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Comundoiwilla v. Evans

February 22, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gary S. Austin United States Magistrate Judge


Plaintiff Lamavis A. Comundoiwilla ("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 ("CDCR") and is currently incarcerated at Calipatria State Prison in Calipatria, California. However, the events described in Plaintiff's complaint took place while Plaintiff was incarcerated at the California Correctional Institution in Tehachapi, California ("CCI-Tehachapi""). Plaintiff is suing under section 1983 for the violation of his rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Plaintiff also claims that Defendants violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 ("RLUIPA"). Plaintiff names Edward S. Alamedia (former director of the CDCR), Jeanne Woodford (former director of CDCR), M.S. Evans (warden, CCI-Tehachapi), K.E. Todd (warden, CCI-Tehachapi), A. Lopez (warden, CCI-Tehachapi), D. Chapman (correctional counselor II), and R. Liles (sergeant, CCI-Tehachapi) as defendants. For the reasons set forth below, the Court finds that Plaintiff's complaint states some cognizable claims. Plaintiff will be ordered to either (1) notify the Court that he amenable to dismissing the non-cognizable claims and wishes to proceed only on the cognizable claims, or (2) file an amended complaint which cures the deficiencies identified 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 December 17, 2004. (Doc. #1.) After Plaintiff filed two amended complaints, the Court screened Plaintiff's second amended complaint on August 27, 2008 and found that it failed to state any claims. (Doc. #17.) Plaintiff filed another amended complaint on July 17, 2009. (Doc. #28.) This action proceeds on Plaintiff's July 17, 2009 amended complaint.

B. Factual Background

Plaintiff is an orthodox Muslim. Plaintiff claims that he is required by his religion to wear facial hair and shoulder-length hair. CDCR policy prohibited Plaintiff from growing facial hear or having shoulder length hair. Plaintiff received a rules violation report ("RVR") for his hair on December 16, 2003. After receiving the RVR, Defendant Chapman placed Plaintiff on "C status." As a result of being placed on C status, Plaintiff lost a number of privileges. Plaintiff had limited access to the shower, limited time outside his cell, could not possess certain personal property, could not receive quarterly vendor packages, could not use the telephone, had restricted access to the commissary, and could not participate in recreational or dayroom activities. Plaintiff claims that regulations do not permit an inmate to be placed on C status from having a single RVR. Plaintiff claims that Chapman put Plaintiff on C status because Plaintiff had a "minor argument" with Sergeant D. Liles, a friend of Defendant Chapman and the wife of Defendant Liles.

Plaintiff's C status was ordered to be vacated on September 13, 2004 after filing an administrative grievance. After Plaintiff's C status was removed, Defendant Chapman told Plaintiff "I've told my staff to get your ass again, don't worry your[sic] going back on 'C' Status." (Compl. ¶ 14.)

While Plaintiff was on C status, Plaintiff wrote numerous letters to Defendants Alamedia, Woodford, Evans, Todd, and Lopez informing them about RLUIPA and the religious mandates that required Plaintiff to wear his hair in violation of CDCR policy.

On December 10, 2004, Plaintiff received another RVR for failing to comply with CDCR grooming standards. Plaintiff was given another RVR on January 25, 2005. Plaintiff was told that this rules violation was characterized as a "serious" because he had been issued two prior RVRs about the same conduct. Plaintiff was found guilty of the serious RVR on February 25, 2005. On March 9, 2005, Plaintiff was placed on C status again. Plaintiff remained on C status until his transfer to Calipatria State Prison on March 2, 2006.

Plaintiff also claims that Defendant Liles prevented Plaintiff from attending Jumu'ah prayer services. On March 19, 2004, Liles ordered Officer M. Bravo to not allow Plaintiff to attend Jumu'ah prayer services. When Plaintiff confronted Liles, Liles told Plaintiff that he was an active duty reservist anticipating deployment in Iraq. Liles further told Plaintiff that he would be fighting Muslims and that he hated Muslims because of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Liles told Plaintiff that he would make sure Plaintiff never attended Jumu'ah prayer services again. Plaintiff filed an inmate ...

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