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Partlow v. CDCR

United States District Court, E.D. California

July 10, 2014

ANDY PARTLOW, Plaintiff,
CDCR, et al., Defendants


GARY S. AUSTIN, Magistrate Judge.

I. Screening Requirement

Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff has consented to magistrate judge jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c).[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).

"Rule 8(a)'s simplified pleading standard applies to all civil actions, with limited exceptions, " none of which applies to section 1983 actions. Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N. A. , 534 U.S. 506, 512 (2002); Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a). Pursuant to Rule 8(a), 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). "Such a statement must simply give the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Swierkiewicz , 534 U.S. at 512. However, "the liberal pleading standard... applies only to a plaintiff's factual allegations." Neitze v. Williams , 490 U.S. 319, 330 n.9 (1989). "[A] liberal interpretation of a civil rights complaint may not supply essential elements of the claim that were not initially pled." Bruns v. Nat'l Credit Union Admin. , 122 F.3d 1251, 1257 (9th Cir. 1997) (quoting Ivey v. Bd. of Regents , 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982)).

II. Plaintiff's Claims

Plaintiff, an inmate in the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) at the Sierra Conservation Center in Jamestown, (SCC), brings this action against officials employed by the CDCR at the SCC. Plaintiff names as defendants the following individuals: CDCR Director Jeffrey Beard; SCC Wardens Heidi Lackner and Frank Chavez; SCC Community Resource Manager Margo Wilkerson; Appeals Coordinator M. Baldwin; Chaplain Little Johns; Director of Adult Institutions Kathleen Dickinson; Mailroom Supervisor Doe 1; Religious Review Committee Doe 2 and Correctional Officer Hanson. Plaintiff's claims stem from interference with his ability to exercise his religious beliefs.

Plaintiff sets forth claims under the First Amendment (Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses), Fourteenth Amendment, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), and California law.

Plaintiff alleges that in December of 2008, a chaplain failed to allow Plaintiff to practice his religious beliefs. Plaintiff practices the Asatru/Odonic faith. An inmate grievance was initiated, but Defendant Littlejohns refused to accept the grievance and told Plaintiff to address his concerns to Defendant Wilkerson.

On January 6, 2009, members of the Asatru/Odonic faith met with Wilkerson to discuss chapel times, calendar dates and the failure to issue priority ducats for special functions. Plaintiff alleges that his requests were denied. On the same date, the practitioners requested the use of land for an outdoor worship area. This request was denied by Defendant Wilkerson.

Plaintiff alleges that on March 9, 2009, book requests by the practitioners of the Asatru inmates was resubmitted and re-ordered twice by Defendant Littlejohns, an inconvenience not suffered by practitioners of other faiths. Plaintiff alleges that on May 11, 2009, a book order arrived. Plaintiff alleges that "[T]he order was sent to the lower yard and inmates on C Facility (Tuolumne yard) received used books from the lower yard, level I and II." Plaintiff contends that this is the type of discrimination that he is forced to endure from Defendants Littlejohn and Wilkerson. On the same day, Defendant Baldwin screened out an inmate grievance because too much time had elapsed. Plaintiff alleges that the time limit is discretionary and thus, this denial was "another link in the long chain of events" to deprive the Asatru/Odonic right to practice their religion.

Regarding a request for a banquet, on June 1, 2009, Defendant Littlejohns indicated that there would not be a meeting on June 8, 2009, or a banquet on June 21, 2009, because there was no sponsor. Plaintiff contends that custody staff could have been assigned to oversee the banquet, and the faith does not require a church sanctioned person to oversee their functions.

In October 2009, Plaintiff had a discussion with Defendant Littlejohns about the use of a lighter to burn sage. Defendant Littlejohns denied the request.

In March 2010, Defendant Littlejohns escorted members of the Asatru/Odonic faith to the visiting room for "BLOT." However, they were denied an outdoor cemetery.

On April 3, 2010, staff refused to allow Asatru/Odonic members to attend service.

On April 5, 2010, Defendant Littlejohns threatened that if members continued to curse during service, he would no longer sponsor services. Members agreed, but Plaintiff contends that this denied him freedom of expression and placed an unreasonable burden on the practice of his religion.

On April 17, 2010, CDCR issued a change to the regulations that required prison staff to allow practitioners excused time off. However, SCC does not allow excused time off and practitioners do not leave work for fear of losing their jobs.

On April 18, 2010, Defendant Lackner, while working at Mule Creek State Prison, received a request for creation of a job position. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Lackner "had knowledge of the needs of non-traditional faiths from her previous place of employment, " yet she denied Plaintiff the opportunity to practice his religion.

On April 19, 2010, members requested religious supplies from Defendant Littlejohns. No supplies were issued.

In June 2010, SCC issued a supplement to the Operations Manual concerning religious programs. However, Plaintiff contends that the procedure excluded many Asatru/Odonic requirements, was overbroad in denying vendors and denied outdoor areas for Asatru/Odonic services.

Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Chavez limited inmate property, but is unqualified to suggest what items are, or are not, sacred.

On November 22, 2010, a proposal was submitted to Defendant Wilkerson concerning guidelines for ordering spiritual practices. The proposal was denied, and Plaintiff alleges that special purchase orders for religious orders were denied for frivolous reasons. Plaintiff contends that other faiths do not have such problems.

On December 20, 2010, Defendant Littlejohns issued a memorandum regarding oils, but Plaintiff alleges that it is so ambiguous that it could be used to deny receipt of products. Plaintiff contends that this was designed to cause undue confusion and discourage practitioners of the Asatru/Odonic faith from placing orders.

On June 6, 2011, Defendant Baldwin refused or failed to process a grievance concerning Asatru/Odonic religious rights. Defendant Baldwin screened out the appeal in part because it was not signed, but he refused to allow ...

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