Fields v. RJ Donovan Correctional Facility

Filing 38

ORDER Granting Defendants' 30 Motion for Summary Judgment. Signed by Judge Michael M. Anello on 8/16/2017. (All non-registered users served via U.S. Mail Service)(ag)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 11 Case No.: 16cv1318-MMA (DHB) CARLTON FIELDS, Plaintiff, 12 13 v. 14 ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS’ MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AJHAJ, et al., 15 Defendants. [Doc. No. 30] 16 17 18 Plaintiff Carlton Fields is a state prisoner proceeding pro se in this action filed 19 pursuant to the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Defendants Din, Self, and Walker 20 have filed a motion for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 21 56. See Doc. No. 30. Defendants argue that Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative 22 remedies prior to filing this lawsuit, as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act 23 (“PLRA”), 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). Plaintiff filed an opposition to the motion, to which 24 Defendants replied. See Doc. Nos. 33, 34. In addition, the Court permitted Plaintiff to 25 file a sur-reply. See Doc. No. 37. The Court took the matter under submission on the 26 briefs and without oral argument pursuant to Civil Local Rule 7.1.d.1. See Doc. No. 35. 27 For the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS Defendant’s motion. 28 1 16cv1318-MMA (DHB) 1 BACKGROUND1 2 This action arises out of events occurring at R.J. Donovan State Correctional 3 Facility (“Donovan”) in San Diego, California. Plaintiff professes to practice Messianic 4 Judaism, and was approved for a kosher diet while housed at Mule Creek State Prison. 5 Upon his transfer to Donovan, Plaintiff sought approval for a kosher diet and to attend 6 Jewish services. Rabbi Fabrice Hadjadj, an unserved defendant, denied Plaintiff’s 7 request. 8 9 On December 1, 2015, the Inmate Appeals Coordinator (“IAC”) at Donovan received Plaintiff’s Reasonable Accommodation Request (CDCR 1284), inmate appeal 10 Log No. 15-3890, seeking approval of a kosher diet and permission to attend Jewish 11 services. On December 11, 2015, the Reasonable Accommodation Panel, including 12 Defendants Din, Self, and Walker, sent a response to Plaintiff, indicating that additional 13 information and interviews were required. On December 23, 2015, the panel sent a final 14 response to Plaintiff indicating that Defendant Self interviewed Plaintiff and Plaintiff was 15 not approved for religious services and kosher meals. The response further noted that 16 Plaintiff had been placed on an approval list to be submitted to the rabbi. The panel’s 17 response advised Plaintiff that if he disagreed with the decision, to appeal and attach 18 supporting documentation. 19 On April 21, 2016, the IAC received Plaintiff’s second CDCR 1284, inmate appeal 20 Log No. 16-1554, seeking approval of a kosher diet and permission to attend Jewish 21 services. On May 17, 2016, the panel, including Defendants Din, Self, and Walker, sent 22 Plaintiff an interim response indicating that the panel required further information before 23 24 25 26 27 28                                                 1 These material facts are taken from Defendant’s Separate Statement of Undisputed Facts; Plaintiff’s factual allegations, as set forth in his opposition brief; and pertinent cited declarations and exhibits. Because Plaintiff’s opposition brief contains factual allegations related to the exhaustion of his claims, which are based on his personal knowledge and verified under penalty of perjury, it “may be treated as an affidavit to oppose summary judgment to the extent it is ‘based on personal knowledge’ and ‘sets forth specific facts admissible in evidence.’” Keenan v. Hall, 83 F.3d 1083, 1090 n.1 (9th Cir. 1996) (quoting McElyea v. Babbitt, 833 F.2d 196, 197-98 & n.1 (9th Cir. 1987)). 2 16cv1318-MMA (DHB) 1 it could render a final decision on Plaintiff’s request. Subsequently, the panel, including 2 Defendants Din and Walker, sent a final response to Plaintiff denying his request. The 3 panel informed Plaintiff that the rabbi had denied Plaintiff’s request for a kosher diet and 4 participation in Jewish services, based on his determination that Plaintiff was not sincere 5 in his request for a kosher diet and unable to participate in religious services due to his 6 housing in administrative segregation. The panel once again advised Plaintiff to appeal 7 the decision if he was dissatisfied with the outcome. 8 LEGAL STANDARD 9 Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), inmates seeking relief from 10 prison conditions must exhaust available administrative remedies prior to bringing any 11 suit challenging prison conditions. 