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Henderson v. Muniz

United States District Court, N.D. California

July 20, 2016

JOHNDELL HENDERSON, Plaintiff,
v.
W. L. MUNIZ, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANTS' SUMMARY JUDGMENT MOTION; SETTING BRIEFING SCHEDULE Re: Dkt. No. 42

          JON S. TIGAR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff, a Muslim prisoner at Salinas Valley State Prison (“SVSP”), has filed a pro se complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that SVSP prison officials have violated his First Amendment right to free exercise of religion, his Fourteenth Amendment equal protection rights, and his rights under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-1. Plaintiff seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as compensatory and punitive damages.

         The Court granted Defendants’ request to file multiple dispositive motions, allowing Defendants to first file a summary judgment motion raising exhaustion and other procedurally-based defenses. Docket No. 41. Now pending before the Court is Defendants’ summary judgment motion alleging failure to exhaust administrative remedies, Eleventh Amendment immunity, and entitlement to judgment as a matter of law. Docket No. 42. Plaintiff has filed an opposition, Docket No. 63, and Defendants have filed a reply, Docket No. 69. For the reasons set forth below, the motion for summary judgment is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART.

         BACKGROUND

         The following facts are undisputed unless otherwise indicated.

         A. Religious Accommodations at Salinas Valley State Prison

         Plaintiff is a practicing Muslim. Ellis Decl., Ex. R (“Henderson Dep.”) 25:20-21. When Plaintiff arrived at SVSP’s Facility B on August 11, 2010, Chaplain Landou served as the Muslim chaplain. Hernandez Decl. ¶¶ 4, 11 and Ex. A; Henderson Dep. 69:1-70:7. During normal programming, Facility B receives Jumu’ah services - Islamic Friday prayer service - in the chapel on the first, third, and fifth Friday of each month. Hernandez Decl. ¶ 8. From August 2010 to July 2011, a prison-wide staff shortage required Chaplain Landou to conduct Facility B’s Jumu’ah services on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Hernandez Decl. ¶ 9. In July 2011, Facility B’s Jumu’ah services were moved back to Fridays. Hernandez Decl. ¶ 10.

         In April 2012, Chaplain Landou transferred to another institution. Hernandez Decl. ¶ 11. After Chaplain Landou’s transfer, there was no Muslim chaplain or certified volunteer to supervise Facility B inmates while they congregated in the chapel. Hernandez Decl. ¶ 11. Because inmates cannot congregate in the chapel without a chaplain or volunteer to supervise their conduct, Muslim inmates were not allowed to congregate in the chapel for prayer. Hernandez Decl. ¶ 12. From August 28, 2012 through January 2, 2013, black inmates in Facility B were placed on a modified program, [1] which resulted in the cancellation of all out-of-cell religious programming for black inmates. Hernandez Decl. ¶ 14.

         On November 26, 2012, Hernandez joined SVSP as its community resources manager (“CRM”). Hernandez Decl. ¶ 2. On January 3, 2013, CRM Hernandez arranged for Herrera, the Native American spiritual leader at the time, and Chaplain T. Aquil, the Muslim chaplain at Correctional Training Facility, to supervise Jumu’ah services on an ad-hoc basis. Hernandez Decl. ¶ 15.

         On April 15, 2013, Plaintiff submitted an unsigned memorandum to Spiritual Leader Herrera that was addressed to “all concerned staff.” Hernandez Decl. ¶ 19 and Ex. C. The memorandum requested accommodations for Ramadan 2013, [2] including preferred meeting times, preferred prayer periods, preferred menus, and a preferred vendor to provide the halal meals. Hernandez Decl., Ex. C. The memorandum also requested that specific Facility B Muslim inmates handle preparation and distribution of Ramadan food for Facility B Muslim inmates. Hernandez Decl., Ex. C. This memorandum was forwarded to CRM Hernandez, who passed it on to SVSP’s Religious Review Committee (“RRC”). Hernandez Decl. ¶ 19. The RRC is the SVSP body to which inmates must submit their religious accommodations requests. Hernandez Decl. ¶ 18. The RRC is composed of designated institutional chaplains, a correctional captain or his designee, two correctional complex administrators, and the CRM. Hernandez Decl. ¶ 18.

