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Hoffmann v. Lassen Adult Detention Facility

United States District Court, E.D. California

June 12, 2017

KASEY F. HOFFMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
LASSEN ADULT DETENTION FACILITY, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER AND FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

          KENDALL J. NEWMAN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff is a state prisoner, proceeding without counsel, with a civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Pending before the court are several motions including plaintiff's motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 73) (construed as an opposition to defendants' motion for extension of time), plaintiff's motion for seizure of assets (ECF No. 68), plaintiff's motion for an extension of time to conduct discovery (ECF No. 69), cross motions for motion for summary judgment (ECF Nos. 65, 81), and plaintiff's motion for punitive damages (ECF No. 84).

         After carefully considering the record, the undersigned recommends that defendants' motion for summary judgment be granted in part and denied in part, and plaintiff's motion for summary judgment be denied. The undersigned orders that plaintiff's other pending motions are denied.

         II. Plaintiff's Motion for Extension of Time to Conduct Discovery (ECF No. 69)

         Under Rule 16 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the court may modify the scheduling order in this case for “good cause.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 16(b)(4). The “good cause” standard “primarily considers the diligence of the party seeking the amendment.” Johnson v. Mammoth Re-creations, 975 F.2d 604, 608 (9th Cir. 1992).

         Pursuant to the August 25, 2016 scheduling order, the parties were permitted to conduct discovery until December 16, 2016. (ECF No. 51 at 5.) All requests for discovery pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 31, 33, 34 or 36 were to be served not later than sixty days prior to December 16, 2016. (Id.)

         Pursuant to the mailbox rule, plaintiff filed his pending motion for extension of time to conduct discovery on December 30, 2016. (ECF No. 69 at 10.) In the pending motion, plaintiff describes the additional discovery he would like to conduct. Plaintiff alleges that he will require subpoenas to obtain documents in defendants' possession including his medical file, his 832.5 form, plaintiff's original complaint and plaintiff's first amended complaint. Plaintiff alleges that he needs to depose defendants by written questions. Plaintiff also alleges that he needs to depose the following witnesses by written question: Hannah Hewitt, A. Wilson, Supervisor Reed, Sergeant Witrow, Supervisor Mack, Nurse McKee, Keith Stewart, Jeff Utter and Jason Langslet. Plaintiff also appears to allege that he needs to issue subpoenas to defendants to produce documents that they refused to produce in response to his request for production of documents.

         The undersigned observes that plaintiff has previously filed discovery related requests. On August 25, 2016, and September 12, 2106, plaintiff filed motions requesting that subpoenas be issued to parties and non-parties for various documents. (ECF Nos. 53, 55.) On September 23, 2016, the undersigned denied those requests. (ECF No. 57.) The undersigned denied plaintiff's request for subpoenas addressed to defendants on the grounds that Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 45 does not authorize service of subpoenas on parties. (Id.) The undersigned denied plaintiff's request for issuance of subpoenas on non-parties on the grounds that plaintiff had not demonstrated that the documents and records sought were obtainable only through the non-parties. (Id.) It appeared that many of the documents sought were obtainable from defendants. (Id.)

         On September 22, 2016, plaintiff filed another request for issuance of subpoenas to non-parties. (ECF No. 56.) On October 13, 2016, the undersigned denied that request. (ECF No. 59.)

         On October 12, 2106, plaintiff filed a motion to compel. (ECF No. 60.) In that motion, plaintiff claimed that defendants had not provided him with timely responses to interrogatories and a request for production of documents. (Id.) In the opposition, defendants stated that plaintiff had served three discovery requests. (ECF No. 51.) Defendants stated that they served plaintiff with timely responses to all three discovery requests. (Id.) On December 12, 2016, the undersigned denied the motion to compel. (ECF No. 64.)

