prisoner Civil Rights Complaint on October 16, 2008. Defendants filed the motions under consideration on August 10, 2009. For the reasons stated below, the Court grants and denies in part Defendants' Motion to Dismiss with prejudice in part and without prejudice in part, and grants Defendants' Motion to Strike.

I. Background*fn1

Plaintiff is a California state inmate and a practicing Druid. Druidism is a Neo-pagan religion that revives the beliefs and practices of the druids, who were the religious and educational leaders in ancient Gaul. Plaintiff has been in contact with the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids ("OBOD"), a Druid organization based in England, from which he obtained a correspondence course to assist his spiritual development. (Ct. Rec. 1 at 1--2.) Plaintiff also associated with members of other Pagan denominations while he was an inmate at Mule Creek State Prison ("MCSP"), including William Rouser and Douglas Hysell. Id. at 1. These two had founded a Pagan practice group, which Plaintiff joined.

After prison officials began harassing other members of the Pagan group, Plaintiff became concerned that he too would be victimized. On March 17, 2007, he wrote to State Senator Gloria Romero requesting various items necessary for Pagan religious worship. Id. at 4. A copy of the letter was given to Defendant Subia, the Warden at MCSP. Id. On the same day, Plaintiff filed an administrative grievance with MCSP officials in which he requested accommodations for Pagan worship. Id. That grievance was heard on April 2, 2007. Id. At the hearing, Defendant Long, an Associate Warden, informed Plaintiff that MCSP would approve the Pagan group's practices and would grant them a worship area. When Plaintiff complained that the proposed area was too small to accommodate all the Pagan worshipers, Long told Plaintiff to reduce his numbers. Id. Defendant then sent another letter to several state senators in which he described how Defendants failed to accommodate Pagan worship. Certain unspecified Defendants intercepted this letter.

Afterward, things only got worse for Plaintiff, as the letter led to more religious persecution designed to snuff out Pagan worship at MCSP. Plaintiff was subjected to a series of allegedly retaliatory actions for writing the letter and continuing to assert his rights to practice his religion. Plaintiff alleges Defendant Rutherford repeatedly strip-searched him, once in front of a female nurse, without any justification. Id. On June 6, 2007, Defendants Takehari and Lockhart searched Plaintiff's cell and removed several religious articles. Id. at 5. Plaintiff was placed in Administrative Segregation for complaining about the earlier adverse actions he suffered. Additionally, Plaintiff was issued a Rules Violation Report and penalized with yard and phone restrictions, but was not told what violation he committed. Defendant Kudlata allegedly told Plaintiff he would like to "lock all you Pagans up." Id. at 8. Defendants B. Bueno and Sgt. Green ordered all non-Wiccans off the Pagan worship area, effectively barring Druids from practicing their faith. Finally, Plaintiff filed multiple grievances related to the restrictions on his religious practice; the grievances were denied on appeal. Id. at 9--10.

According to Plaintiff, MCSP officials deny Druids and other Pagans many of the benefits they provide to other religious groups. Prison officials required the Druids to get copyright permission before making copies of the Druid correspondence course but had no similar requirements for other religious practitioners. Id. at 10. Even after the Druids obtained copyright permission, Defendants did not allow them to make copies. Id. Additionally, Druids were denied funds to order religious items because they lack a chaplain, unlike other groups. Id. Similarly, Native American groups had ceremonial sweat lodges while Druids did not; all other religious groups had classroom time and state-funded religious feasts twice a year while Druids received neither; and the smaller Judeo-Christian groups had sufficient worship space for ninety individuals while the much-larger Druid group had enough space for only ten. Id.

Plaintiff brings six groups of claims against Defendants: 1) Defendants Cate, Martel, Long, Barnham, Baptista, Muhammad, and Korik violated his rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments and Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act ("RLUIPA") by failing to accommodate Plaintiff's religious practices; 2) Defendants Long, R. Bueno, and Baptista violated Plaintiff's Equal Protection rights by attempting to reduce the number of Pagan practitioners at MCSP; 3) Defendants Long, V. Bueno, Takehara, Rutherford, Lockhart, Chamberlain, and Green retaliated against Plaintiff for First Amendment-protected activities; 4) Defendant Kudlata violated Plaintiff's First and Fourteenth Amendment rights by finding Plaintiff guilty of a rules violation; 5) Defendants Martinez, Texeira, Machado, Knipp, Long, Vanni, and Martel conspired to transfer Plaintiff out of MCSP in retaliation for First Amendment-protected activities; and 6) Defendants Martel, Subia, Long, and Knipp failed to supervise or correct their subordinates' violations of Plaintiff's First and Fourteenth Amendment rights.

II. Discussion

A. Standard

A motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of the pleadings. Navarro v. Block, 250 F.3d 729, 731 (9th Cir. 2001). A complaint may be dismissed for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) where the factual allegations do not raise the right to relief above the speculative level. Bell Atl. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007); Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937 (2009). Conversely, a complaint may not be dismissed for failure to state a claim where the allegations plausibly show that the pleader is entitled to relief. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. In ruling on a motion pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), a court must construe the pleadings in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and must accept all material factual allegations in the complaint, as well as any reasonable inferences drawn therefrom. Broam v. Bogan, 320 F.3d 1023, 1028 (9th Cir. 2003); see also Chang v. Chen, 80 F.3d 1293 (9th Cir. 1996).

