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Cochran v. Sherman

United States District Court, E.D. California

March 15, 2017

BILLY COY COCHRAN, Plaintiff,
v.
S. SHERMAN, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO FILE FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT (ECF No. 12) ORDER DIRECTING CLERK OF COURT TO UPDATE DOCKET AND FILE FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT (ECF No. 13)

          Barbara A. McAuliffe UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff Billy Coy Cochran (“Plaintiff”) is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff has consented to the jurisdiction of a United States Magistrate Judge. (ECF No. 4.)

         Currently before the Court is Plaintiff's motion to file a first amended complaint, filed June 24, 2016. (ECF No. 12.) Plaintiff has also lodged a proposed first amended complaint. (ECF No. 13.)

         I. Procedural Background

         On May 17, 2016, the Court screened Plaintiff's complaint filed September 11, 2015, and found that he stated a cognizable claim for injunctive relief under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc, based on the alleged denial of a “publically recorded religious name change.” The Court granted Plaintiff thirty days from the date of service of that screening order to file an amended complaint to attempt to state additional cognizable claims for the violation of his First Amendment rights, or to file a notice that he was agreeable to proceeding only against Warden Sherman on his RLUIPA claim.

         On May 26, 2016, Plaintiff filed a notice of willingness to proceed only on the RLUIPA claim against Warden Sherman. (ECF No. 8) Consequently, on June 1, 2016, the Court dismissed the remaining claims and defendants, and ordered that this action would proceed on Plaintiff's complaint, filed on September 11, 2015, against Defendant Warden Sherman for injunctive relief pursuant to RLUIPA. (ECF No. 9.)

         On June 24, 2016, when Plaintiff filed the instant motion to amend his complaint, service of the summons and original complaint on Defendant Sherman was still pending.[1] On September 8, 2016, (ECF No. 14), and September 28, 2016, (ECF No. 15), Plaintiff filed notices of change of address with the Court, reflecting housing changes. According to Plaintiff's most recent notice, he is currently housed at Valley State Prison, in Chowchilla, California. (ECF No. 15.)

         II. Motion to Amend

         In the instant motion, Plaintiff states that he seeks to amend his complaint as a matter of course under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a), or by leave of court under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 21. Plaintiff admits that he filed a notification of willingness to proceed only on his cognizable RLUIPA claim. Plaintiff contends that he did so because at the time he received the Court's May 17, 2016 screening order, he was in segregation and had no access to his legal materials or the law library. He further contends that he requested his legal materials and law library access, which he obtained in June 2016, and shortly thereafter he was able to file this motion to amend his pleading.

         A. Summary of Original Complaint

         Plaintiff's original complaint named as defendants Warden S. Sherman and Correctional Counselor J. Barba, officials employed by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (“CDCR”) at CSP-Corcoran, where the events at issue occurred.[2]

         Plaintiff alleges that upon his incarceration in 2002, Plaintiff experienced a religious conversion. Plaintiff began practicing eclectic religious beliefs based upon different faith traditions. Plaintiff further alleges that such practices instilled in him the belief that he must change his name from “Billy Coy Cochran” to “Gabriel Christian Hunter.” Plaintiff's belief is based on his conviction that his old name was associated with self-centered beliefs and associations, and specifically, with religious immorality.

         On January 1, 2015, Plaintiff filed a request for “a publicly recorded religious name change.” (Compl., ECF No. 1, p. 6.) Plaintiff alleges that he submitted the request to Warden Sherman. Plaintiff alleges that on January 29, 2015, Warden Sherman, via Correctional Counselor Barba, arbitrarily denied Plaintiff's request.

         B. Summary of Proposed First Amended Complaint

         Plaintiff's proposed first amended complaint is substantially the same as his original complaint, with a few additional pertinent allegations. Plaintiff more specifically alleges that Warden Sherman authorized Correctional Counselor Barba to reply to Plaintiff's name change ...


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