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Clay v. Livingston

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

August 20, 2013

WILLIE MORRIS CLAY, II, Plaintiff,
v.
DAVID LIVINGSTON, et. al., Defendants.

ORDER OF DISMISSAL WITH LEAVE TO AMEND

NANDOR J. VADAS, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff, an inmate at Martinez Detention Facility, has filed a civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis.

DISCUSSION

A. Standard of Review

Federal courts must engage in a preliminary screening of cases in which prisoners seek redress from a governmental entity or an officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). In its review the court must identify any cognizable claims, and dismiss any claims which are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. Id. at 1915A(b)(1), (2). Pro se pleadings must be liberally construed. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990).

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires only "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." "Specific facts are not necessary; the statement need only "give the defendant fair notice of what the.... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests."'" Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (citations omitted). Although in order to state a claim a complaint "does not need detailed factual allegations, ... a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds' of his entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.... Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citations omitted). A complaint must proffer "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 570. The United States Supreme Court has recently explained the "plausible on its face" standard of Twombly: "While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations. When there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1950 (2009).

To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege two essential elements: (1) that a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States was violated, and (2) that the alleged deprivation was committed by a person acting under the color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).

B. Legal Claims

Plaintiff alleges that Muslims at the Martinez Detention Facility who are fasting during Ramadan are not receiving their lunches. Plaintiff states that there are many obligatory provisions for Ramadan, but that totally sacrificing meals is not one of them. He explains rather that Ramadan consists of a daily fast from dawn until sunset. Plaintiff contends that any policy, rule or regulation that deprives any inmate or Ramadan participant of any meal is a violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments. He argues specifically that such procedures are a deterrent or form of discipline for the exercise of religion in violation of the First, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments.

In order to establish a free exercise violation, a prisoner must show a defendant burdened the practice of his religion without any justification reasonably related to legitimate penological interests. See Shakur v. Schriro, 514 F.3d 878, 883-84 (9th Cir. 2008). A prisoner is not required to objectively show that a central tenet of his faith is burdened by a prison regulation to raise a viable claim under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. Id. at 884-85. Rather, the sincerity test of whether the prisoner's belief is "sincerely held" and "rooted in religious belief" determines whether the Free Exercise Clause applies. Id. (finding district court impermissibly focused on whether consuming Halal meat is required of Muslims as a central tenet of Islam, rather than on whether plaintiff sincerely believed eating kosher meat is consistent with his faith). The prisoner must show that the religious practice at issue satisfies two criteria: (1) the proffered belief must be sincerely held and (2) the claim must be rooted in religious belief, not in purely secular philosophical concerns. Malik v. Brown, 16 F.3d 330, 333 (9th Cir. 1994) (cited with approval in Shakur, 514 F.3d at 884). A prison regulation that impinges on an inmate's First Amendment rights is valid if it is reasonably related to legitimate penological interests. See O'Lone v. Estate of Shabazz, 482 U.S. 342, 349 (1987) (quoting Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78, 89 (1987)).

"The Supreme Court has instructed the federal courts to liberally construe the inartful pleadings of pro se litigants. It is settled that the allegations of [a pro se litigant's complaint] however inartfully pleaded are held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Eldridge v. Block, 832 f.2d 1132, 1137 (9th Cir.1987) (citation and internal quotations omitted; brackets in original); see also Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. at 94. The rule of liberal construction is "particularly important in civil rights cases." Ferdick v. Bonzelet, 963 F.2d 1258, 1261 (9th Cir. 1992), see also Johnson v. California, 207 F.3d 650, 653 (9th Cir. 2000)

In the present case, Plaintiff has alleged that Muslims who are fasting during Ramadan are not receiving their lunches. Plaintiff states while Ramadan consists of a daily fast from dawn until sunset, "totally sacrificing meals" is not one of the obligations of Ramadan. Plaintiff contends that any policy, rule or regulation that deprives any inmate or Ramadan participant of any meal is deterrent or form of discipline for the exercise of religion in violation of the First, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. The court finds that Plaintiff has stated a colorable claim for a violation of the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.

Plaintiff filed this action on July 25, 2013, and states that Ramadan will conclude on August 8, 2013. As a remedy Plaintiff seeks only injunctive relief in the form of an "order of mandate" directing the Administration of the Martinez Detention Facility to provide all meals required by statutory provisions for all inmates and Ramadan participants. Because August 8, 2013, has now passed, it appears that Plaintiff's request for relief has become moot.

Under Article III of the United States Constitution, the jurisdiction of this court is limited to "cases or controversies." A live controversy must exist through all stages of the litigation. See Di Giorgio v. Lee (In re Di Giorgio), 134 F.3d 971, 974 (9th Cir.1998) ("To qualify for adjudication in federal court, an actual controversy must be extant at all stages of review, not merely at the time the complaint is filed.") (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). If an action or a claim loses its character as a live controversy, then the action or claim becomes "moot, " and the federal courts lack jurisdiction to resolve the underlying dispute. See Ruiz v. City of Santa Maria, 160 F.3d 543, 549 (9th Cir.1998) ("Generally, an action is moot when the issues presented are no longer live' or the parties lack a legally cognizable interest in the outcome.") (citation and internal quotation marks omitted), ...


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