         For the following reasons, the undersigned finds that plaintiff has not shown good cause to grant his motion for an extension of time to conduct additional discovery. While plaintiff claims that he did not understand that his discovery requests were due 60 days prior to December 16, 2016, until it was explained to him, he does not indicate when he understood the discovery deadline. In any event, plaintiff's alleged failure to understand this deadline does not explain his failure to earlier seek any of the large volume of discovery now requested. Plaintiff's failure to seek any of the requested discovery prior to the discovery deadline demonstrates that he did not act diligently in conducting discovery. Plaintiff had ample opportunity to conduct discovery. For these reasons, plaintiff's motion for an extension of time to conduct discovery is denied. III. Plaintiff's Motion for Seizure of Assets (ECF No. 68)

         Citing Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 64, plaintiff requests that defendants' assets be seized to prevent defendants from transferring assets in an attempt to avoid paying money damages to plaintiff should he succeed in this action. On January 25, 2017, defendants filed an opposition to this motion. (ECF No. 74.)

         In pertinent part, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 64 provides that,

[A]ll remedies providing for seizure of person or property for the purpose of securing satisfaction of the judgment ultimately to be entered in the action are available under the circumstances and in the manner provided by the law of the state in which the district court is held....

Fed.R.Civ.P. 64 (Emphasis added).

         Thus, Rule 64 “permits state seizure provisions to be used in federal courts ...” Reebok Int'l v. Marnatech Enters., 970 F.2d 552, 558 (9th Cir. 1992); Pos-A-Traction, Inc. v. Kelly- Springfield Tire Co., 112 F.Supp.2d 1178, 1181 (C.D.Cal. 2000) (noting that Rule 64 incorporates state law for prejudgment seizures of property).

         Under Cal.Code Civ. Pro. § 484.090(a), in order for a plaintiff to obtain issuance of a Right to Attach Order and Writ of Attachment after hearing the plaintiff must demonstrate: (1) that the claim on which the attachment is based must be one on which an attachment may be issued; (2) the probable validity of the claim on which the attachment is based; and (3) that the attachment is not sought for a purpose other than the recovery on the claim on which the attachment is based.

         Plaintiff's motion for prejudgment seizure of assets is denied because plaintiff has not shown the probable validity of his claims. As discussed herein, the undersigned recommends that all claims be dismissed except for plaintiff's First Amendment claim against defendant Jones. However, the undersigned does not find that plaintiff has shown the probable validity of his remaining claim against defendant Jones.

          IV. Plaintiff's Motion for Punitive Damages (ECF No. 84)

         In this motion, plaintiff requests that he be allowed to pursue punitive damages, pursuant to California Civil Code § 3294, for violation of the California Bane Act (California Civil Code § 52.1). Plaintiff also requests that defendants be prosecuted pursuant to California Penal Code § 422.6. On April 11, 2017, defendants filed an opposition to this motion. (ECF No. 89.)

         Defendants argue, in part, that plaintiff is attempting to amend his complaint. Defendants argue that plaintiff's motion to amend should be denied as untimely. The undersigned agrees.

         Motions to amend are governed by Rule 15(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Rule 15(a) provides that the Court “should freely give leave [to amend] when justice so requires.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). In the Ninth Circuit, Rule 15(a) is applied with “extreme liberality.” Eminence Capital, LLC v. Aspeon, Inc., 316 F.3d 1048, 1051 (9th Cir. 2003).

         Nevertheless, the court retains discretion to grant or deny a motion for leave to amend. Leadsinger, Inc. v. BMG Music Pub., 512 F.3d 522, 532 (9th Cir. 2008). The court considers five factors when assessing the propriety of a motion for leave to amend: (1) bad faith, (2) undue delay, (3) prejudice to the opposing party, (4) futility of amendment, and (5) whether the plaintiff has previously amended his complaint. Allen v. City of Beverly Hills, 911 F.2d 367, 373 (9th Cir. 1990). The court “need not apply all five factors” when two factors sufficiently persuade the Court to deny the motion. Id.

         Plaintiff filed the pending motion requesting to add additional legal claims well after the deadline for filing dispositive motions had passed. Plaintiff also filed this motion just eleven days after defendants filed their summary judgment motion. Under these circumstances, plaintiff has shown undue delay in bringing the motion to amend. Allowing plaintiff to amend his complaint at this time to raise these new claims would prejudice defendants. In addition, plaintiff has previously been allowed to file amended complaints. On these grounds, plaintiff's motion for punitive damages, construed as a motion to amend, is denied.[1]

         V. Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 73)

         In this motion for summary judgment, plaintiff objects to defendants' request for extension of time to oppose plaintiff's motion for summary judgment. (See ECF No. 67.) On January 12, 2017, the undersigned granted defendants' motion for extension of time. (ECF No. 71.) Plaintiff has not demonstrated that he was prejudiced by the court granting defendants' motion for extension of time. Accordingly, plaintiff's motion for summary judgment, construed as an opposition to defendants' motion for extension of time to file an opposition to plaintiff's summary judgment motion, is denied.

