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Huapaya v. D. Davey

United States District Court, E.D. California

August 26, 2019

ENRIQUE HUAPAYA, Plaintiff,
v.
D. DAVEY, et al., Defendants.

          FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS REGARDING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [ECF No. 46]

         Plaintiff Enrique Huapaya 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 Defendants' motion for summary judgment, filed June 27, 2019.

         I.

         RELEVANT BACKGROUND

         This action is proceeding against Defendants K. Witt, Satterfield, Pauk, and Ratcliff for separate acts of retaliation and violation of the California Bane Act and against Defendants Piscotta and Witt for violation of the Equal Protection Clause.

         Defendants filed an answer to the complaint on December 5, 2018.

         After an unsuccessful settlement conference on February 12, 2019, the Court issued the discovery and scheduling order on February 13, 2019.

         As previously stated, on June 27, 2019, Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment.

         Plaintiff filed an opposition on August 5, 2019, and Defendants filed a reply on August 9, 2019. Therefore, Defendants' motion is deemed submitted for review without oral argument. Local Rule 230(1).

         II.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         A. Statutory Exhaustion Requirement

         The Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) of 1995, requires that prisoners exhaust “such administrative remedies as are available” before commencing a suit challenging prison conditions.” 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a); see Ross v. Blake, __ U.S.__ 136 S.Ct. 1850 (June 6, 2016) (“An inmate need exhaust only such administrative remedies that are ‘available.'”). Exhaustion is mandatory unless unavailable. “The obligation to exhaust ‘available' remedies persists as long as some remedy remains ‘available.' Once that is no longer the case, then there are no ‘remedies … available,' and the prisoner need not further pursue the grievance.” Brown v. Valoff, 422 F.3d 926, 935 (9th Cir. 2005) (emphasis in original) (citing Booth v. Churner, 532 U.S. 731, 739 (2001)).

         This statutory exhaustion requirement applies to all inmate suits about prison life, Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 532 (2002) (quotation marks omitted), regardless of the relief sought by the prisoner or the relief offered by the process, Booth v. Churner, 532 U.S. 731, 741 (2001), and unexhausted claims may not be brought to court, Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 211 (2007) (citing Porter, 534 U.S. at 524).

         The failure to exhaust is an affirmative defense, and the defendants bear the burden of raising and proving the absence of exhaustion. Jones, 549 U.S. at 216; Albino v. Baca, 747 F.3d 1162, 1166 (9th Cir. 2014). “In the rare event that a failure to exhaust is clear from the face of the complaint, a defendant may move for dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6).” Albino, 747 F.3d at 1166. Otherwise, the defendants must produce evidence proving the failure to exhaust, and they are entitled to summary judgment under Rule 56 only if the undisputed evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, shows he failed to exhaust. Id.

         B. Summary Judgment Standard

         Any party may move for summary judgment, and 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) (quotation marks omitted); Albino, 747 F.3d at 1166; Washington Mut. Inc. v. U.S., 636 F.3d 1207, 1216 (9th Cir. 2011). Each party's position, whether it be that a fact is disputed or undisputed, must be supported by (1) citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including but not limited to depositions, documents, declarations, or discovery; or (2) showing that the materials cited do not establish the presence or absence of a genuine dispute or that the opposing party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1) (quotation marks omitted). The Court may consider other materials in the record not cited to by the parties, although it is not required to do so. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3); Carmen v. San Francisco Unified Sch. Dist., 237 F.3d 1026, 1031 (9th Cir. 2001); accord Simmons v. Navajo Cnty., Ariz., 609 F.3d 1011, 1017 (9th Cir. 2010).

         The defendants bear the burden of proof in moving for summary judgment for failure to exhaust, Albino, 747 F.3d at 1166, and they must “prove that there was an available administrative remedy, and that the prisoner did not exhaust that available remedy, ” id. at 1172. If the defendants carry their burden, the burden of production shifts to the plaintiff “to come forward with evidence showing that there is something in his particular case that made the existing and generally available administrative remedies effectively unavailable to him.” Id. “If the undisputed evidence viewed in the light most favorable to the prisoner shows a failure to exhaust, a defendant is entitled to summary judgment under Rule 56.” Id. at 1166. However, “[i]f material facts are disputed, summary judgment should be denied, and the district judge rather than a jury should determine the facts.” Id.

         III.

         DISCUSSION

         A. Description of CDCR's Administrative Remedy Process

         Plaintiff is a state prisoner in the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (“CDCR”), and CDCR has an administrative remedy process for inmate grievances. Cal. Code Regs. tit. 15, § 3084.1 (2014). Compliance with section 1997e(a) is mandatory and state prisoners are required to exhaust CDCR's administrative remedy process prior to filing suit in federal court. Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 85-86 (2006); Sapp v. Kimbrell, 623 F.3d 813, 818 (9th Cir. 2010). CDCR's administrative grievance process for non-medical appeals consists of three levels of review: (1) first level formal written appeals; (2) second level appeal to the Warden or designees; and (3) third level appeal to the Office of Appeals (OOA). Inmates are required to submit appeals on a standardized form (CDCR Form 602), attach necessary supporting documentation, and submit the appeal within thirty days of the disputed event. Cal. Code Regs. tit. 15, §§ 3084.2, 3084.3(a), 3084.8(b). The California Code of Regulations also requires the following:

The inmate or parolee shall list all staff member(s) involved and shall describe their involvement in the issue. To assist in the identification of staff members, the inmate or parolee shall include the staff member's last name, first initial, title or position, if known, and the dates of the staff member's involvement in the issue under appeal. If the inmate or parolee does not have the requested identifying information about the staff member(s), he or she shall provide any other available information that would assist the appeals coordinator in making a reasonable attempt to identify the staff member(s) in question.

Cal. Code Regs. tit. 15, § 3084.2(a)(3).

         B. Allegations of Complaint

         On January 8, 2016, Defendant Pisciotta denied Plaintiff from attending Jumah services, despite the fact that Plaintiff had a proper assignment ducat to attend the religious services. Plaintiff is a White male and is Muslim. Jumah services are Muslim services and those services are usually comprised of all African American inmates. Plaintiff believes that Pisciotta denied him access to the Jumah services because of Plaintiff's race. Pisciotta became verbally aggressive when Plaintiff communicated the Department Operational Procedure relevant to religious services. Based on Defendant Pisciotta's statement and demeanor Plaintiff believed he intended to physically harm him. Pisciotta stated in a loud threatening voice, “I don't give a (expletive) what the DOM says, you're not coming in these gates!” “Besides you're WHITE anyway so how are you even Muslim?” Plaintiff views the act of Pisciotta as an equal protection violation.

         On January 29, 2016, Plaintiff was again attempting to gain access to Jumah services but he was ordered to stop by Defendant Witt for physical inspection. Witt inspected Plaintiff and stated, “Pull up your pants you're not Black!” Plaintiff complied with the order but felt humiliated. Defendant Witt then stated, “Wow cool teeth too, confused?” “You're not Black dude … sagging with gold teeth and you think you're Muslim! You're not Black! You're White due!” Plaintiff ignored Witt's comments and attempted to enter the gate to go to Jumah services, but Witt stated, “Where are [you] going?” Plaintiff responded “to Jumah services.” Witt stated, “not without boots White boy!” Plaintiff quoted the DOM and informed Defendant Witt of the procedural standards and the pending grievance he filed regarding Defendant Pisciotta. Defendant Witt stated, “I don't give a (expletive) ...


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