         On May 22, 2013, CRM Hernandez attended a meeting with several members of the RRC, Plaintiff, and Chaplin Aquil. Hernandez Decl. ¶ 20. At this meeting, Plaintiff was informed that, due to security needs and lack of available resources, SVSP could not accommodate the request made in his April 2013 memorandum for five hours of nightly congregational prayer during Ramadan 2013. Hernandez Decl. ¶ 20. Chaplain Aquil also stated that Islam does not require congregational breaking of the fast during Ramadan, or congregational sundown prayers during Ramadan. Hernandez Decl. ¶ 20.

         On May 29, 2013, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitations (“CDCR”) issued a memorandum to all community resources managers and food services managers regarding food services during Ramadan 2013. Hernandez Decl. ¶ 21 and Ex. D. The May 2013 CDCR memorandum authorized CDCR institutions to serve Ramadan participants their food on paper trays at the regular feeding time for the general inmate population even if that time was before sundown. Hernandez Decl. ¶ 21 and Ex. D.

         On June 7, 2013, then-warden R.T.C. Grounds approved the “Salinas Valley State Prison Ramadan Protocol, ” which was prepared by members of the RRC, in consultation with SVSP Custody and Food Service staff. Hernandez Decl. ¶ 22 and Ex. E. The SVSP 2013 Ramadan Protocol set forth the dates of Ramadan observance, the Ramadan 2013 menu, and meal delivery times. Hernandez Decl. ¶ 22 and Ex. E. The 2013 Ramadan Protocol provided that Ramadan meals would be prepared according to approved halal practices, as requested in Plaintiff’s April 2013 memorandum. Hernandez Decl. ¶ 22 and Ex. E. The 2013 Ramadan Protocol did not provide the menu items and preferred prayer periods requested by Plaintiff in his April 2013 memorandum. Hernandez Decl., Ex. E.

         On June 18, 2013, M. Lawal accepted the SVSP Muslim chaplain position, but delayed his start date until after Ramadan. Hernandez Decl. ¶ 23.

         On July 2, 2013, shortly before Ramadan began, Facility B inmates rioted. Hernandez Decl. ¶ 24. Facility B was placed on a modified program resulting in the cancellation of all group worship, including congregational Ramadan services for black inmates. Hernandez Decl. ¶ 24. The modified program was later limited to members of the Bloods and Crips Security Threat Groups. Hernandez Decl. ¶ 24. Plaintiff has been identified as a Crip and therefore remained on the modified program until July 25, 2013. Hernandez Decl. ¶ 24. Although Facility B returned to normal programming between July 26 and August 6, 2013, Facility B did not allow inmates to participate in congregational Ramadan services because there still was no chaplain or volunteer to supervise chapel worship. Hernandez Decl. ¶ 25. From August 7 to August 27, 2013, Facility B was again put on a modified program due to inmate rioting, and all congregational worship was cancelled during this time. Hernandez Decl. ¶ 26. Due to the repeated modified programs and the unavailability of a chaplain or certified volunteer to supervise chapel worship during Ramadan, Facility B Muslim inmates were unable to congregate for the Rituals of Iftar (daily breaking of Ramadan fast) or the feast of Eid al-Fitr (the ceremonial end to Ramadan). Hernandez Decl. ¶ 27. Instead, inmates ate their Ramadan meals in their cells. Hernandez Decl. ¶ 27.

         On December 12, 2013, Plaintiff sent the RRC a request to add “Midamar” and “Halalco Books and Meats” as religious package vendors. Hernandez Decl. ¶ 28. On April 1, 2014, Plaintiff submitted a proposal to the RRC to establish a Muslim-oriented group, called “Milatti Islami Anonymous, ” that would provide a twelve-step recovery program for “any type of criminal activities, gang involvement, and any other destructive substance abuse addictions, ” and that would also raise funds for Muslim-inmate religious activities. Hernandez Decl. ¶ 29 and Ex. H.

