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Lamavis A. Comundoiwilla v. M. S. Evans

August 23, 2011


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


I. Screening Requirement

Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-1 (Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 ("RLUIPA")). Following Defendants' motion for summary judgment, an order issued granting Plaintiff one final opportunity to file an amended complaint raising only claims for injunctive relief based upon his classification points. (ECF No. 54.) Currently before the Court is Plaintiff's third amended complaint, filed May 20, 2011, and Defendants Alameida and Woodford's motion to dismiss, filed June 9, 2011. (ECF Nos. 60, 62.)

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 "fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted," or that "seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

In determining whether a complaint states a claim, the Court looks to the pleading standard 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. 554, 555 (2007)).

Under section 1983, Plaintiff must demonstrate that each defendant personally participated in the deprivation of his rights. Jones v. Williams, 297 F.3d 930, 934 (9th Cir. 2002). This requires the presentation of factual allegations sufficient to state a plausible claim for relief. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949-50; Moss v. U.S. Secret Service, 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009). "[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.'" Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949 (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. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949. "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. Complaint Allegations

Plaintiff is in the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation ("CDCR") and is currently housed at Calipatria State Prison. Plaintiff, an orthodox Muslim, holds a religious belief that he is required to wear facial hair and the hair on his head should be at least shoulder length. (Third Amended Compl. 7, ECF No. 60.*fn1 ) Under the grooming regulations in place while Plaintiff was housed at the California Correctional Institution, Tehachapi, Plaintiff began receiving rule violations for failing to comply with the grooming standard which prohibited inmates from having facial hair and shoulder length hair. (Id.)

On December 16, 2003, Plaintiff received a rule violation based upon his noncompliance with the grooming standard, Plaintiff was found guilty of the rule violation, but on appeal the findings were vacated and sanctions were reversed on September 30, 2004. On December 10, 2004; January 25, 2005; and February 25, 2005, Plaintiff was found guilty by a hearing officer of a rule violation for failing to comply with the grooming standard and sanctions were issued. (Id. at 8.)

Plaintiff brings this action against Defendants Cate, Alameida, Woodford, and Does 1-100, in their individual capacities, seeking injunctive relief from Defendant Cate, current Secretary of the CDCR, requiring complete expungement of all adverse actions and restoration of all classification points related to the grooming standard. (Id. at 6, 10.)

III. Discussion

A plaintiff "must allege a violation of his constitutional rights and show that the defendant acted under color of state law" to state a claim under section 1983. Florer v. Congregation Pidyon Shevuyim, N.A., 639 F.3d 916, 921 (9th Cir. 2011) (quoting Gritchen v. Collier, 254 F.3d 807, 812 (9th Cir. 2001)). To state a claim under RLUIPA a plaintiff must show that a person acting under color of state law "imposed a substantial burden on his religious exercise. Florer, 639 F.3d at 921. The first step is to identify the religious exercise that is being affected and then determine if the policy at issue is a substantial burden on that religious exercise. Greene v. Solano County Jail, 513 F.3d 982, 987 (9th Cir. 2008). RLUIPA defines "religious exercise" as "any exercise of religion, whether or not compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief." 42 U.S.C § 2000cc-5(7)(A). "[P]unishments to coerce a religious adherent to forgo her or his religious beliefs is an infringement on religious exercise." Warsoldier v. Woodford, 418 F.3d 989, 996 (9th Cir. 2005.)

Plaintiff alleges that he was found guilty of a rule violation he received on December 16, 2003, and was issued sanctions for the violation which were reversed. Accordingly, Plaintiff's motion for injunctive relief is moot as to the December 16, 2003 violation. Plaintiff has stated a claim against the unidentified officers who conducted the rule violation hearings on December 10, 2004; January 25, 2005; and February 25, 2005. However, Plaintiff has not sufficiently linked any other defendants named in his complaint to any acts or omissions that purportedly led to the violation of those rights. Jones v. Williams, 297 F.3d 930, 934 (9th Cir. 2002).

Because Plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis, the Court must appoint the United States Marshal to serve each defendant with a summons and complaint. Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 4(c)(2). However, the Marshal cannot locate and serve unidentified defendants. Plaintiff will need to provide the ...

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