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Paul A. Rupe v. M. Cate

October 11, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Edward F. Shea United States District Judge


I. Introduction

Before the Court, without oral argument, are four motions brought by Plaintiff Paul Rupe: Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF Nos. 52, 71 & 75, Plaintiff's Motion for Leave of the Court to Conduct Third-Party Discovery, ECF No. 80, Plaintiff's Motion to Compel Discovery, ECF Nos. 81 & 87, and Plaintiff's Motion for Default Judgment, ECF No. 92. Plaintiff is a California state inmate asserting numerous Constitutional claims against state prison employees. After considering the submissions of the parties and applicable case law, statutes, and regulations, the Court is fully informed. For the reasons discussed below, the Court denies Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment, denies Plaintiff's Motion for Leave of the Court to Conduct Third-Party Discovery, denies Plaintiff's Motion to Compel Discovery, and denies Plaintiff's Motion for Default Judgment.

II. Procedural Background

Plaintiff filed his original Prisoner Civil Rights Complaint on October 26, 2008, ECF No. 1, and filed an Amended Complaint on July 24, 2009. ECF No. 31. On August 10, 2010, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss. ECF No. 33. The Court granted in part and denied in part Defendants' motion, dismissing Plaintiff's claims for injunctive relief regarding conditions specific to Mule Creek State Prison (MCSP) as moot, dismissing Plaintiff's Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) claims for money damages with prejudice, dismissing a portion of Plaintiff's supervisor liability claims without prejudice, and requiring Plaintiff to file an amended complaint. ECF No. 48. Plaintiff filed his First Amended Complaint on February 24, 2010. ECF No. 51. On March 8, 2010, the Court granted Plaintiff's Motion to Withdraw Plaintiff's Seventh Claim for Relief Contained within the First Amended Complaint, ECF No. 53, striking Plaintiff's Fourth Amendment claim. ECF No. 54. After the Court screened Plaintiff's Amended Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a) and directed service, Defendants filed their Answer on June 15, 2010. ECF Nos. 57, 62 & 68.

Plaintiff first moved for summary judgment on September 16, 2009. ECF No. 37. The Court stayed Defendants' obligation to oppose this motion until after it heard Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, at which time the Court denied Plaintiff's motion as moot. ECF Nos. 39 & 50. Plaintiff again moved for summary judgment on March 1, 2010. ECF No. 52. Because Defendants had not yet filed their answer to Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, the Court held Plaintiff's summary judgment motion in abeyance pending Defendants' answer. ECF No. 67. After Defendants filed their Answer, Plaintiff renewed his Motion for Summary Judgment on August 2, 2010. ECF No. 71. Defendants filed a response in opposition to Plaintiff's motion on May 4, 2011, and Plaintiff filed his reply on May 18, 2011. ECF Nos. 78 & 79.

In addition to the instant Motion for Summary Judgment, Plaintiff has also filed a Request for Leave of the Court to Conduct Third Party Discovery, ECF No. 80, a Motion to Compel Discovery, ECF No. 81, and a Motion for Default Judgment, ECF No. 92.

III. Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment

A. Factual Background*fn1

Plaintiff's religious practice is Druidism. Druidism is a Neo-pagan religion that revives the beliefs and practices of the druids, who were the religious and educational leaders in ancient Gaul. Plaintiff has been involved in Pagan religious practices since 1985, and has been seriously involved with Paganism since 2005. Plaintiff completed a course in contemporary Pagan religious practices from the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and is a registered member of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids (OBOD), a Druid religious group founded in 1946 as a branch of a parent organization founded in the 1700s. Plaintiff completed a "Bardic course" with OBOD, and is currently enrolled in the organization's "Ovate course." This course involves extensive use of herbs and meditative practices. Druidism is Plaintiff's sincerely-held religious belief.

The practice of Druidism involves, inter alia, feasts, access to the earth, and the use of herbs, wine, candles, and sweathouses. Druids celebrate four Fire Festivals annually, on the first days of November, February, May, and August, as well as two Holy Feast days on March 17 and September 2. Feasts are an integral part of the Druid Fire Festivals. Wine is used in Druid religious ceremonies; non-alcoholic wine is acceptable in Druidic practice. The herbs used in Druid religious ceremony and practice include hawthorn, yew, honey, angelica, garlic, oak, mistletoe, and sage, among others. Weekly sweathouse ceremonies are also a central part of Druid religious practice.

