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Rouser v. Tilton

July 22, 2010

WILLIAM ROUSER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JAMES TILTON, ET AL., DEFENDANTS,



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gregory G. Hollows United States Magistrate Judge

FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

I. Introduction

Plaintiff, a state prisoner proceeding pro se, seeks relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Pending before the court are the parties' cross motions for summary judgment.*fn1 Docs. 66, 83.

II. Background

This case is proceeding on the original complaint (Compl.), filed on July 11, 2006, against the defendants who were employed at California State Prison - Sacramento (CSPSac) or Mule Creek State Prison (MCSP). Plaintiff alleges violations of his First Amendment rights in the free exercise of religion, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), his ability to access the courts and file inmate grievances and a Fourteenth Amendment equal protection claim.

This is yet another action derived from case CIV S-93-0767 LKK GGH, where plaintiff alleged his ability to practice his Wiccan religion was hampered from 1990 to 1997 at CSP-Sac. On January 13, 2006, the court ordered that plaintiff could file a supplemental complaint regarding the continued violations of the specific rights alleged in the complaint in CIV S-93-0767 LKK GGH, that were now occurring due to his transfer to MCSP and incidents at CSP-Sac occurring after 1999.*fn2 That supplemental complaint was severed and became the instant action.

Plaintiff is not an unfamiliar figure to the undersigned or the Eastern District in general. Since the 1993 action, plaintiff has brought no less than seven actions either again claiming a violation of his First Amendment/RLUIPA rights, or that untoward actions have occurred to him as a result of his litigation notoriety, or some combination of both. The undersigned also recently issued findings and recommendations to dismiss another of plaintiff's cases regarding his ability to practice Wicca at MCSP. See CIV S-07-1107 JAM GGH.

Plaintiff names 26 defendants in this case. The allegations involve a multitude of alleged violations but mostly concern plaintiff's ability to order religious items, access to a pagan chaplain and access to grounds for Wiccan rituals. However, plaintiff does not identify what claims apply to what defendants. Moreover, while plaintiff describes in detail the actions of a few defendants, there is hardly any information concerning a majority of the defendants and it is not entirely clear how they violated plaintiff's constitutional rights. Ultimately, plaintiff has provided a diary-like recounting of his religious practices in both institutions and provided the names of nearly everyone involved in religious life at these facilities. Plaintiff seems to assert that all of these incidents when combined demonstrate a violation of his constitutional rights to practice his religion. However, it was plaintiff's responsibility to demonstrate a violation of his constitutional rights and set forth triable issues of fact using more than mere allegations from his complaint.

Unfortunately, plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and his opposition to defendants' motion for summary judgment provide no more details concerning the defendants or claims. Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment essentially repeats the facts from his complaint and then attaches approximately 270 pages of exhibits. While plaintiff does provide an itemized list of the exhibits, plaintiff does not reference any of the exhibits in his motion or discuss their meaning. It is not the court's responsibility to sift through all of plaintiff's exhibits and find support for his allegations. The court is not in a position to understand the relevance of all the exhibits or speculate as to their meaning and importance.

For the reasons that follow, plaintiff's motion for summary judgment should be denied, defendants' motion for summary judgment should be granted and this case should be closed.

III. Motion for Summary Judgment

Legal Standard for Summary Judgment (Cross Motions)

Burdens on summary judgment motion differ depending on who will carry the burden of persuasion at trial. "As the party with the burden of persuasion at trial, the [moving party] must establish "beyond controversy every essential element of its' [ ] claim. [The non-moving party] can defeat summary judgment by demonstrating the evidence, taken as a whole, could lead a rational trier of fact to find in its favor." Southern California Gas Co. v. City of Santa Ana, 336 F.3d 885, 888 (9th Cir. 2003).

Summary judgment is appropriate when it is demonstrated that there exists "no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c).

Under summary judgment practice, the moving party always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any," which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.

Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2553 (1986) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)). "[W]here the nonmoving party will bear the burden of proof at trial on a dispositive issue, a summary judgment motion may properly be made in reliance solely on the 'pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file.'" Id. Indeed, summary judgment should be entered, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. See id. at 322, 106 S.Ct. at 2552. "[A] complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial." Id. In such a circumstance, summary judgment should be granted, "so long as whatever is before the district court demonstrates that the standard for entry of summary judgment, as set forth in Rule 56(c), is satisfied." Id. at 323, 106 S.Ct. at 2553.

If the moving party meets its initial responsibility, the burden then shifts to the opposing party to establish that a genuine issue as to any material fact actually does exist. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 1356 (1986). In attempting to establish the existence of this factual dispute, the opposing party may not rely upon the allegations or denials of its pleadings but is required to tender evidence of specific facts in the form of affidavits, and/or admissible discovery material, in support of its contention that the dispute exists. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e); Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586 n.11, 106 S.Ct. at 1356 n. 11. The opposing party must demonstrate that the fact in contention is material, i.e., a fact that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law, see Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2510 (1986); T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. Pacific Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987), and that the dispute is genuine, i.e., the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party, see Wool v. Tandem Computers, Inc., 818 F.2d 1433, 1436 (9th Cir. 1987).