         On April 23, 2014, Plaintiff filed the instant action. Docket No. 1.

         On August 11, 2014, SVSP administrators requested that Plaintiff resubmit his proposal for “Milatti Islami Anonymous” with a proposed course curriculum and informed Plaintiff that fundraising for inmate programs was prohibited. Hernandez Decl. ¶ 30. On October 1, 2014, Plaintiff submitted a revised request to establish “Milatti Islami Anonymous” but did not include a proposed curriculum. Hernandez Decl. ¶ 31. No action was taken on Plaintiff’s revised request before Plaintiff’s amended complaint was filed on October 9, 2014. Hernandez Decl. ¶ 31.

         B. Plaintiff’s Grievances

         Grievance No. SVSP-10-03454.

         On November 18, 2010, Plaintiff submitted a grievance alleging that Muslim inmates had been “systemically denied the right to assemble and worship on Fridays . . .” Docket No. 45-6 at 5. The grievance requested, inter alia, that a policy be implemented allowing Muslim inmates to congregate on Fridays at noon for Jumu’ah prayers, including during lockdown periods and modified programs. Docket No. 45-6 at 5 and 7. The grievance was denied at the first level by Sergeant E. Parsons and Facility B Captain S. Hatton on the grounds that the staff redirection plan[3] only allowed for Jumu’ah prayers to be held on Wednesdays and Thursdays.[4] Docket No. 45-6 at 20-21. At the second level of review, the grievance was assigned to Counselor Medina. Docket No. 45-6 at 9. The grievance was partially granted at the second level by then SVSP Chief Deputy Warden Solis on the same grounds. Chief Deputy Warden Solis stated that the lack of Friday Muslim services was not intended to discriminate against particular inmates, but was necessary to ensure prison safety. Docket No. 45-6 at 10-12. On May 3, 2011, the grievance was denied at the third level by Appeals Examiner K. Kostecky and Inmate Appeals Branch Chief D. Foston on the grounds that institutional safety required holding Jumu’ah services on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Docket No. 46-65 at 2-4.

         Grievance No. SVSP-13-01818.

         On April 8, 2013, Plaintiff submitted a grievance alleging that the CDCR was defrauding the federal government by accepting $230 million in federal funding but failing to run appropriate religious programming. Docket No. 45-7 at 6-8. Plaintiff specifically alleged that the CDCR, SVSP “Warden(s), Captain(s), Lieutenant(s), Sergeant(s) and staff” were preventing Muslim inmates from practicing their religion by (1) preventing Muslim inmates from assembling for mandatory Friday Jumu’ah prayers; (2) failing to hire a full-time Muslim chaplain who followed the tenets of Islam; (3) failing to purchase holy qurans, prayer rugs, religious books, hadiths about Islam, and prayer oil, and preventing inmates from seeking donations of such items from Muslim groups; (4) preventing Muslim inmates from making the required five daily congregational prayers; (5) preventing Muslim inmates from observing the breaking of the fast during Ramadan with congregational prayer and eating together (Eid); and (6) prohibiting Muslim inmates from ordering halal items in their religious packages. Docket No. 45-7 at 8. Plaintiff requested the following actions: (1) that the prison hire a Muslim chaplain who could read and recite the Quran in Arabic and who knew a minimum of twenty chapters of the Quran; (2) that the prison allow Muslim inmates to report to the chapel for a minimum of 15 minutes for the five-daily congregational prayers; (3) that the prison hold Friday Jumu’ah prayers regardless of whether a chaplain is present; (4) that the prison assign custody staff to supervise every religious service; (5) that the prison allow Muslim inmates to go to the chapel at 12 noon or from 12:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.; (6) that the prison pay each Muslim inmate $100 for each congregational prayer that had been denied in the past ten years; (7) that the prison house all Muslim inmates in the same building; (8) that the prison allow Muslim inmates quarterly religious packages; and (9) that the prison order holy qurans, Islamic books, and prayer rugs. Docket No. 45-7 at 8.

