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Steven Strother v. Wendy K. Myers

September 6, 2012



Screening Order

I. Procedural History, Screening Requirement, and Standard

On July 8, 2011, Plaintiff Steven Strother ("Plaintiff"), a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed this civil rights action filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Doc. 1.

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 fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1),(2). "Notwithstanding any filing fee, or any portion thereof, that may have been paid, the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that . . . the action or appeal . . . fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).

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). Detailed factual allegations are not required, but "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice," Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)), and courts "are not required to indulge unwarranted inferences," Doe I v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 572 F.3d 677, 681 (9th Cir. 2009). While factual allegations are accepted as true, legal conclusions are not. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

While prisoners proceeding pro se in civil rights actions are still entitled to have their pleadings liberally construed and to have any doubt resolved in their favor, the pleading standard is now higher, Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 (9th Cir. 2010). Under § 1983, plaintiff must demonstrate that each defendantpersonally 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, 556 U.S. at 678-79; Moss v. U.S. Secret Service, 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009). The mere possibility of misconduct falls short of meeting this plausibility standard. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; Moss, 572 F.3d at 969.

Section 1983 provides a cause of action for the violation of constitutional or other federal rights by those acting under color of state law. E.g., Patel v. Kent School Dist., 648 F.3d 965, 971 (9th Cir. 2011); Jones, 297 F.3d at 934. For eachdefendant named, plaintiff must show a causal link between the violation of his rights and an action or omission of the defendant. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79; Starr v. Baca, 652 F.3d 1202, 1205-06 (9th Cir. 2011); Corales v. Bennett, 567 F.3d 554, 570 (9th Cir. 2009). There is norespondeat superior liability under § 1983, and each defendant may only be held liable for misconduct directly attributed to him or her. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 677-79; Ewing v. City of Stockton, 588 F.3d 1218, 1235 (9th Cir. 2009).

II. Plaintiff's Complaint

In Plaintiff's complaint, he names defendants R. Fisher, Jr., Associate Warden; Wendy K. Myers, Community Partnership Manager (CPM) (A); Mr. Shannon, Facility Captain; and James A. Yates, Warden, who were all employed at Pleasant Valley State Prison ("PVSP"). Compl. at 1, 6, Doc. 1.

On June 27, 2010, Myers and other named defendants informed Plaintiff that PVSP has changed the policy regarding religious headgear and oil. Id. at 6. Religious oil can only be purchased in one 2 oz. bottle. Id. at 6, 13. Approved vendor does not carry a 2 oz. bottle. Id. Religious headgear can only be worn to and from the chapel. Id. Receiving and Release ("R&R") is enforcing their own policy, which goes against the Department of Operation Manual ("D.O.M."). Id. The defendants' actions are clearly racist and biased towards Plaintiff and Muslims. Id. Due to negative news media coverage, the D.O.M. stated that 4 oz. or more is allotted for all Muslims every three months. Id. These defendants are all enforcing 2 oz. from a prayer oil vendor in Church Hill, Virginia, when there are hundreds of vendors in California. Id. at 7.

Plaintiff states to see attached exhibits to show that Kufis were allowed to be worn throughout prison. Id. A meeting was held with no Muslim Chaplain. Id. This is when arbitrary decisions were made and enforced under these defendants' recommendations and false statements. Id. These recommendations were going into the D.O.M. in August 2010, and as of May 2011, no changes have been made in the D.O.M. Id. It is apparent from the responses by the defendants to 602s, filed by the Muslim population / Plaintiff in Facility C, that Plaintiff and Muslims are being denied access to the chapel. Id. They are forced to hold Islamic services on wet grass in the exercise yard. Id. No seats are available for ADA Muslim inmates. Id. While praying Plaintiff / Muslims are hit by softballs, soccer balls, etc. Id.

On December 16, 2010, James A. Yates, Warden, granted Plaintiff's appeal, in part, at the second level of review. Id. at 17-18. The Warden found that Plaintiff may order 2 oz. of oil every quarter and wear religious artifacts to and from religious services and in his cell. Id. at 18. The Warden contacted Myers, the Community Partnership Manager, who stated that oils can be ordered through AzureGreen and HalcoBooks. Id. One or two ounce oils can be ordered through AzureGreen and two ounces can be ordered through Halcobooks. Id. The Warden contacted R. Shannon, Facility Captain, who said that Muslim inmates cannot worship in the chapel when there is not a free staff member to supervise. Id. This is not limited to Muslims but includes any religious group. Id. On April 22, 2011, A. Altamirano, Appeals Examiner, denied Plaintiff's appeal at the third level of review. Id. at 14.

Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief and damages of ...

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