B. Sufficiency of the Pleadings

Defendants allege that Plaintiff's pleadings are inadequate in three respects: 1) Plaintiff has not pled any facts supporting his claims against Defendants Cate, Muhammad, Martinez, Texeira, Knipp, and Vanni; 2) Plaintiff's allegations regarding the remaining Defendants are vague and conclusory; and 3) Plaintiff has not pled sufficient facts to hold Defendants in supervisory positions liable under § 1983.

1. Defendants Cate, Muhammad, Martinez, Texeira, Knipp, and Vanni

Plaintiff has not adequately pled his claims against these Defendants. Aside from the section detailing his causes of action, see (Ct. Rec. 1 at 10--13), Plaintiff does not mention these Defendants by name in his entire recitation of facts. Defendants correctly point out that Plaintiff concludes that these Defendants violated his rights, but nowhere indicates any specific action they took that constituted a violation. In the section of his complaint detailing the damages he requests, Plaintiff includes a "formulaic recitation of the elements" of liability, but this is insufficient to survive a motion to dismiss. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949. Accordingly, Plaintiff's claims against these Defendants are dismissed without prejudice. If Plaintiff wishes to file an amended complaint that will survive a motion to dismiss, he must include factual allegations showing a plausible basis for relief.

2. Remaining Defendants

Defendants argue that Plaintiff's pleadings against the other Defendants are insufficient because, in the final section detailing all of Plaintiff's causes of action, they do not reference paragraphs detailing specific actions by each of these Defendants that give rise to Plaintiff's claims. Although this is true, the Court finds good cause to construe Plaintiff's complaint liberally. The facts section of Plaintiff's complaint describes specific actions these Defendants took to violate Plaintiff's rights. (Ct. Rec. 1 at 3--10.) Merely because references to specific paragraphs in the facts section are not included with the causes of action is not a reason to rule that Plaintiff's allegations are vague and conclusory. Accordingly, Defendants' motion is denied with respect to claims against Defendants Subia, Martel, Long, Machado, Kudlata, Chamberlain, V. Bueno, B. Bueno, Green, Rutherford, Baptista, Barnham, Kuric, Takehari, and Lockhart, subject to the limitations described below.

3. Supervisor Liability

Defendants argue that Plaintiff has pled insufficient facts for Defendants Martel, Subia, Long, and Knipp to be liable under § 1983 for their subordinates' constitutional violations. There is no respondeat superior liability under § 1983: liability arises only if the defendant personally participated in the violation in some way. Ybarra v. Reno Thunderbird Mobile Home Vill., 723 F.2d 675, 680 (9th Cir. 1984) (citing May v. Enomoto, 633 F.2d 164, 167 (9th Cir. 1980)); Fayle v. Stapley, 607 F.2d 858, 862 (9th Cir. 1979). Supervisors are liable for their subordinates' actions only if the supervisor participated in or directed the violations, or knew of the violations and did not prevent them. Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989).

The Court finds that Plaintiff sufficiently pled that Defendants Martel, Subia, and Long were aware of the violations and failed to prevent them. Plaintiff alleges that he wrote to Defendants Subia, Long, and Martel about the alleged violations. (Ct. Rec. 1 at 3--6.) Additionally, Plaintiff alleges that all these Defendants were "made completely aware of the inappropriate actions of their subordinates . . . but actively chose to be deliberately indifferent to these actions." (Ct. Rec. 1 at 14.) As discussed above, Plaintiff has not pled sufficient facts to support a claim against Defendant Knipp. But Plaintiff has pled that the rest of the supervisor Defendants are liable in their supervisory capacity for their failure to prevent known violations.

C. Mootness

Plaintiff requests injunctive relief as part of his damages. (Ct. Rec. 1 at 11--12.) Defendants argue that Plaintiff has been transferred from MCSP to Los Angeles County State Prison, and his claims for injunctive relief are therefore moot.

Federal courts may hear only live cases and controversies. See U.S. Parole Comm'n v. Geraghty, 445 U.S. 388, 397 (1980). Prisoners who have been released from prison or transferred to a different prison may not sue for injunctive relief because they would no longer benefit from having the injunction issued. See Dilley v. Gunn, 64 F.3d 1365, 1368 (9th Cir. 1995) (citing Preiser v. Newkirk, 422 U.S. 395, 402--03 (1970); Johnson v. Moore, 948 F.3d 517, 519 (9th Cir. 1991); and Darry v. Kincheloe, 783 F.2d 874, 876 (9th Cir. 1986)). Because Plaintiff is no longer housed at the institution where many of the alleged violations occurred, he may not sue to enjoin those violations specific to MCSP from recurring in the future. Although Plaintiff claims the transfers among prisons make the violations a wrong capable of repetition but evading review, the case law does not support this position. Even now, Plaintiff does not allege that he will likely be transferred back to MCSP. Although he claims others' rights are violated there now and all those who have attempted to sue have been transferred away, he does not allege that his rights are likely to be violated there again. Cf. Dilley, 64 F.2d at 1369 (holding that a prisoner's claim is moot if he has no reasonable expectation that he will be transferred back to the prison where it occurred). Plaintiff may amend his complaint to sue for injunctive relief if the conditions at the prison where he is currently housed are similarly dissatisfactory.

On the other hand, Plaintiff may sue for injunctive relief to the extent he claims systemic discrimination against Pagans throughout the California Department of Corrections ("DOC"). Plaintiff alleges that the DOC has a policy of not providing "equal treatment or reasonable accommodations" to members of non-traditional religious groups. (Ct. Rec. 1 at 12.) Presumably, this policy forms the basis of his claim against Defendant Cate. Because ...

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