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Carmichael v. Aguilar

United States District Court, E.D. California

March 11, 2015

M. AGUILAR, et al., Defendants.


DENNIS L. BECK, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff Michael Carmichael ("Plaintiff") is a prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action. Plaintiff filed his complaint on November 26, 2012. Pursuant to Court order, he filed a First Amended Complaint on June 10, 2013. This action is proceeding on the following claims: (1) violation of the First Amendment against Defendants Meyer, Pressley, Wilson and Marshall; (2) violation of RLUIPA against Defendants Aguilar, Meyer, Pressley, Wilson and Marshall; and (3) violation of the Fourteenth Amendment against Defendants Meyer, Pressley and Marshall.

Defendants Aguilar, Meyer, Pressley and Wilson filed the instant motion for summary judgment[1] on October 21, 2014.[2] Plaintiff opposed the motion, and purported to move for summary judgment, on November 4, 2014. Defendants filed their reply on November 17, 2014. The motion is submitted upon the record without oral argument. Local Rule 230(l).


Plaintiff filed a surreply on December 8, 2014. Defendants moved to strike the filing as unauthorized on December 18, 2014.

Parties do not have the right to file surreplies and motions are deemed submitted when the time to reply has expired. Local Rule 230(l). The Court generally views motions for leave to file a surreply with disfavor. Hill v. England, 2005 WL 3031136, at *1 (E.D. Cal. 2005) (citing Fedrick v. Mercedes-Benz USA, LLC, 366 F.Supp.2d 1190, 1197 (N.D.Ga. 2005)). However, district courts have the discretion to either permit or preclude a surreply. See U.S. ex rel. Meyer v. Horizon Health Corp., 565 F.3d 1195, 1203 (9th Cir. 2009) (district court did not abuse discretion in refusing to permit "inequitable surreply"); JG v. Douglas County School Dist., 552 F.3d 786, 803 n.14 (9th Cir. 2008) (district court did not abuse discretion in denying leave to file surreply where it did not consider new evidence in reply); Provenz v. Miller, 102 F.3d 1478, 1483 (9th Cir. 1996) (new evidence in reply may not be considered without giving the non-movant an opportunity to respond).

Plaintiff's surreply addresses what he perceives to be false statements made by Defendant Meyer in his declaration in support of Defendants' motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff did not raise these issues in his opposition, and it appears that Plaintiff had other inmates submit requests for interviews in an attempt to challenge Defendant Meyer's statement that inmates could order food in their special purchase packages as long as they had funds to do so. For example, Inmate Castillo submitted a request for interview regarding the procedure for ordering food in a special purchase package. In response, Defendant Meyer explained that an inmate needed approval to do so. Although Plaintiff believes that he has caught Defendant Meyer in some kind of lie, he is incorrect. In his declaration, Defendant Meyer does not state that authorization is not required, he only states that an inmate must have sufficient funds.

Plaintiff's surreply does not change the outcome of this motion, as discussed above. As the Court has considered the surreply and addressed it, Defendants' motion to strike is DENIED.


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) (quotation marks omitted); Washington Mutual Inc. v. U.S., 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) (quotation marks omitted). The Court may consider other materials in the record not cited to by the parties, but it is not required to do so. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3); Carmen v. San Francisco Unified School Dist., 237 F.3d 1026, 1031 (9th Cir. 2001); accord Simmons v. Navajo County, Ariz., 609 F.3d 1011, 1017 (9th Cir. 2010).

Defendants do not bear the burden of proof at trial and in moving for summary judgment, they need only prove an absence of evidence to support Plaintiff's case. In re Oracle Corp. Securities Litigation, 627 F.3d 376, 387 (9th Cir. 2010) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548 (1986)). If Defendants meets their initial burden, the burden then shifts to Plaintiff "to designate specific facts demonstrating the existence of genuine issues for trial." In re Oracle Corp., 627 F.3d at 387 (citing Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 323). This requires Plaintiff to "show more than the mere existence of a scintilla of evidence." Id. (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252, 106 S.Ct. 2505 (1986)).

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) (quotation marks and citation omitted), and it must draw all inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and determine whether a genuine issue of material fact precludes entry of judgment, Comite de Jornaleros de Redondo Beach v. City of Redondo Beach, 657 F.3d 936, 942 (9th Cir. 2011) (quotation marks and citation omitted), cert. denied, 132 S.Ct. 1566 (2012). The Court determines only whether there is a genuine issue for trial, and Plaintiff's filings must be liberally construed because he is a pro se prisoner. Thomas v. Ponder, 611 F.3d 1144, 1150 (9th Cir. 2010) (quotation marks and citations omitted).


Plaintiff alleges that he was transferred to McFarland Community Correctional Facility ("MCCF") on September 16, 2011. Soon after, he told staff that he was Muslim and was a participant in the Religious Diet Program known as "Halal Meat Alternative." Plaintiff indicated that he needed a transfer to an institution that could accommodate him, but he was told MCCF accommodates Muslims.

On September 27, 2011, Plaintiff put in a request to Counselor Castaneda. He also had verbal communications with Defendant D. Meyer, Assistant Warden. Defendant Meyer said he would research it, but instead stalled for months.

Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Aguilar, Food Manager, failed to order meat classified as Halal, stating on numerous occasions that it was not in the budget.

Plaintiff further alleges that Defendant Meyer denied him the opportunity to purchase Halal meat through special purchase, though he permitted a Jewish inmate to purchase kosher foods though special purchase twice.

Plaintiff also contends that Defendant Pressley, Assistant Warden, denied him a religious diet, stating that it was not within the budget to provide a Halal diet. He also said that CDCR did not indicate that the money for feeding inmates was also meant to include "Muslim inmates needing a Halal diet."

Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Wilson, Warden, also denied him a religious diet. He contends that she has been aware of the situation since she has been in a position of authority. Plaintiff contends that Defendant Wilson has burdened the practice of his religion.

Finally, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Marshall, Counselor, denied Plaintiff a transfer to another prison where his diet needs could be accommodated. Although Defendant Meyer told Muslims that if they continued to complain about Halal meals, they would be transferred later, Defendant Marshall told Plaintiff that because MCCF was not an "institution, " they were not obligated to provide Halal meals to Muslims.


MCCF is a medium-security prison designed to house inmates and parole violators for CDCR, and it is owned and operated by The Geo Group, Inc. MCCF has contracted with CDCR to provide services since 1997. ECF No. 43-2, at 3.

Defendant Meyer is the Associate Warden of Programs at MCCF. He is responsible for all vocational, educational, recreation and religious programming at MCCF. ECF No. 43-2, at 3.

Plaintiff arrived at MCCF on September 16, 2011. ECF No. 43-1, at 4. Prior to his transfer, he received the Religious Meat ...

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