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Fonseca v. California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation

United States District Court, S.D. California

July 10, 2015



LARRY ALAN BURNS, District Judge.

Roderick Fonseca, a California state prisoner, filed this action pursuant to § 1983, claiming that Defendants have been violating his religious freedom. Fonseca is Jewish and has been provided with meals he admits are kosher. His complaint is that the kosher meals include less meat than other meals, and that meat is included in only two meals per week. The complaint seeks injunctive relief and damages. The two named Defendants are the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), and Jeffrey A. Beard, Secretary of the CDCR. Fonseca's claims arise under 28 U.S.C. § 1983 (for alleged First and Fourteenth Amendment violations) and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA).

This matter was referred to Magistrate Judge Barbara Major for report and recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636, Fed.R.Civ.P. 72, and Civil Local Rule 72.3. After that, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss, or in the alternative for summary judgment; and Fonseca filed a motion for injunctive relief.

On June 10, 2015, Judge Major issued her report and recommendation (the "R&R") recommending that Defendants' motion be granted in part and the action dismissed, and denying Fonseca's motion for injunctive relief. The R&R gave the parties until July 3, 2015 to file objections, and Fonseca has now filed his objections.

Legal Standards for Review of Report and Recommendation

A district court has jurisdiction to review a Magistrate Judge's report and recommendation on dispositive matters. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b). "The district judge must determine de novo any part of the magistrate judge's disposition that has been properly objected to." Id. "A judge of the court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). The Court reviews de novo those portions of the R&R to which specific written objection is made. United States v. Reyna-Tapia, 328 F.3d 1114, 1121 (9th Cir. 2003) (en banc). "The statute makes it clear that the district judge must review the magistrate judge's findings and recommendations de novo if objection is made, but not otherwise." Id. The Court may also reject or modify the R&R even in the absence of objections. See § 636(b)(1); Baldin v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., 2013 WL 796712, slip op. at *1 (D.Or., March 4, 2013) ("While the level of scrutiny under which I am required to review the [magistrate judge's findings and recommendations] depends on whether or not objections have been filed, in either case, I am free to accept, reject, or modify any part of the [findings and recommendations].") In addition, the Court may reconsider any pretrial matter the magistrate judge has ruled on. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A).

Ruling on Motion for Injunctive Relief

Fonseca's motion for injunctive relief (Docket no. 17) requests that the Court order officials at Corcoran State Prison (where he is now) to provide him with the kosher diet he desires, and also that the Court order him transferred to Richard J. Donovan State Prison, where he thinks his rights will be better respected.

While the motion is in the nature of a motion for preliminary injunction and therefore is similar to a pretrial motion, § 636(b)(1)(A) specifies that Magistrate Judges may not decide motions for injunctive relief: "[A] judge may designate a magistrate judge to hear and determine any pretrial matter pending before the court, except a motion for injunctive relief...." (emphasis added). The motion at issue here does not deal with a collateral issue such as discovery or sanctions; rather, it goes to the merits of Fonseca's claims. See Fuentes v. Knowles, 2007 WL 404864, at *1 (E.D. Cal., Feb. 2, 2007) (holding that magistrate judges may issue orders compelling action, as long as they do not determine the merits of the action or completely stay the action). The R&R should have made a recommendation, rather than ruling on the motion directly. That portion of the R&R purporting to deny Fonseca's motion for injunctive relief and transfer is therefore VACATED.

Because the R&R erroneously treated denial of injunctive relief as an order rather than a recommendation, the parties were not on notice that they could file objections to it. The Court will therefore rule on the motion directly.

For reasons discussed more fully below, it is clear the complaint must be dismissed. Because the underlying claims are being dismissed, his claim for injunctive relief, arising from the same facts under the same theories, cannot succeed either.

Motion to Dismiss, or for Summary Judgment

The R&R recommended that the complaint be dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. It also found the claims inadequately pled, and recommended dismissal with leave to amend (apparently as an alternative to dismissal for non-exhaustion). The R&R's reasoning on the exhaustion question does not adequately address the "ongoing violation" argument Fonseca has raised in support of his exhaustion argument. The Court also rejects the R&R's conclusion that the complaint could be saved by amendment. Having reviewed Defendants' motion and Fonseca's opposition, the Court determines that dismissal without leave to amend is required. The Court REJECTS the R&R, and ...

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