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Griffin v. Lopez

United States District Court, E.D. California

May 11, 2017

D LOPEZ, Defendant.


         Plaintiff Willie Griffin is appearing pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Currently before the Court is Plaintiff's complaint, filed April 6, 2017.


         The Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if the prisoner has raised claims that are legally “frivolous or malicious, ” that “fail[] to state a claim on which relief may be granted, ” or that “seek[] monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

         A complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief. . . .” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Detailed factual allegations are not required, but “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). Moreover, Plaintiff must demonstrate that each defendant personally participated in the deprivation of Plaintiff's rights. Jones v. Williams, 297 F.3d 930, 934 (9th Cir. 2002).

         Prisoners proceeding pro se in civil rights actions are entitled to have their pleadings liberally construed and to have any doubt resolved in their favor. Wilhelm v. Rotman, 680 F.3d 1113, 1121 (9th Cir. 2012) (citations omitted). To survive screening, Plaintiff's claims must be facially plausible, which requires sufficient factual detail to allow the Court to reasonably infer that each named defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79; Moss v. U.S. Secret Service, 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009). The “sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully” is not sufficient, and “facts that are ‘merely consistent with' a defendant's liability” falls short of satisfying the plausibility standard. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; Moss, 572 F.3d at 969.


         Plaintiff is in the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and is currently housed at the Substance Abuse Treatment Facility. Plaintiff brings this action against Defendant D. Lopez alleging violations of the First and Eighth Amendments.

         Plaintiff is of the Muslim faith and embraces its tenets. (Compl. ¶ 8.) On June 19, 2016, Defendant Lopez refused Plaintiff his religious meals during Ramadan stating he did not care about Plaintiff's religion. (Compl. ¶¶ 11, 15.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Lopez has a custom of denying Muslim inmates their religious meals during Ramadan. (Compl. ¶ 13.)

         For the reasons discussed below, Plaintiff's complaint fails to state a cognizable claim. Plaintiff shall be granted the opportunity to file an amended complaint to correct the deficiencies identified.


         A. First Amendment

         “[P]risoners retain the protections of the First Amendment” but their “right to freely exercise [their] religion is limited by institutional objectives and by the loss of freedom concomitant with incarceration.” Hartmann v. California Dep't of Corr. & Rehab., 707 F.3d 1114, 1122 (9th Cir. 2013) (citing O'Lone v. Estate of Shabazz, 482 U.S. 342, 348 (1997)). The protections of the Free Exercise Clause are triggered when prison officials substantially burden the practice of an inmate's religion by preventing him from engaging in conduct which he sincerely believes is consistent with his faith, but an impingement on an inmate's constitutional rights will be upheld “‘if it is reasonably related to legitimate penological interests.'” Shakur v. Schriro, 514 F.3d 878, 884-85 (9th Cir. 2008) (quoting Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78, 89 (1987)). Inmates “have the right to be provided with food sufficient to sustain them in good health that satisfies the dietary laws of their religion.” McElyea v. Babbitt, 833 F.2d 196, 198 (9th Cir. 1987).

         Plaintiff's allegation that he was not provided religious meals on a single day is the sort of “relative short-term and sporadic” intrusion that does not amount to a substantial burden on a prisoner's First Amendment free exercise rights. See Canell v. Lightner, 143 F.3d 1210, 1215 (9th Cir. 1998). Plaintiff's failure to receive religious meals on one day does not rise to the level of a substantial burden on his religious exercise. See McKenzie v. Ellis, No. 10CV1490-LAB AJB, 2012 WL 4050297, at *5 (S.D. Cal. Sept. 13, 2012), aff'd, 541 F. App'x 784 (9th Cir. 2013) (four day delay in receiving religious meals not constitutional violation); Moore v. Katavich, No. 1:15-CV-01317-BAM-PC, 2015 WL 13237071, at *2 (E.D. Cal. Dec. 18, 2015) (receiving wrong meal on three occasions insufficient to establish a sufficient burden on free exercise of religion); Camacho v. Shields, 368 F. App'x 834, 835 (9th Cir. 2010) (interruption of prayers on one occasion not a substantial burden on religious exercise).

         Additionally, while Plaintiff alleges that he is Muslim and adheres to the tenets of the Muslim faith, the complaint does not allege that he sincerely believes that eating Muslim meals is consistent with his faith. See Shakur, 514 F.3d at 885 (only those beliefs which are sincerely held and religious in nature are entitled to constitutional protection); Malik v. Brown, 16 F.3d 330, 333 (9th Cir. 1994), supplemented, 65 F.3d 148 (9th Cir. 1995) (to merit protection under the First Amendment the proffered belief must be ...

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