United States District Court, N.D. California
ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART
DEFENDANTS' SUMMARY JUDGMENT MOTION; SETTING BRIEFING
SCHEDULE Re: Dkt. No. 42
TIGAR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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
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.
following facts are undisputed unless otherwise indicated.
Religious Accommodations at Salinas Valley State
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.
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,  which resulted in the
cancellation of all out-of-cell religious programming for
black inmates. Hernandez Decl. ¶ 14.
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.
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,
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.
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.
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.
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.,
18, 2013, M. Lawal accepted the SVSP Muslim chaplain
position, but delayed his start date until after Ramadan.
Hernandez Decl. ¶ 23.
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. ¶
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.
April 23, 2014, Plaintiff filed the instant action. Docket
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.
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
only allowed for Jumu’ah prayers to be held on
Wednesdays and Thursdays. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 ...