         VI. Cross Motions for Summary Judgment

         In this action, plaintiff alleges that he was denied a Kosher diet while housed at the Lassen County Jail. The defendants are Lassen County Jail Commander Jones and Lassen County Sheriff Growden. The following facts are undisputed.

         Plaintiff was booked into the Lassen County Jail on February 17, 2015. (ECF No. 81-5 at 3.) On February 23, 2015, plaintiff submitted an Inmate Request Form to the kitchen for a kosher diet. (Id. at 27.) Sometime between February 23, 2015, and March 23, 2015, defendant Jones denied plaintiff's request for a kosher diet. (Id. at 4-5.) On March 23, 2015, Undersheriff Mineau granted plaintiff's request for a kosher diet. (Id. at 5.)

         The undersigned clarifies the legal claims plaintiff is raising. As discussed in the May 27, 2016 findings and recommendations addressing defendants' motion to dismiss, plaintiff alleges that defendant Jones violated his First Amendment rights by denying his request for a kosher diet. (ECF No. 33 at 7.) Plaintiff alleges that defendant Growden failed to train his employees regarding how to process requests for religious diets. (Id.) Plaintiff's claims against defendant Growden are based on alleged violations of the First Amendment and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”). Plaintiff seeks money damages only.

         A. Legal Standard for Summary Judgment

         Summary judgment is appropriate when it is demonstrated that the standard set forth in Federal Rule of Civil procedure 56 is met. “The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a).

Under summary judgment practice, the moving party always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of “the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, ” which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.

Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986) (quoting then-numbered Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)).

         “Where the nonmoving party bears the burden of proof at trial, the moving party need only prove that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case.” Nursing Home Pension Fund, Local 144 v. Oracle Corp. (In re Oracle Corp. Sec. Litig.), 627 F.3d 376, 387 (9th Cir. 2010) (citing Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 325); see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 advisory committee's notes to 2010 amendments (recognizing that “a party who does not have the trial burden of production may rely on a showing that a party who does have the trial burden cannot produce admissible evidence to carry its burden as to the fact”). Indeed, summary judgment should be entered, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 322. “[A] complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial.” Id. at 323.

         Consequently, if the moving party meets its initial responsibility, the burden then shifts to the opposing party to establish that a genuine issue as to any material fact actually exists. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). In attempting to establish the existence of such a factual dispute, the opposing party may not rely upon the allegations or denials of its pleadings, but is required to tender evidence of specific facts in the form of affidavits, and/or admissible discovery material in support of its contention that such a dispute exists. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586 n.11. The opposing party must demonstrate that the fact in contention is material, i.e., a fact that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law, see Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. Pacific Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987), and that the dispute is genuine, i.e., the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party, see Wool v. Tandem Computers, Inc., 818 F.2d 1433, 1436 (9th Cir. 1987), overruled in part on other grounds, Hollinger v. Titan Capital Corp., 914 F.2d 1564, 1575 (9th Cir. 1990).

         In the endeavor to establish the existence of a factual dispute, the opposing party need not establish a material issue of fact conclusively in its favor. It is sufficient that “the claimed factual dispute be shown to require a jury or judge to resolve the parties' differing versions of the truth at trial.” T.W. Elec. Serv., 809 F.2d at 630. Thus, the “purpose of summary judgment is to ‘pierce the pleadings and to assess the proof in order to see whether there is a genuine need for trial.'” Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e) advisory committee's note on 1963 amendments).

         In resolving a summary judgment motion, the court examines the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). The evidence of the opposing party is to be believed. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. All reasonable inferences that may be drawn from the facts placed before the court must be drawn in favor of the opposing party. See Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587. Nevertheless, inferences are not drawn out of the air, and it is the opposing party's obligation to produce a factual predicate from which the inference may be drawn. See Richards v. Nielsen Freight Lines, 602 F.Supp. 1224, 1244-45 (E.D. Cal. 1985), aff'd, 810 F.2d 898, 902 (9th Cir. 1987). Finally, to demonstrate a genuine issue, the opposing party “must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts. . . . Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no ‘genuine issue for trial.'” Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586 (citation omitted).

