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Michael Mootry v. E. G. Flores

March 25, 2013

MICHAEL MOOTRY,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
E. G. FLORES, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Barbara A. McAuliffe United States Magistrate Judge

FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS REGARDING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS PLAINTIFF'S SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT (ECF No. 64)

OBJECTIONS DUE WITHIN FOURTEEN DAYS

I. Background

Plaintiff Michael Mootry ("Plaintiff"), a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on July 20, 2009. This action is proceeding on the second amended complaint, filed on May 1, 2012, against Defendants Hedgpeth, Flores, Wegman, Lewis and Cabrera for denial of Jumu'ah services in violation of the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.

On July 5, 2012, Defendants Hedgpeth, Flores, Lewis and Wegman filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim and for qualified immunity. Plaintiff did not file an opposition. The motion is deemed submitted. Local Rule 230(l).

II. Second Amended Complaint Allegations

Plaintiff is a Muslim prisoner who was incarcerated at Kern Valley State Prison ("KVSP") from June 2006 through July 20, 2010. In December 2007, Defendant Hedgpeth enforced a KVSP Department of Operations Manual ("DOM") Supplement, which almost completely abolished the Muslim inmates' rights and ability to practice their religion. Defendant Hedgpeth implemented a policy banning inmate ministers from leading religious services without the direct supervision of a hired chaplain or volunteer. From October 2007 until April 2009, KVSP Muslim inmates were not accommodated with a hired chaplain to supervise Jumu'ah prayer services.

In March 2008, Defendant E.G. Flores, active warden and head of religious programming on "A" yard at KVSP, officially abolished Jumu'ah prayer services for Muslims, including Plaintiff. Defendant Flores enforced the ban on inmate ministers. Prior to that time, inmate minister Earnest Granberry was permitted to lead the Muslims in services with only correctional guard supervision.

On March 28, 2008, Plaintiff filed an administrative appeal regarding denial of his rights to Jumu'ah prayer services and to a Muslim chaplain or inmate minister. The KVSP appeals coordinator improperly screened out his appeal.

On August 4, 2008, Plaintiff was ordered to resubmit his appeal on a new form. Plaintiff resubmitted his appeal on August 6, 2008. On September 28, 2008, Defendant Wegman interviewed Plaintiff. Defendant M. Cabrera was present during the interview.

Defendant Wegman partially granted Plaintiff's appeal at the first level, stating that Jumu'ah services were scheduled for Friday at noon. Plaintiff objected to the response on that grounds that Jumu'ah services were not being conducted and that Defendant Wegman evaded the issue of an inmate minister being allowed to conduct Jumu'ah services in the absence of a chaplain or volunteer.

On December 5, 2008, Defendant Lewis partially granted Plaintiff's appeal at the second level. Defendant Lewis admitted that KVSP only had a Jewish Rabbi to conduct services for Jumu'ah on Friday, but the Rabbi did not work on Fridays due to religious beliefs. Defendant Lewis stated that when it was determined that a chaplain could not be obtained, then KVSP would accommodate Plaintiff's spiritual needs.

On December 28, 2008, Plaintiff requested a Director's level review of his appeal. Plaintiff objected to Defendant Lewis' response because it evaded the fact that Jumu'ah services were still being denied him and the law regarding inmate ministers was not being adhered to. On March 9, 2009, N. Grannis provided a Director's level response, claiming she spoke to Defendant Wegman who told her that only one hired chaplain is employed at KVSP (the Jewish Rabbi) and that there should be a Muslim chaplain hired in the near future. ...


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