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Shabazz v. Giurbino

United States District Court, E.D. California

July 28, 2016

AMIR SHABAZZ, Plaintiff,
v.
GEORGE J. GIURBINO et al., Defendants.

          ORDER DENYING MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION (DOC. NO. 55)

         Plaintiff Amir Shabazz is a state prisoner appearing pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This action is currently proceeding on plaintiff’s first amended complaint (“FAC”) against defendants George J. Giurbino, R. H. Trimble, R. Fisher, Jr., W.K. Myers, and B. Farkas for violation of plaintiff’s rights under the free exercise clause of the First Amendment, the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”). (Doc. Nos. 12, 14.)

         Before the court is a motion for reconsideration brought on behalf of all defendants. (Doc. No. 55.) For the reasons set forth below, the court will deny the motion.

         PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff filed the FAC on October 28, 2013, alleging that defendants served him vegetarian meals instead of Halal meals and discriminated against him on the basis of his religion. (Doc. No. 12.) On May 23, 2014, defendants filed a motion to dismiss the FAC. (Doc. No. 23.) Among other things, defendants argued that the FAC failed to describe each defendant’s personal involvement in the alleged violations and that defendants Farkas, Fisher, Myers, and Trimble cannot be held liable based on their participation in the inmate grievance process. (Doc. No. 23-1 at 4-5, 7-9.) On August 8, 2014, the assigned magistrate judge issued findings and recommendations, recommending in part that this court deny defendant’s motion with respect to dismissal of defendants Farkas, Fisher, Myers, and Trimble. (Doc. No. 31 at 11.) Specifically, the magistrate judge found that each of the named defendants was personally involved in some capacity with respect to plaintiff’s claims under the United States Constitution and the RLUIPA, and that plaintiff lacked a separate constitutional entitlement to a specific prison grievance procedure. (Id. at 4-6.) The magistrate judge further concluded:

Based on the allegations in the complaint coupled with the notice provided by the administrative appeals, the Court finds, as stated in the prior screening order, that Plaintiff has stated a cognizable claim against Defendants Farkas, Fisher, Myers, and Trimble for subjecting him to conditions in violation of . . . Plaintiff’s rights under the free exercise clause of the First Amendment, the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.

(Id. at 7 (emphasis added).) The court adopted these findings and recommendations in full. (Doc. No. 33.)

         On April 6, 2015, defendants Trimble, Fisher, and Farkas moved for summary judgment arguing that plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies with respect to those three defendants. (Doc. No. 40.) The magistrate judge issued findings and recommendations, recommending that the court grant that motion because plaintiff had failed to specifically name the three defendants in his inmate grievance. (Doc. No. 50 at 8-12.) The magistrate judge also noted that “[t]his action is proceeding strictly on Plaintiff’s claim that ‘Defendants’ enforced the RMAP which failed to provide Plaintiff a proper Halal meal and discriminated against [plaintiff] by failing to do so.” (Id. at 11.)

         On February 12, 2016, the undersigned declined to adopt the findings and recommendations and denied the defendants’ motion for summary judgment. (Doc. No. 52 at 5.) Specifically, this court held that because plaintiff’s inmate grievance put the prison on notice of the substance of his complaint-i.e., that prison officials failed to provide a diet option that met his religious requirements and further discriminated against him based on his religious identity- and that prison officials rendered a decision on the merits of that grievance at every level of the administrative process, defendants had not established they entitled to summary judgment on the grounds that plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies prior to filing suit. (Id. at 4-5) (quoting and citing and Reyes v. Smith, 810 F.3d 654 (9th Cir. 2016)).

         On February 26, 2016, defendants filed the instant motion seeking reconsideration of the court’s February 12, 2016 order. (Doc. No. 55.) On March 30, 2016, plaintiff filed an opposition. (Doc. No. 56.) On April 7, 2016, defendants filed a reply. (Doc. No. 57.) On July 11, 2016, defendants filed supplemental briefing in support of their motion for reconsideration. (Doc. No. 61.)

         LEGAL STANDARD

         District courts “possess[] the inherent procedural power to reconsider, rescind, or modify an interlocutory order for cause seen by it to be sufficient.” City of L.A., Harbor Div. v. Santa Monica Baykeeper, 254 F.3d 882, 885 (9th Cir. 2001) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). A motion for reconsideration, however, “should not be granted . . . unless the district court is presented with newly discovered evidence, committed clear error, or if there is an intervening change in the controlling law.” 389 Orange St. Partners v. Arnold, 179 F.3d 656, 665 (9th Cir. 1999) (citing Sch. Dist. No. 1J v. ACandS, Inc., 5 F.3d 1255, 1263 (9th Cir. 1993)). Reconsideration of a prior order is an extraordinary remedy “to be used sparingly in the interests of finality and conservation of judicial resources.” Kona Enters., Inc. v. Estate of Bishop, 229 F.3d 877, 890 (9th Cir. 2000) (citation omitted); Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe of Indians v. Hodel, 882 F.2d 364 n.5 (9th Cir. 1989) (“[T]he orderly administration of lengthy and complex litigation such as this requires the finality of orders be reasonably certain.”).

         DISCUSSION

         In the instant motion, defendants argue that plaintiff’s claims against defendants Farkas, Fisher, and Trimble relate only to their roles in the administrative grievance process. (Doc. No. 55-1 at 1-2.) Thus, because plaintiff failed to put the prison on notice of such claims, defendants argue that summary judgment should have been granted in favor of defendants Farkas, Fisher, and Trimble. (Id. at 4-5.) Defendants, however, mischaracterize plaintiff’s claims at issue in this case. The court previously concluded that plaintiff lacks the right to claim an entitlement to a specific grievance procedure. However, the court also concluded that plaintiff had stated a cognizable claim against defendants Farkas, Fisher, and Trimble with respect to plaintiff’s allegation that he had been denied access to an appropriate diet and discriminated against based on his religious identity. (Doc. No. 31 at 6-7.) Thus, plaintiff’s claim against these defendants proceeded based on a theory that they were directly liable for violations of plaintiff’s rights under the free exercise clause of the First Amendment, the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and the RLUIPA. (Id. at 7.)

         On defendant’s motion for summary judgment, the parties agreed that the only inmate appeal relevant to this action is Inmate Appeal Log No. PVSP-C-11-00363. (See Doc. Nos. 40 at 2, 4; 41 at 1-3.) That inmate appeal concerned only plaintiff’s complaint regarding prison officials’ failure to serve him Halal meals and discrimination against him on the basis of his religion. As noted above, and as defendants concede here, defendants moved for summary judgment on the sole basis that plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies prior to filing suit against defendants Farkas, Fisher, and Trimble. (See Doc. No. 55-1 at 2.) Defendants Farkas, Fisher, and Trimble did not argue then that there was no dispute of material fact as to their direct liability with respect to any of ...


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