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Adler v. Gonzalez

United States District Court, E.D. California

October 14, 2014

BRENT ADLER, Plaintiff,
F. GONZALEZ, et al., Defendants.


MICHAEL J. SENG, Magistrate Judge.


Plaintiff is a former state prisoner who initiated this civil rights action pro se and in forma pauperis on November 17, 2011. (ECF No. 1.) Plaintiff since has been released from prison and obtained counsel. (ECF Nos. 36 & 51.) This action proceeds against Defendants Negrete, Zanchi, Carrasco, Holland, Holmstrom, Gonzalez, Steadman, Bryant, Schuyler, Lundy, Stainer, and Does Nos. 1, 2, 4, 5, and 6 on Plaintiff's First Amendment freedom of religion claim, and against the same Defendants, with the exception of Defendant Stainer, on Plaintiff's Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act ("RLUIPA") claim. (ECF Nos. 37 & 38).

Before the Court is Defendants' July 21, 2014 motion for partial summary judgment on some of Plaintiff's First Amendment claims on exhaustion grounds, and motion to dismiss Plaintiff's RLUIPA claims and his claims against Defendant Holmstrom pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (ECF No. 49.) Plaintiff, through counsel, opposes the motions. (ECF No. 53.) Defendants filed a reply. (ECF No. 55.) This matter is deemed submitted.[1]


A. Motion for Summary Judgment

Any party may move for summary judgment, and the Court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Wash. Mut. Inc. v. United States , 636 F.3d 1207, 1216 (9th Cir. 2011). Each party's position, whether it be that a fact is disputed or undisputed, must be supported by (1) citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including but not limited to depositions, documents, declarations, or discovery; or (2) showing that the materials cited do not establish the presence or absence of a genuine dispute or that the opposing party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact. Fed R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1).

In judging the evidence at the summary judgment stage, the Court may not make credibility determinations or weigh conflicting evidence, Soremekun v. Thrifty Payless, Inc. , 509 F.3d 978, 984 (9th Cir. 2007), and it must draw all inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, Comite de Jornaleros de Redondo Beach v. City of Redondo Beach , 657 F.3d 936, 942 (9th Cir. 2011).

B. Motion to Dismiss

A motion to dismiss brought pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of a claim, and dismissal is proper if there is a lack of a cognizable legal theory or the absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory. Conservation Force v. Salazar , 646 F.3d 1240, 1241-42 (9th Cir. 2011). In resolving a 12(b)(6) motion, a court's review is generally limited to the operative pleading. Daniels-Hall v. Nat'l Educ. Ass'n , 629 F.3d 992, 998 (9th Cir. 2010).

To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)); Conservation Force , 646 F.3d at 1242; Moss v. U.S. Secret Serv. , 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009). The Court must accept the factual allegations as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party, Daniels-Hall , 629 F.3d at 998, and pro se litigants are entitled to have their pleadings liberally construed and to have any doubt resolved in their favor, Wilhelm v. Rotman , 680 F.3d 1113, 1121 (9th Cir. 2012); Watison v. Carter , 668 F.3d 1108, 1112 (9th Cir. 2012); Silva v. Di Vittorio , 658 F.3d 1090, 1101 (9th Cir. 2011); Hebbe v. Pliler , 627 F.3d 338, 342 (9th Cir. 2010).


Based on the submissions of the parties (ECF Nos. 49-5 & 53-2), the Court finds that the following facts are undisputed.

1. Plaintiff was housed at California Correctional Institution (CCI) between November 5, 2008 and January 31, 2011.
2. On December 13, 2009, Plaintiff filed an inmate grievance, Appeal Log No. CCI-09-01933, regarding restrictions on the practice of his religion at CCI.
3. Appeal Log No. CCI-09-01933 was the only grievance relating to restrictions on Plaintiff's religious practices that was appealed to the third level of review, and therefore the only grievance that was administratively exhausted.
4. In Appeal Log No. CCI-09-01933, Plaintiff stated as follows:
This is an inmate appeal pursuant to CCR Title 15 3304(c) Rights and Respect to Others, 3210 Establishment of Religious Programs and Scheduled Services. I am appealing that prison officials at CCI are willfully and unlawfully violating my right to religious group programs. I have been housed on Facility IV-A since Nov. 5 2008 after transferring from Facility IV-B. Currently and throughout the previous year I have been denied the right to weekly group services and individual visits to the chapel or meetings with a spiritual advisor as a result of an incident in April 2008. I am being denied access as a form of retaliation and retribution towards myself and the population, not security concerns. General Population inmates are being treated like ASU and SHU inmates when having to deal with their spiritual advisors. I am a general population and have been as of 12-05-08. I have been A1/A since May 2009, A2/B 12-05-08 through May on a S.S. waiting list. My rights at CCI Facility IV-A are currently being violated pursuant to the Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 and Religious Land Use. I claim that my rights to freedom of religious expression, pursuant to the First Amendment is unlawfully being violated by Doe's 1-10, as a form of ongoing retaliation and retribution in violation of State and Federal Laws.
Since my arrival at CCI Facility IV-A prison officials have denied my proper access to his personal Spiritual Advisor ...

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