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Hartmann v. California Dep't of Corrections and Rehabilitation

April 27, 2010

SHAWNA HARTMANN AND CAREN HILL, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS AND REHABILITATION, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS RECOMMENDING DISMISSAL OF CERTAIN DEFENDANTS AND CLAIMS ONE, TWO, THREE AND FOUR, WITH LEAVE TO AMEND COUNT ONE WITHIN THIRTY DAYS

(Doc. 29)

Plaintiffs Shawna Hartmann and Caren Hill, inmates incarcerated at Central California Women's Facility ("CCWF"), by their attorney Barbara McGraw, filed their First Amended Complaint ("complaint") alleging claims under 42 U.S.C. §1983, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (42 U.S.C. § 2000cc et seq.) ("RLUIPA"), and California law. Defendants California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Arnold Schwarzenegger, State of California, CCWF, Matthew Cate, Suzanne Hubbard, Barry Smith, Nola Grannis, Mary Lattimore, Division of Adult Institutions ("DAI"), Division of Community Partnerships ("DCP"), and Del Sayles-Owen now move for dismissal of Plaintiffs' complaint for failure to state a claim. F.R.Civ.P. §12(b)(6).

In accordance with the District Court's order referring this motion to Magistrate Judge Sandra M. Snyder for entry of findings and recommendations (Doc. 57), this Court has reviewed the papers and has determined that this matter is suitable for decision without oral argument pursuant to Local Rule 78-230(h). Having considered all the written materials submitted, the Court recommends the dismissal of Defendants Schwarzenegger, Cate, Hubbard, Sayles-Owen, Grannis, Lattimore, DAI, DCP, CCWF, Smith, and the State of California, as well as Claims One, Two, Three, and Four. The Court further recommends that Plaintiffs be granted leave to amend Claim One within thirty days. The District Court's exercise of its pendant jurisdiction over Claim Five should be conditional on Plaintiffs' successful amendment of Claim One.

I. Background

Plaintiffs, both prisoners incarcerated in Central California Women's Facility ("CCWF") at Chowchilla, California, are adherents of the Wiccan religion. They allege that, because CCWF lacks a paid Wiccan chaplain, they have been denied their constitutionally protected religious rights and freedoms, and are subject to ongoing religious discrimination and substantial burdens on their religion. Plaintiffs contend that Defendant California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation ("CDCR") maintains a prison chaplain hiring policy unconstitutionally favoring five faiths, Protestant Christian, Roman Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, and Native American, which Plaintiffs refer to as the "Preferred Faiths." They seek a declaration that the "Preferred Faiths Policy" is unconstitutional on its face and as applied, and that it violates the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (42 U.S.C. § 2000cc et seq.) ("RLUIPA"). Plaintiffs also seek injunctive relief and, as part of their RLUIPA claims, damages.

Plaintiffs admit that a volunteer Wiccan chaplain periodically visits CCWF but contend that these visits are infrequent and inadequate for their religious needs. Plaintiffs allege that, in the absence of a paid chaplain, they and other Wiccan inmates are forced to forgo religious exercise for long periods. In particular, they allege that they have (1) been denied access to clergy, religious services, and rites; (2) been denied access to the chapel or other place of worship; (3) been denied communal religions activities with other Wiccans; (4) been denied or experienced limited access to religious literature and artifacts; (5) experienced destruction of their religious literature and artifacts; (6) been denied adequate funding for religious activities; (7) been denied time off work for religious holidays and services; (8) been denied religious counseling in times of personal crisis; (9) lost opportunities for religious services and visits due to inaccurate scheduling; (10) were denied the benefit of representation in prison decisions on time and space allocation for religious services and study; (11) been denied chaplain visits during illness; (12) been denied access to religious materials and books in the absence of a Wiccan chaplain to advocate on their behalf; (13) experienced discrimination because of their beliefs; (14) been denied regular, ongoing religious education by a Wiccan chaplain; (15) been denied the opportunity to designate a religious preference of "Wiccan" (Hartmann); and (16) been denied passes to Wiccan services. They further allege that, in the absence of a paid chaplain, their interests are not represented to prison officials in the same way as are the interests of adherents to the "Preferred Faiths."

Plaintiffs name as Defendants CDCR; California State Personnel Board; State Personnel Board members Sean Harrigan, Richard Costigan, Patricia Clarey, Maely Tom, and Anne Sheehan;*fn1 Division of Adult Institutions ("DAI"); Division of Community Partnerships ("DCP"); CCWF; CDCR Secretary Matthew Cate; DAI Director Suzan Hubbard; DCP Director Del Sayles-Owen; DCP employee Barry Smith, a community resource manager; Nola Grannis, Chief, Inmate Appeals Branch; Mary Lattimore, Warden, CCWF; California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger; and the State of California. Plaintiffs allege claims for violation of the Establishment Clause, the Equal Protection Clause, the Free Exercise Clause, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (42 U.S.C. §§ 2000cc, et seq) ("RLUIPA"), and Article I, Section 4 of the California Constitution. They seek damages and declaratory and injunctive relief.

II. Applicable Law

A. Applicable Regulations

Although Plaintiffs refer generally to the "Preferred Faiths Policy," and to CDCR's responsibility to provide for inmates' religious and spiritual welfare, they do not cite to any written authority. CDCR's regulations require heads of institutions to make "every reasonable effort to provide for the religious and spiritual welfare of all interested inmates." Cal. Code Regs., title 15 § 3210. Reasonable efforts may include employing chaplains, using volunteer chaplains, providing space to conduct services, and modifying inmate's work schedules to attend religious services. Id.