         On May 24, 2013, at the first level of review, CRM Hernandez and Native American Spiritual Leader Herrera partially granted the grievance on the grounds that SVSP was in the process of hiring a Muslim chaplain and that Muslim inmates were already allowed to make quarterly purchases of halal foods from authorized vendors. Docket No. 45-11 at 3-4. The grievance was denied as to all other issues. Docket No. 45-11 at 3-4. Plaintiff appealed the denial, and the second-level review was assigned to Counselor Medina. Docket No. 45-15 at 8. On June 17, 2013, Warden Muniz partially granted the grievance at the second level of review on the grounds that a Muslim chaplain had recently been hired and that when there was no full-time Muslim chaplain at SVSP, alternative chaplains had supervised Jumu’ah prayers whenever possible. Docket No. 45-9 at 4-10. Warden Muniz denied the grievance as to all other issues. Docket No. 45-9 at 4-10. The second-level review stated that Plaintiff had raised new issues in his response to the first-level decision, but did not specify what these issues were. Docket No. 45-9 at 9. Plaintiff’s appeal to the third level of review was denied in its entirety on September 26, 2013. Docket No. 45-7 at 2-5. The third-level review stated that Plaintiff had raised new issues in his response to the second-level decision, but did not specify what these issues were. Docket No. 46-7 at 4.

         Grievance No. SVSP-13-03281.

         On June 30, 2013, Plaintiff submitted a grievance alleging that the 2013 Ramadan Protocol would deny Muslim inmates their right to observe Ramadan. Specifically, Plaintiff grieved that the 2013 Ramadan Protocol would require Muslim inmates to eat cold, non-certified halal meals that were prepared and served by non-Muslims; require Muslim inmates to eat from paper trays; and prevent Muslim inmates from breaking their fast together and making the mandatory congregational prayer. Docket No. 46-9 at 5-7. Plaintiff requested the following relief: (1) an audit to find out why Muslim inmates are forced to eat altered and/or genetically altered or created soy products during Ramadan; (2) an audit of the ecclesiastical funds to determine why certified halal meals were not being provided for Ramadan; (3) a written explanation as to why the CDCR and/or CRM Hernandez were prohibiting Muslim inmates from preparing and serving food for Ramadan; (4) a written explanation as to why Muslim inmates were being prohibited from meeting in the chapel for five hours each evening of Ramadan to eat and pray tarawih (Ramadan congregational prayer) together; and (5) that SVSP adopt the proposals set forth in Plaintiff’s April 15, 2013 memorandum. Docket No. 46-9 at 5-7.

         During Plaintiff’s first-level interview with CRM Hernandez, Plaintiff clarified that in addition to soy products, he believed that the turkey and chicken being served for Ramadan were not halal. Docket No. 46-16 at 6-8. On July 29, 2013, in the first-level response, CRM Hernandez partially granted the grievance by removing an allegedly non-halal “BBQ soyspread” from the Ramadan menu. Docket Nos. 46-12 at 3 and 46-16 at 6. CRM Hernandez denied the remaining claims, stating that due to reduced staff, limited overtime, and security concerns, Muslim inmates could not be served hot meals after sundown during Ramadan; that, according to Muslim Chaplain Aquil, it was not forbidden for non-Muslim staff to serve Ramadan meals; that, according to Food Manager R. Conway, inmates need to be certified food handlers/servers to cook and serve food; that, according to Chaplain Aquil, it was not mandatory that Muslim inmates congregate for the daily evening Ramadan prayer; and that, due to security needs and available resources, Plaintiff’s request that Muslim inmates congregate for the daily evening Ramadan prayer could not be accommodated. Docket No. 46-12 at 3-4. CRM Hernandez also reported that the food served during 2013 Ramadan is certified halal, and that ecclesiastical funds are not used for food purchases. Docket No. 46-12 at 4.

         The grievance was accepted at the second level of review and assigned to Counselor Medina on September 3, 2013. Docket No. 46-16 at 2. On September 12, 2013, in the second-level review, Warden Muniz partially granted the grievance on the same grounds as the first-level decision, and denied the rest of the grievance. Docket No. 46-15 at 7-11. On December ...


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