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Hearns v. Gonzales

United States District Court, E.D. California

February 22, 2018

JAMAR HEARNS, Plaintiff,
v.
ROSA GONZALES,, Defendants.

          FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS, RECOMMENDING THAT THIS CASE PROCEED AGAINST DEFENDANT C/O ROSA GONZALES ON PLAINTIFF'S CLAIMS FOR RETALIATION, VIOLATION OF THE FREE EXERCISE CLAUSE, AND RELATED STATE LAW CLAIMS, AND THAT ALL OTHER CLAIMS AND DEFENDANTS BE DISMISSED (ECF NO. 17.)

          GARY S. AUSTIN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff is a former state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis with this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff filed the Complaint commencing this action on January 11, 2017. (ECF No. 1.) On December 21, 2017, the court screened the Complaint and issued an order requiring Plaintiff to either file an amended complaint, or notify the court that he is willing to proceed only on the claims found cognizable by the court. (ECF No. 13.) On February 9, 2018, Plaintiff filed the First Amended Complaint, which is now before the court for screening. (ECF No. 17.)

         II. SCREENING REQUIREMENT

         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 upon which relief may be granted, or that seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1), (2). “Notwithstanding any filing fee, or any portion thereof, that may have been paid, the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that the action or appeal fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).

         A complaint is required to 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)). While a plaintiff's allegations are taken as true, courts “are not required to indulge unwarranted inferences.” Doe I v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 572 F.3d 677, 681 (9th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). To state a viable claim, Plaintiff must set forth “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79; Moss v. U.S. Secret Service, 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009). While factual allegations are accepted as true, legal conclusions are not. Id. The mere possibility of misconduct falls short of meeting this plausibility standard. Id.

         III. PLAINTIFF'S ALLEGATIONS

         Plaintiff is presently out of custody. The events at issue in the Complaint allegedly occurred at Valley State Prison (VSP) in Chowchilla, California, when Plaintiff was incarcerated there in the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). Plaintiff names as defendants Correctional Officer (C/O) Rosa Gonzales and the CDCR (collectively, “Defendants”).

         Plaintiff's allegations follow. On December 16, 2015, defendant C/O Rosa Gonzales worked in D2. (ECF No. 17 at 5 ¶2.) C/O Gonzales told C/O Mata [not a defendant] that she (Gonzales) would do the searches today. C/O Gonzales went straight to Plaintiff's bunk area, ransacked all his property, and found the folder that contained legal documents for case No. 1:14-cv-1177, where she (Gonzales) is named as a defendant. Defendant Gonzales grabbed bleach from under the sink in the room, poured bleach on the legal papers and folder, and grabbed Plaintiff's prayer rug and poured bleach all over it. Defendant Gonzales confiscated the prayer rug. The search was not performed according to policy. No other searches were conducted.

         Plaintiff wrote two CDCR Form 22 requests to C/O Gonzales requesting the return or replacement of the prayer rug. C/O Gonzales never responded, in violation of Title 15, CCR § 3086(f)(4). Plaintiff filed a staff complaint against C/O Gonzales for retaliation, Log #VSP-D-16-0039. The staff complaint was exhausted at the third level.

         On May 26, 2016, a timely Government Tort Claim was filed, claim #G632054. On June 6, 2016, the claim was rejected and Plaintiff was informed that his complaint was best suited for the court system.

         To this day the damaged prayer rug has never been returned or replaced as requested in appeal Log #VSP-D-16-0039. C/O Gonzales's actions were in retaliation for Plaintiff filing lawsuit 1:14-cv-1177.

         Sergeant Fonderon [not a defendant] handled the lower level appeals of Log #VSP-D-16-0039. Fonderon interviewed Plaintiff who showed Fonderon the bleached paper and folder, and Fonderon pulled the prayer rug out of the confiscation locker and saw the bleach marks on the prayer rug. Fonderon never gave the prayer rug back nor ordered it to be replaced. Plaintiff was left without a prayer rug.

         Plaintiff is a Muslim. Muslims pray 5 times a day. When they pray, they utilize a prayer rug which is, and represents, Holy Ground. The prayer rug allows them to pray anywhere on Holy Ground. Their religion only allows them to pray on Holy Ground, “no exceptions, ” so since Plaintiff's prayer rug was confiscated and not replaced a key part of Plaintiff's ability to practice his religion is missing. Without the prayer rug Plaintiff was not able to pray at all, so he could not practice his religion.

         After the events described above Plaintiff was in constant fear that defendant C/O Gonzales would return and ransack and take his property. Several times Plaintiff thought about dismissing his lawsuit, but family and ...


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