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a) (“No action shall be brought 12 with respect to prison conditions . . . until such administrative remedies as are available 13 are exhausted.”); Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 524 (2002) (“exhaustion is mandatory . . 14 . unexhausted claims cannot be brought in court”). “[T]he prison’s requirements . . . 15 define the boundaries of proper exhaustion.” Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 218 (2007). 16 “[T]he exhaustion question in PLRA cases should be decided as early as feasible.” 17 Albino v. Baca, 747 F.3d 1162, 1170 (9th Cir. 2014). 18 In the Ninth Circuit, a motion for summary judgment is generally the appropriate 19 vehicle for raising the plaintiff’s failure to exhaust administrative remedies because 20 “failure to exhaust is an affirmative defense under the PLRA, and . . . inmates are not 21 required to specially plead or demonstrate exhaustion in their complaints.” Jones, 549 22 U.S. at 216; Albino, 747 F.3d at 1170 (“[A] motion for summary judgment, as opposed to 23 an unenumerated Rule 12(b) motion, [is the proper procedural device] to decide 24 exhaustion”). The burden is on the defendant to prove that there was an available 25 administrative remedy that the plaintiff failed to exhaust. See Albino, 747 F.3d at 1172. 26 If the defendant meets that burden, the burden shifts to the prisoner to present evidence 27 showing that there is something in his particular case that made the existing and generally 28 available administrative remedies effectively unavailable to him. Id. 3 16cv1318-MMA (DHB) 1 The Court must draw all inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving 2 party and determine whether a genuine issue of material fact precludes entry of judgment. 3 Comite de Jornaleros de Redondo Beach v. City of Redondo Beach, 657 F.3d 936, 942 4 (9th Cir. 2011). The Court determines only whether there is a genuine issue for trial and, 5 in doing so, it must liberally construe Plaintiff's filings because he is a pro se prisoner. 6 Thomas v. Ponder, 611 F3d 1144, 1150 (9th Cir. 2010). 7 DISCUSSION 8 1. Administrative Exhaustion 9 The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) provides its 10 prisoners the right to appeal administratively “any departmental decision, action, 11 condition or policy perceived by those individuals as adversely affecting their welfare.” 12 Cal. Code Regs. tit. 15, § 3084.1(a). An inmate “receiving an unsatisfactory 13 departmental response to an appeal” must submit his appeal to the next level of review 14 within thirty calendar days. Cal. Code Regs. tit. 15 § 3084.8(b)(3). On January 28, 2011, 15 the inmate appeals process was modified and limited to three levels of review with 16 provisions allowing the first level to be bypassed under specific circumstances. Id. § 17 3084.7. If a prisoner is not satisfied with the response he receives at the first level of 18 review, he may submit his appeal to the second level of review, after which he may 19 appeal to the third and final level. Id. § 3084.7. In order to satisfy section 1997e(a), 20 California state prisoners are required to use this process to exhaust their claims prior to 21 filing suit. Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 85-86 (2006). 22 2. Analysis 23 Defendants present evidence that Plaintiff did not exhaust his administrative 24 remedies with respect to the claims he brings in this action. Defendants submit the 25 declaration testimony of R. Olivarria, the current Appeals Coordinator at Donovan, and 26 M. Voong, Chief of the Office of Appeals. According to Olivarria, the appeals office at 27 Donovan received Plaintiff’s two CDCR 1284 requests, as detailed above. Olivarria 28 states that the office also received inmate appeal Log No. 16-2771, in which Plaintiff 4 16cv1318-MMA (DHB) 1 sought to appeal the CDCR 1284 decision denying his request for a kosher diet. On June 2 21, 2016, this appeal was screened out and rejected because Plaintiff bypassed a required 3 lower level of review and failed to attach necessary supporting documentation. Olivarria 4 states that Plaintiff never resubmitted the appeal. According to Voong, the Office of 5 Appeals has received and screened out three inmate appeals from Plaintiff, but has not 6 received or accepted any third level appeals from Plaintiff pertaining to the issues in this 7 case. 8 Plaintiff alleges in his First Amended Complaint that he “filed an ADA 1824 form, 9 602s to Sacramento, because I was in Adseg not competent and defendants destroyed my 10 602s and failed to respond.” Doc. No. 7 at 6. However, Plaintiff’s complaint is 11 unverified, and Plaintiff does not provide any evidence in opposition to Defendants’ 12 motion to further suggest that prison officials rendered the grievance procedure 13 unavailable. Rather, Plaintiff asserts that he was not required to further exhaust his 14 remedies because his first CDCR 1824 was partially granted by the panel. Plaintiff 15 argues that the result in this case is controlled by Brown v. Valoff, 422 F.3d 926 (9th Cir. 16 2005), in which the Ninth Circuit held that an inmate whose appeal had been partially 17 granted at the second level of review had exhausted his administrative remedies where 18 the defendant failed to show any additional relief was available through the appeals 19 process. Id. at 937-39. Because the defendant did not present evidence indicating that a 20 further appeal might have “netted” additional relief, he failed to demonstrate that further 21 relief remained available. Id. at 939. Plaintiff points to the fact that his first CDCR 1284 22 was “approved with modification,” based on his placement on the approval list for the 23 rabbi’s review. As such, Plaintiff asserts that his case is “textbook to Brown v. Valoff” 24 and he was not required to further exhaust his administrative remedies. See Doc. No. 37 25 at 2.2 26 27                                                 28 2 Citations refer to pagination assigned by the CM/ECF system. 5 16cv1318-MMA (DHB) 1 On a motion for summary judgment for non-exhaustion, a defendant has to prove 2 “that there was an available administrative remedy, and that the prisoner did not exhaust 3 that available remedy.” Albino v. Baca, 747 F.3d 1162, 1172 (9th Cir. 2014) (en banc) 4 (emphasis added). This is because a prisoner need not “press on to exhaust further levels 5 of review once he has received all ‘available’ remedies at an intermediate level of review 6 or has been reliably informed by an administrator that no remedies are available.” 7 Brown, 422 F.3d at 936. Relevant evidence includes “statutes, regulations, and other 8 official directives that explain the scope of the administrative review process; 9 documentary or testimonial evidence from prison officials who administer the review 10 process; and information provided to the prisoner concerning the operation of the 11 grievance procedure in this case, such as in the response memoranda in these cases. With 12 regard to the latter category of evidence, information provided the prisoner is pertinent 13 because it informs [a] determination of whether relief was, as a practical matter, 14 ‘available.’” Id. at 937. 15 Here, the evidence demonstrates that further relief was available to Plaintiff 16 subsequent to the panel’s decision regarding his first CDCR 1824, and that he was 17 informed by the panel that he could appeal their decision. The panel’s final response to 18 Plaintiff’s request stated: “You were interviewed by CCII Self and you were not 19 approved for religious services and Kosher meals. Last week you were placed on the 20 approval list.” Olivarria Decl., Ex. B (emphasis added). Directly beneath that response, 21 the panel advised Plaintiff: “If you disagree with this decision and want to file an appeal, 22 be sure to attach a copy of this response along with your CDCR 1824 as supporting 23 documents.” Id. 24 Despite its presentation as an approval “with modification,” the panel’s response 25 did not provide Plaintiff with the relief he sought. To the contrary, the panel denied 26 Plaintiff’s request for a kosher diet and participation in Jewish services. Plaintiff did not 27 avail himself of the next level of administrative review, despite the panel’s denial of 28 6 16cv1318-MMA (DHB) 1 relief. Plaintiff himself presents evidence that the regulations require prisoners to appeal 2 if they seek additional relief through the reasonable accommodation process: 3 4 5 If you do not agree with the first level response, you can file the appeal to the second level by attaching the 1824 form to a regular 602 appeal form, filling out Part D of the 602, and sending both forms to the Appeals Coordinator. You should do this within 15 working days after you get the first level answer. 6 7 Doc. No. 33 at 13. Even drawing all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to 8 Plaintiff, the Court finds that he failed to exhaust all of his remedies before filing suit, 9 because he had administrative remedies still available to him, and he did not complete the 10 appeals process with respect to his request for a kosher diet and permission to participate 11 in Jewish services. 12 In sum, the Court finds that Defendants have met their burden of proving that 13 Plaintiff failed to exhaust his available administrative remedies prior to filing this lawsuit. 14 Accordingly, summary judgment is appropriate. 15 16 CONCLUSION Based on the foregoing, the Court GRANTS Defendants’ motion for summary 17 judgment and DISMISSES Plaintiff’s claims against Defendants Din, Self, and Walker 18 without prejudice. This Order disposes of all claims against all served defendants. 19 Accordingly, the Clerk of Court is instructed to enter judgment and close the case. 20 21 22 IT IS SO ORDERED. DATE: August 16, 2017 _______________________________________ HON. MICHAEL M. ANELLO United States District Judge 23 24 25 26 27 28 7 16cv1318-MMA (DHB)

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