In May of 2006, Plaintiff joined Hekau Ya Aset (HYA), a Druid religious group, at MCSP. The HYA is a nonprofit religious organization whose stated purpose is to promote Pagan religious practice and ideas. Shortly after joining HYA, Plaintiff was assigned to be the Pagan Clerk, an inmate position that required him to "maintain [a] religious services movement list" for all non-Judeo-Christian religious groups. Within the HYA organization, Plaintiff is a High Priest of Druidry at a level of 7:3. Defendant is currently housed at the California State Prison at Los Angeles County (LAC).

Plaintiff alleges that he has been restricted in his exercise of Druidism by officials at LAC in a number of ways. Plaintiff is allowed classroom time for teaching of Druid religious practices, but is not allowed actual practice, which requires contact with the earth. Rupe Decl., ECF No. 75 at 1-2. Plaintiff has also not been allowed a Druidism-specific feast, and is not allowed to order ritual items specific to Druidism. Id. at 2. Plaintiff further alleges that prison officials have restricted his ability to partake in sweathouse ceremonies. ECF No. 52 at 5.

B. Summary Judgment Standard

A party is entitled to summary judgment where the documentary evidence produced by the parties permits only one conclusion. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986). The party seeking summary judgment must show that there is an absence of disputed issues of material fact and that they are entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 56(c). In other words, the moving party has the burden of showing that no reasonable trier of fact could find other than in their favor. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986). "A material issue of fact is one that affects the outcome of the litigation and requires a trial to resolve the parties' differing versions of the truth." S.E.C. v. Seaboard Corp., 677 F.2d 1301, 1306 (9th Cir. 1982). In evaluating the merits of a motion for summary judgment, the Court is to view the facts and draw inferences therefrom in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255; Chaffin v. United States, 176 F.3d 1208, 1213 (9th Cir. 1999).

The party opposing a motion for summary judgment has a burden to provide sufficient evidence supporting their claims to establish a genuine issue of material fact for trial. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252; Chaffin, 186 F.3d at 1213. "[A] mere 'scintilla' of evidence will be insufficient to defeat a properly supported motion for summary judgment; instead, the non[-]moving party must introduce some 'significant probative evidence tending to support [their position].'" Fazio v. City & County of San Francisco, 125 F.3d 1328, 1331 (9th Cir. 1997) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249, 252).

C. Discussion

Plaintiff moves for summary judgment on three of his claims: 1) his First Amendment Free Exercise claim; 2) his Equal Protection claim; and 3) his RLUIPA claim. As a preliminary matter, the Court must address evidentiary objections raised by Defendants in response to Plaintiff's motion.

1. Defendants' Evidentiary Objections

In support of his motion, Plaintiff submitted his own declarations and ten exhibits. ECF Nos. 52 & 75. Defendants object to the admission of Exhibits A through J as inadmissible hearsay, and further object to Exhibits C, D, E, F, H, and J as lacking foundation and authenticity.

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(e), material presented on summary judgment must be admissible under the rules of evidence. In re Sunset Bay Assocs., 944 F.2d 1503, 1514 (9th Cir. 1991). This evidence must be in the record before the Court, and may consist of depositions, documents, electronically-stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations, admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1)(A).

a. Hearsay Evidence

Federal Rule of Evidence 801 defines hearsay as an out-of-court statement offered in evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted. Fed. R. Evid. 801. Hearsay statements are generally inadmissible unless an exception applies. Fed. R. Evid. 802. Exceptions to the hearsay rule are set forth in Rules 803 and 804; evidence may also be admitted under the "residual exception" if the statement has sufficient indicia of reliability, if it is more probative on the point than other evidence which the proponent can procure through reasonable efforts, and if admission will generally serve the interests of justice. Fed. R. Evid. 807. Defendants object to all of Plaintiff's proffered exhibits as hearsay; Plaintiff has cited no exception to the hearsay rule under which these exhibits may be admitted.

Exhibits A, B, and G to Plaintiff's motion appear to be letters written to Plaintiff from various Druid religious leaders. Each of these letters is an out-of-court statement that appears to be offered to prove the truth of statements made therein. Finding no exception to the hearsay rule under which these letters may be admitted, the ...

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