         By contemporaneous notice provided on August 16, 2013(ECF No. 22), plaintiff was advised of the requirements for opposing a motion brought pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Rand v. Rowland, 154 F.3d 952, 957 (9th Cir. 1998) (en banc); Klingele v. Eikenberry, 849 F.2d 409 (9th Cir. 1988).

         B. Background

         To put the pending summary judgment motions in context, the undersigned provides the following background.

         Plaintiff was booked into the Lassen County Jail on February 17, 2015. (ECF No. 81-5 at 3.) On February 23, 2015, plaintiff submitted an Inmate Request Form to Kitchen Manager Keith Stewart requesting a kosher diet and identifying himself as Jewish. (ECF No. 81-5 at 4.) In this request plaintiff wrote, “Being a Jewish inmate I have a right to eat a kosher diet as outlined in Leviticus 11: 1-31. I was approved for Kosher diet by Rabbi Jacob Sharone at CSP-SATF and at CSP-Solano. By state law that approval is transferable to institution. I would like to be provided with a Jewish Kosher diet.” (Id. at 27.)

         According to defendant Jones, Mr. Stewart “promptly” brought plaintiff's request to his attention. (ECF No. 81-5 a 4.) Defendant Jones had doubts regarding the sincerity of plaintiff's religious beliefs based on plaintiff's past affiliation with white supremacists. (Id.) Defendant Jones contacted staff at several other detention facilities to learn how they tested the sincerity of an inmate's religious beliefs when that inmate requested a kosher diet. (Id.) Defendant Jones also contacted a rabbi in Reno to learn what a person who converted to Judaism should know if they were truly practicing their faith. (Id.)

         Based on his investigation, defendant Jones prepared an Inmate Application for Religious Meal Program form and provided it to plaintiff. (Id.) Plaintiff completed the form on February 24, 2015, i.e., one day after he submitted the request for a religious diet to kitchen manager Stewart. (Id.) A copy of this one page form is attached to defendant Jones's declaration. (Id. at 29.) In this form, plaintiff identified his religious affiliation as Jewish. (Id.) In the section of the form asking plaintiff if he converted to this religion, plaintiff circled “no.” (Id.) Plaintiff wrote that he worshipped at a Jewish synagogue. (Id.) Plaintiff identified his Rabbi as Jerome Sharone at CSP-SATF. (Id.) In the section of the form asking plaintiff what about his beliefs required him to be on a religious meal program and to identify what he was asking for, plaintiff wrote, “A Kosher diet in accordance with Leviticus Law 11: 1-31. A discipline by Jewish faith.” (Id.)

         According to defendants, on February 26, 2015, plaintiff submitted a second Inmate Request Form to defendant Jones seeking a kosher diet. (Id. at 4.) Plaintiff apparently submitted this form after receiving no response to his Application for a Religious Meal submitted two days earlier. A copy of this form is attached to defendant Jones's declaration. (Id. at 31.) On this form plaintiff wrote,

3 days ago I turned in a request for a religious diet. Since 2009 I have been on a Kosher diet as approved by CDC and Rabbi Jarold Sharone at CSATF at Corcoran. Upon leaving the institution in 2011 I went to CSP-Solano where I was on a Kosher diet. Per California law, 1st Amendment rights and inmate bill of rights this card is transferable from institution to institution without having to be reapproved by a rabbi...

(Id.)

         This form states that plaintiff's request for a kosher diet was denied by the Jail Commander, i.e., defendant Jones. (Id.) The form contains an undated handwritten note stating, “You have failed to provide adequate information regarding your faith, this time.” (Id.) The note is signed with the initial “J, ” which is apparently defendant Jones. (Id.)

         As discussed above, in his declaration, defendant Jones indicates that he interviewed plaintiff regarding his religious faith after receiving plaintiff's application for a religious diet. (Id. at 4-5.) In his declaration, defendant Jones states that he found that plaintiff was unable to identify where exactly he purchased kosher foods and could identify only hot dogs as the kosher food he ate. (Id.) Based on plaintiff's responses to the questions, defendant Jones denied plaintiff's request for a kosher diet. (I ...


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