In the endeavor to establish the existence of a factual dispute, the opposing party need not establish a material issue of fact conclusively in its favor. It is sufficient that "the claimed factual dispute be shown to require a jury or judge to resolve the parties' differing versions of the truth at trial." T.W. Elec. Serv., 809 F.2d at 631. Thus, the "purpose of summary judgment is to 'pierce the pleadings and to assess the proof in order to see whether there is a genuine need for trial.'" Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587, 106 S.Ct. at 1356 (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e) advisory committee's note on 1963 amendments).

In resolving the summary judgment motion, the court examines the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). The evidence of the opposing party is to be believed. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. All reasonable inferences that may be drawn from the facts placed before the court must be drawn in favor of the opposing party. See Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587, 106 S.Ct. at 1356. Nevertheless, inferences are not drawn out of the air, and it is the opposing party's obligation to produce a factual predicate from which the inference may be drawn. See Richards v. Nielsen Freight Lines, 602 F. Supp. 1224, 1244-45 (E.D. Cal. 1985), aff'd, 810 F.2d 898, 902 (9th Cir. 1987). Finally, to demonstrate a genuine issue, the opposing party "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.... Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no 'genuine issue for trial.'" Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587, 106 S.Ct. at 1356 (citation omitted).

Undisputed Facts

The following of defendants' undisputed facts (DUF) are either not disputed by plaintiff, or following the court's review of the evidence submitted, have been deemed undisputed:*fn3

Plaintiff was incarcerated in CSP-Sac from April 1999 until being transferred to MCSP in March 2005. DUF #1. Plaintiff was incarcerated at MCSP from March 2005 until his transfer in June 2007. DUF #2. Plaintiff practices the Khemetic system of Wicca and since 1985 has been a third degree High Priest capable of conducting religious services on his own. DUF #3,4.

CSP-Sac Defendants

Pliler was a former warden at CSP-Sac. DUF #10. Plaintiff alleges that Pliler was aware of problems plaintiff had in placing and receiving orders for religious artifacts. DUF #11.

Rosario was a former chief deputy warden at CSP-Sac, and plaintiff alleges that Rosario was also aware of problems plaintiff had in placing and receiving orders for religious artifacts. DUF #13, 14.

Jackson was the former community resource manager who was responsible for enforcing the policies affecting religious programs. DUF #15. Jackson promised that plaintiff would be permitted to order religious items and be provided the opportunity to practice his religion. DUF #18.

The only allegations against Carlson and Grant are that they failed to process some paperwork that caused plaintiff to miss a Sabbat. DUF #24, 54.

Till was a correctional officer. DUF #32. Plaintiff alleges that Till verbally harassed him and would not allow a person in the prison waiting room to act as best man in plaintiff's wedding. Id.

Hannigan was a correctional officer who did not normally work in plaintiff's area of CSP-Sac. DUF #35. In 2001 Hannigan was in plaintiff's area escorting a group of Enhanced Outpatient Program (EOP) inmates to the chapel. DUF #36. Hannigan was also providing security for the EOP inmates. Id. Plaintiff wanted Hannigan to allow him access to the chapel and to the locked cabinet in the chapel. DUF #39, 43. Hannigan did not think plaintiff was allowed unsupervised access to the chapel and did not allow him in. DUF 38, 39. When Hannigan was instructed by another official to let plaintiff in the chapel, Hannigan complied. DUF #42. Hannigan did not unlock the cabinet because he did not have the key. DUF #43.

The only allegations against Swope, who is a correctional officer, is that he searched the Wiccan altar (a sealed box) that was in another inmates possession and to do so, cut the bottom of the box. DUF #44.

Stewart is a chaplain, and plaintiff alleges another inmate heard Stewart say that Wiccans were not welcome in the chapel. DUF #45.

Hill, Wiley, Goldsmith and Johnson were supervisors of the mailroom. DUF #48, 49, 50, 53. Plaintiff alleges that as supervisors they were responsible for the mail. Id. Plaintiff also alleges that Johnson denied an inmate grievance that plaintiff filed. DUF #52.

Plaintiff alleges that Hamad, as supervisor of academic instruction failed to play Wiccan religious videos on the institutional channel, but played other religious videos. DUF #56. Hamad can only play videos that are provided by the prison chaplain or the community resource manager, not any videos given to her by an inmate. Hamad Declaration at 2. Plaintiff did not actually have the video but wanted to buy it and have it mailed directly to Hamad. Id. Hamad was thus unable to view the ...


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