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Dennis Grimes, Cdcr #V-90377 v. James E. Tilton; A. Favila; S. Juarez; Reverend Steve

September 6, 2011

DENNIS GRIMES, CDCR #V-90377, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JAMES E. TILTON; A. FAVILA; S. JUAREZ; REVEREND STEVE FRANCIS; ALAN HERNANDEZ; GEORGE GIURBINO; V.M. ALMAGER; DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Barry Ted Moskowitz United States District Judge

ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AS TO PLAINTIFF'S FIRST AMENDMENT CLAIMS

I. PROCEDURALHISTORY

Dennis Grimes ("Plaintiff"), a California state prisoner currently incarcerated at the Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility located in Tutwiler, Mississippi, is proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis with a Complaint filed pursuant to the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

On September 5, 2007, the Court granted in part and denied in part Defendants' Motion to Dismiss pursuant to FED.R.CIV.P. 12(b)(6). Specifically, the Court: (1) dismissed Plaintiff's claims for monetary damages against Defendants in their official capacities as barred by the Eleventh Amendment; (2) denied Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint for failing to allege personal acts or omissions; (3) denied Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's equal protection claims; (4) denied Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claims; and (5) denied Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint on qualified immunity grounds. See Sept. 5, 2007 Order at 14-15.

Defendants filed their Answer [Doc. No. 63] and moved for summary judgment on the grounds that: (1) no genuine issues of material fact exist to show that Defendants violated Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment rights; (2) Defendants did not substantially burden Plaintiff's religious beliefs in violation of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act ("RLUIPA"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-1 et. seq; (3) Plaintiff's claims for declaratory and injunctive relief are moot; and (4) Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity.

The Court advised Plaintiff of his rights and obligations to oppose Defendants' Motion pursuant to Klingele v. Eikenberry, 849 F.2d 409 (9th Cir. 1988) and Rand v. Rowland, 154 F.3d 952 (9th Cir. 1998) (en banc). Plaintiff filed his Opposition on September 24, 2008 and his Complaint is verified under penalty of perjury.

On March 12, 2009, this Court granted in part and denied in part Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. See Mar. 12, 2009 Order at 21. Defendants appealed the Court's Order denying Defendants' claim for qualified immunity to the United States Court of Appeal for the Ninth Circuit. On July 14, 2010, the Ninth Circuit affirmed in part the Court's March 12, 2009 Order and remanded the issue of whether Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity on Plaintiff's First Amendment claim. This Court issued an Order directing the Defendants to file supplemental briefing which was filed on August 27, 2010 and Plaintiff was permitted to file an opposition which was filed on September 28, 2010.

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

On November 20, 2005, Plaintiff wrote to the Centinela ("CEN") Food Services Manager requesting a vegetarian diet in light of his "sincerely held religious beliefs." (See Compl. at 5, Exhibit "D.") Assistant Food Manager at CEN, J.G. Corey, responded to Plaintiff's request on December 3, 2005 by informing Plaintiff that he must have the Facility Chaplain or a "Religious Representative" from his faith notify the Food Services Manager that Plaintiff is eligible to receive a religious diet pursuant to CAL. CODE REGS. TIT. 15 § 3054. (Id., Exhibit "E," Memorandum from J.G. Corey to Plaintiff dated December 3, 2005.) 3 Plaintiff submitted an "Inmate Request for Interview" form to Defendant Francis, the 4 Chaplain at Centinela on January 11, 2006. (Id., Exhibit "F." Inmate Request for Interview 5 dated Jan. 11, 2006.) In this request, Plaintiff wrote "I am a vegetarian due to my religious 6 belief, can you please advise central kitchen/food manager to provide me with vegetarian meals 7 due to my religious belief." (Id.) Plaintiff was interviewed by Defendant Francis on January 20, 8 2006. (Id., Declaration of S. Francis, ¶¶ 5, 6.) Plaintiff alleges in his verified Complaint that he 9 informed Defendant Francis that he considers himself to be a Christian and his own "sincerely held religious belief" interprets bible scripture to find that the "consumption of animal meat is sinful." (Compl. at 6.)

Defendant Francis declares that he informed Plaintiff that it was his opinion, as a Protestant Chaplain, that Christianity does not require a religious diet. (Francis. Decl. ¶ 6.) He states that he told Plaintiff "because he was not following the beliefs of a particular Christian sect whose religious beliefs required a vegetarian diet, [Francis] could not verify his need for such a diet and, therefore, he did not qualify for a religious diet." (Id. ¶ 10.) Accordingly, Plaintiff's request for a religious diet was denied by Defendant Francis on January 20, 2006. (Comp. at 6, Exhibit "E.")

Plaintiff filed an administrative grievance on January 22, 2006 appealing Defendant Francis' decision to deny him a vegetarian meal. (See Pl.'s Compl., Exhibit "G," Inmate/Parolee Appeal Form dated January 22, 2006, CEN Log. No. D-06-0078.) Plaintiff was, once again, interviewed by Defendant Francis on February 23, 2006. (See Pl.'s Compl, Exhibit "H," First Level Appeal Response, CEN Log No. D-06-0078 dated March 1, 2006.) During this meeting, both Plaintiff and Defendant Francis recall discussing RLUIPA and its implications on the issue of religious diets. (See Compl. at 7; Francis Decl. ¶ 14.) Defendant Francis told Plaintiff that he was bound by the current state of CAL. CODE REGS. TIT. 15 § 3054 which Francis believed required him to verify whether or not Plaintiff had a special religious dietary need by "contacting the religious organization to which the inmate claims to be an observant member." (Id.) In this instance, Plaintiff did not provide Defendant Francis with an identifiable "sect" of the Christian faith and thus, Francis was unable to "verify" Plaintiff's need for a religious diet. (Francis Decl. ¶¶ 14, 15.) Accordingly, at the First Level Appeal Response, Plaintiff's request for a religious diet was denied by Defendants Francis and Juarez because Plaintiff was unable to provide Defendant Francis with information to verify his request. (Id.)
One day prior to the written denial by Defendants Francis and Juarez, a "Notice of Change to Department Operations Manual" was issued in which changes were made as to how the religious diet program was to be implemented. (Shipman Decl., Exhibit "M," Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Notice of Change to Department Operations Manual, Food Service, dated February 28, 2006.) A few weeks later, the regulation which required a Chaplain to "verify" the need for a religious diet was modified to a less restrictive requirement requiring that the Chaplain need only "determine" a prisoner's need for a religious diet. See CAL. CODE REGS. TIT. 15, § 3054 (effective April 24, 2006.)

Plaintiff informed Defendant Francis that he would refuse to eat any food that contained meat. (Francis Decl. ΒΆ 8.) After Plaintiff received the denial at the first level of review, he submitted an appeal to the next level along with a "signed affidavit to demonstrate the sincerity of his religious belief in vegetarianism." (Id., Exhibit "I," Affidavit of Religious Diet signed and dated by Plaintiff on March 6, 2006.) Defendant Giurbino, the Warden, denied Plaintiff's appeal at the Second Level of Review on March 22, 2006 by finding that "[Plaintiff] has not presented additional information or documentation to support granting his request for a vegetarian diet." (Compl., Exhibit "J," Second Level Appeal Response, CEN Log No. D-06-0078, dated March 22, 2006.) Plaintiff submitted his appeal to the final level of administrative review. On May 20, 2006, N. Grannis, Chief of the Inmate Appeals Branch, notified Plaintiff that his grievance was being denied at the Director's Level, in part, because "a generic claim of requiring a vegetarian ...


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