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Dearwester v. Sacramento County Sheriff's Department

United States District Court, E.D. California

July 23, 2015

FRANK LEE DEARWESTER, Plaintiff,
v.
SACRAMENTO COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT et al., Defendants.

FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

DALE A. DROZD, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding pro se with a civil rights action seeking relief under 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983. This matter is before the court on a motion to dismiss brought on behalf of defendants Chaplain Toliver and Deputy Gil. Plaintiff has filed an opposition to the motion, and defendants have filed a reply.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff is proceeding on his original complaint against defendants Chaplain Toliver and Deputy Gil. Therein plaintiff alleges that he received the kosher diet provided at the Sacramento County Main Jail for more than a year as approved by Chaplain Clements. However, after plaintiff was involved in an altercation with other inmates, defendant Gil wrote an inaccurate incident report and carbon copied the Chaplain Toliver which resulted in plaintiff's disqualification from the kosher diet program. According to plaintiff, he tried to tell defendant Chaplain Toliver the truth with respect to defendant Gil's report, but the defendant chaplain refused to listen. In terms of relief, plaintiff requests the award of monetary damages. (Compl. at 3 & Attachs.)

At screening, the court found that plaintiff's complaint appeared to state a cognizable claim for relief against defendants Deputy Gil and Chaplain Toliver under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act ("RLUIPA") and the First Amendment based upon their alleged involvement in denying plaintiff his kosher diet. (Doc. No. 12)

ANALYSIS

I. Motion Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6)

A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure tests the sufficiency of the complaint. North Star Int'l v. Arizona Corp. Comm'n, 720 F.2d 578, 581 (9th Cir. 1983). Dismissal of the complaint, or any claim within it, "can be based on the lack of a cognizable legal theory or the absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory." Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). See also Robertson v. Dean Witter Reynolds, Inc., 749 F.2d 530, 534 (9th Cir. 1984). In order to survive dismissal for failure to state a claim a complaint must contain more than "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action;" it must contain factual allegations sufficient "to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007).

In determining whether a pleading states a claim, the court accepts as true all material allegations in the complaint and construes those allegations, as well as the reasonable inferences that can be drawn from them, in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984); Hosp. Bldg. Co. v. Trustees of Rex Hosp., 425 U.S. 738, 740 (1976); Love v. United States, 915 F.2d 1242, 1245 (9th Cir. 1989). In the context of a motion to dismiss, the court also resolves doubts in the plaintiff's favor. Jenkins v. McKeithen, 395 U.S. 411, 421 (1969). However, the court need not accept as true conclusory allegations, unreasonable inferences, or unwarranted deductions of fact. W. Mining Council v. Watt, 643 F.2d 618, 624 (9th Cir. 1981).

In general, courts hold pro se pleadings to a less stringent standard than those drafted by lawyers. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). The court has an obligation to construe such pleadings liberally. Bretz v. Kelman, 773 F.2d 1026, 1027 n.1 (9th Cir. 1985) (en banc). However, the court's liberal interpretation of a pro se complaint may not supply essential elements of the claim that a party failed to plead. Ivey v. Bd. of Regents of Univ. of Alaska, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982); see also Pena v. Gardner, 976 F.2d 469, 471 (9th Cir. 1992).

II. Discussion

In moving to dismiss the complaint, defense counsel argues that: (1) plaintiff fails to state a claim against defendants in their individual capacities under RLUIPA because monetary damages are not available against defendants in their individual capacities; (2) insofar as plaintiff seeks injunctive relief under RLUIPA his request is now moot because plaintiff is no longer incarcerated at the Sacramento County Main Jail; and (3) and (4) plaintiff fails to state a claim under RLUIPA and the First Amendment because plaintiff is not sincere in any belief that would justify his needing a kosher diet as part of his religious exercise. In this regard, defense counsel contends that plaintiff has admitted he is not Jewish and that he used the Kosher diet to sell food to other inmates. (Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss at 1-8.)

For the reasons set forth below, the undersigned will recommend that defendants' motion to dismiss plaintiff's RLUIPA claims be granted but that the motion to dismiss be denied with respect ...


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