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Castle v. Hedgpeth

June 30, 2010

SY LEE CASTLE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
A. HEDGPETH, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sheila K. Oberto United States Magistrate Judge

FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS RECOMMENDING THAT DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS BE DENIED (Doc. 22) OBJECTIONS DUE WITHIN 30 DAYS

Plaintiff Sy Lee Castle ("Plaintiff") is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. On November 19, 2009, Defendants Hedgpeth, Marta, and Amavisca ("Defendants") filed a motion to dismiss on the ground that Plaintiff's complaint fails to state any claims upon which relief can be granted under Section 1983. (Doc. #22.) Plaintiff filed an opposition to Defendants' motion on January 11, 2010. (Doc. #26.) Defendant filed a reply to Plaintiff's opposition on January 19, 2010. (Doc. #28.)

I. Background

A. Plaintiff's Complaint

This action proceeds on Plaintiff's first amended complaint filed on May 12, 2009. (Doc. #7.) Plaintiff alleges that he filed a grievance on December 29, 2007 that complained about Kern Valley State Prison's ("KVSP") policies for receiving religious packages. Plaintiff alleges that he received a "regular quarterly package" on December 27, 2007. After he received this package, he informed an officer that Plaintiff's family purchased a "religious package" that contained a prayer rug and prayer oil. Plaintiff claims that this "religious package" was sent to Plaintiff some time in November 2007. The officer told Plaintiff that "the institution is not allowing no[sic] Islamic packages to be given to inmates." (First Am. Compl. 4.) Plaintiff claims that this is discriminatory policy by Defendant A. Hedgpeth and Defendant Marta. Plaintiff claims that KVSP officials failed to implement policies that permitted Muslim inmates to possess religious artifacts, such as Qurans, reading materials, caps, rugs, mats, oils, and prayer beads. As examples, Plaintiff cites to a July 31, 2007 incident where Plaintiff's cell was searched and Plaintiff's prayer oil was confiscated, and a November 7, 2007 incident where Plaintiff's reading materials were confiscated. Plaintiff claims that these incidents occurred as a result of the KVSP administration's failure to implement policies that protected Muslim inmates from having their property confiscated.

Plaintiff claims that he sent a "GA-22 inmate request for interview" form to Defendant Marta on March 5, 2008. Plaintiff informed Marta that Plaintiff's administrative appeal was granted and he could receive his religious package. Plaintiff asked Marta why he had not received his package. On March 31, 2008, Defendant Amavisca responded to Plaintiff's "request for interview." Amavisca informed Plaintiff that he could have a religious package, but that "a religious package is considered a quarterly package" by prison regulations, and that Plaintiff had to receive authorization from the sergeant in charge of receiving and releasing packages through Plaintiff's chaplain. Plaintiff was also informed that, while he could receive religious packages, he could not purchase prayer oil. Plaintiff was told that if his religious package contained prayer oil, it would be returned to the vendor.

Plaintiff claims that Defendant Hedgpeth authored a regulation that concerned the use of prayer oils. The regulation stated that prayer oil could only be used during religious services and that inmates could not purchase or possess their own prayer oil. On July 8, 2008, Plaintiff alleges that Hedgpeth authored a memorandum which stated that prison regulations were amended to allow inmates to purchase their own prayer oil.

B. Defendants' Motion to Dismiss

In their motion to dismiss, Defendants argue that they are entitled to dismissal pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) because Plaintiff has not alleged sufficient facts to state a claim for the violation of his First Amendment rights. (Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss Pl.'s Compl. for Failure to State a Claim 1:20-24.) Defendants further argue that Plaintiff has not alleged sufficient facts to hold Defendant Hedgpeth liable for any constitutional violation because Plaintiff has not demonstrated that Hedgpeth was personally involved in any deprivation of Plaintiff's constitutional rights. (Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss 1:25-27.)

Defendants argue that Plaintiff's complaint fails to state a claim because Plaintiff has not alleged that he has been denied a religious package that conformed to prison regulations. (Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss 3:2-14.) Specifically, Defendants contend that Plaintiff failed to allege that the religious package that was withheld from Plaintiff conformed to KVSP's regulations for receiving packages. (Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss 3:16-4:11.) Defendants note that Plaintiff alleges he received a package in December 2007 and that KVSP inmates are only allowed one package per quarter. (Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss 3:24-26.) Defendants infer that Plaintiff did not receive his religious package because he already received the allowable number of packages for the quarter. (Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss 3:24-27.)

Defendants also argue that Plaintiff has not alleged that he was denied any religious package after new policies were promulgated in July 2008 regarding the receipt of religious packages. (Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss 4:1-6.) Defendants also contend that KVSP regulations require an inmate to obtain prior written permission to receive or possess any religious artifact and Plaintiff has not alleged that he had written permission to receive or possess religious artifacts. (Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss 4:7-11.) Finally, Defendants note that Plaintiff's allegation that KVSP implemented policies to prevent Muslim inmates from possessing religious artifacts conflicts with Plaintiff's allegation that KVSP had a policy that permitted Muslin inmates to receive and possess up to 16 ounces of prayer oil. (Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss 4:26-5:2.)

Defendants also argue that Plaintiff fails to state a cognizable claim against Defendant Hedgpeth. (Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss 5:12-6:21.) Defendants contend that Plaintiff has not demonstrated that Hedgpeth was personally involved with any deprivation of Plaintiff's constitutional rights. (Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss 5:14-19.)

C. Plaintiff's Opposition

Plaintiff argues that the religious packages that were withheld by KVSP officials did, in fact, conform with the prison's regulations. (Pl.'s Opp'n to Def's[sic] Notice of Mot. to Dismiss 3:14-16.) Plaintiff also contends that he had written ...


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