Chaplain appointments are governed by CDCR's Operations Manual, § 31060.6.1, which provides:

All chaplain appointments shall be approved by the appropriate Regional Administrator, ID.

The applicant shall meet the criteria outlined in the SPB specifications before being appointed to the position of full-time or intermittent chaplain.

Muslim Chaplain. The appointee shall be currently in good standing with the American Muslim Community, verified and approved by the local resident Imam where the applicant attends as a member. All candidates shall attach to their application a letter of certification of good standing issued by the local resident Imam.

Jewish Chaplain. The appointee shall be accredited by and in good standing with a recognized California rabbinical body. The two official ecclesiastical endorsing agencies are the Board of Rabbis of Northern California and the Board of Rabbis of Southern California.

Catholic Chaplain. The appointee shall be duly accredited by and in good standing with the Roman Catholic Church and approved by the Bishop of the diocese in which the facility is located.

Protestant Chaplain. The appointee shall be currently ordained, duly accredited and in good standing with a nationally recognized Protestant denomination. Native American Spiritual Leader. The appointee shall be currently recognized as a spiritual leader and in good standing with their Native American Tribe, Nation, Band or Rancheria. All candidates shall attache to their application a letter of certification of good standing issued by their Native American Tribe, Nation, Band or Rancheria.

Intermittent Chaplains

The Department may employ, under State civil service, intermittent Catholic, Jewish, Muslim and Protestant chaplains.

Part-Time Chaplains

The Department may contract with clergy of any faith as part-time or intermittent chaplains to provide religious services and chaplaincy activities for a small group.

Substitute Chaplains

When a staff chaplain is on an authorized absence and a substitute chaplain cannot be obtained without cost to the State, a fee can be paid to the substitute for any single day of service.

B. Standard of Review

To survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim (F.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6)), a plaintiff must allege sufficient facts to state a claim that is plausible on its face. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). A motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim should not be granted unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of the claim that would entitle him to relief. See Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984), citing Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957); see also Palmer v. Roosevelt Lake Log Owners Ass'n, 651 F.2d 1289, 1294 (9th Cir. 1981). Nonetheless, the Court does not accept as true unreasonable inferences or conclusory legal allegations cast in the form of factual allegations. Western Mining Council v. Watt, 643 F.2d 618, 624 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 454 U.S. 1031 (1981).

C. Pleading Standards

At its most basic level, evaluating whether a complaint states a claim against a particular defendant requires its analysis in light of applicable pleading standards. "Rule 8(a)'s simplified pleading standard applies to all civil actions, with limited exceptions," none of which applies here. Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N. A., 534 U.S. 506, 512 (2002). Pursuant to 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). "The plaintiff's statement of claim must give the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Swierkiewicz, 534 U.S. at 512.

In light of the Supreme Court's decisions in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, ___ U.S. ___, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009), and Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, Plaintiffs' protests that their conclusory allegations meet the Swierkiewicz standard can no longer carry the day. Although detailed factual allegations are not required, "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of the cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949, citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. "The pleading must contain something more... than... a statement of facts that merely creates a suspicion [of] a legally cognizable right of action." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, quoting C. Wright & A. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure, § 1216, pp. 235-36 (3d ed. 2004). In Twombly, the Court explicitly abrogated its holding in Conley, 355 U.S. at 45-46, on which Plaintiffs rely, which stated that "a complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.

"A plaintiff must set forth sufficient factual matter accepted as true, to 'state a claim that is plausible on its face.'" Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949, quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. A claim has facial plausibility if the pleaded factual allegations allow the Court to reasonably infer that the defendant is liable for the alleged wrongdoing. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556. Plausibility must be distinguished from probability. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949. A claim must do more than allege a "possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully" or plead facts that are "merely consistent with" a defendant's liability, it must establish the plaintiff's "entitlement to relief." Id. A reasonable inference requires the complaint to plead sufficient facts to support the complaint's allegations. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.

Implementing the Twombly analysis requires the Court to apply two working principles. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949. First, while factual allegations are accepted as true, legal conclusions are not. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949. The Court may not accept as true allegations that are merely conclusory, unwarranted deductions of fact, or unreasonable inferences. Sprewell v. Golden State Warriors, 266 F.3d 979, 988, amended on denial of rehearing, 275 F.3d 1187 (9th Cir. 2001). In the context of a motion to dismiss, this means that, although the Court must accept all factual allegations as true, it must identify and disregard legal conclusions disguised as facts. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1950.

Second, the Court must evaluate the allegations in context, drawing on its experience and common sense to determine whether the claim for relief is plausible. Id. It may begin its analysis by identifying and disregarding conclusory allegations that lack a factual basis since these are not entitled to a presumption of truth. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949-1951. The Court may assume the veracity of well-pleaded allegations but must then "determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief." Id. at 1950.

"Factual allegations must be [sufficient] to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citations omitted). A plaintiff must set forth "the grounds of his entitlement to relief," which "requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action." Id. at 555-56 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). To adequately state a claim against a defendant, a plaintiff must set forth the legal and factual basis for his claim. Id. In applying the principles that the Supreme Court set forth in Iqbal and Twombly, if Plaintiffs have not "nudged their claims across the line from conceivable to plausible, their complaint must be dismissed." Id. at 570.

Plaintiffs' sixteen-point list of the "infringements, violations, and burdens" experienced by Wiccan inmates is just the type of conclusory pleading that the Supreme Court sought to remedy in Twombly and Iqbal. The complaint lists the general categories of wrongs alleged by the Plaintiffs but includes no specific legal or factual allegations necessary to give rise to cognizable claims. Nor do Plaintiffs link these ...


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