Abordo v. State of Hawaii, 94-00514 ACK/BMK.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Hawaii)
Citation902 F. Supp. 1220
Docket NumberNo. 94-00514 ACK/BMK.,94-00514 ACK/BMK.
PartiesEdmund M. ABORDO, Plaintiff, v. STATE OF HAWAII, et al., Defendants.
Decision Date25 August 1995

COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED

Edmund M. Abordo, Aiea, HI, pro se.

Michael S. Vincent, Office of the Attorney GeneralState of Hawaii, Honolulu, HI, for defendants.

Karen A. Essene, Honolulu, HI, for amicus curiae American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii.

Michael Chun, United States Attorneys Office, Honolulu, HI, Janis C. Kestenbaum, U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, DC, for intervenor U.S.

ORDER MODIFYING IN PART AND ADOPTING IN PART THE MAGISTRATE'S FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION

KAY, Chief Judge.

BACKGROUND

On July 6, 1995, Plaintiff Edmund M. Abordo, an inmate at Halawa Correctional Facility, filed a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 civil rights complaint against various prison officials ("Defendants"). In his complaint, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act ("RFRA")1 and deprived him of his rights guaranteed by the First, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution by cutting his hair despite his objections. In addition, Plaintiff alleges violation of state regulatory law as well as state tort claims of intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligence. On October 3, 1994, Defendant John Smythe filed an answer to the complaint. The remaining Defendants filed an answer on November 25, 1994.

Plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment on October 25, 1994, asserting that Defendants' policy of not excepting prisoners' hair length or beards from the prison grooming standards based on religious reasons failed to satisfy the compelling standard of the RFRA. In the alternative, Plaintiff argues that Defendants failed to establish that their policy had a logical connection to a legitimate governmental interest.

Defendants filed a counter motion for summary judgment on January 30, 1995. Defendants contend that the RFRA is unconstitutional and therefore has no bearing on this case. Defendants further request summary judgment on Plaintiff's First Amendment claim based on this Court's previous ruling that the prison's grooming policy is constitutional under the pre-RFRA standard. See Allen v. Sakai, Civil No. 86-00577 ACK. Defendants also request that the Court grant summary judgment in their favor on (1) Plaintiff's state law claims based on the Eleventh Amendment; (2) Plaintiff's due process claims because Plaintiff has not established a protected liberty interest; (3) Plaintiff's claims against Defendants Mello and Dunnaway because they were not involved in the incident; (4) Plaintiff's claims against supervisory Defendants because there is no respondeat superior liability under § 1983; (5) Plaintiff's claims against all Defendants based on qualified immunity; and (6) Plaintiff's claims against Defendants in their official capacity based on the Eleventh Amendment.2

After consideration of Plaintiff's and Defendants' cross motions for summary judgment, the Magistrate Judge recommended that Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment be denied and that Defendants' cross motion be granted in part and denied in part.

Plaintiff filed objections to the Magistrate Judge's recommendation on June 8, June 15 and July 5, 1995. In his first objection, Plaintiff complains that Defendants' motion for summary judgment was "tainted with false evidence" and requests that the Court "reconsider and evaluate the defendants' false documents." In his second filing, Plaintiff objects to the Magistrate Judge's finding that Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity and that some of the Defendants are not liable because they were not directly involved in the incident. In his third objection, Plaintiff contends that the Magistrate Judge erred (1) by not taking every allegation of the complaint as true because Plaintiff filed his motion for summary judgment prior to Defendants' filing of their answer; (2) by assessing credibility; (3) in attacking the construction of his pleadings; and (4) by using the wrong grooming policy.

Defendants filed a Statement of Objections on June 12, 1995. Defendants contend that the Magistrate Judge erred in upholding the RFRA. On June 29, 1995, the United States, intervenor in this action, filed a response to Defendants' objection.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Any party may object to a magistrate's case dispositive proposed order, findings, or recommendation. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b); Local Rule 404-2. The district court must make a de novo determination of those portions of the magistrate's findings to which objection is made and may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendation made by the magistrate. Id. De novo review means the court must consider the matter anew, the same as if it had not been heard before and as if no decision previously had been rendered. Ness v. Commissioner, 954 F.2d 1495, 1497 (9th Cir.1992). Thus, although the district court need not hold a de novo hearing, the court's obligation is to arrive at its own independent conclusion about those portions of the magistrate's findings or recommendation to which objections are made. United States v. Remsing, 874 F.2d 614, 617 (9th Cir.1989).

The court may accept those portions of the magistrate's findings and recommendation which are not objected to if it is satisfied that there is no clear error on the face of the record. See Campbell v. United States District Court, 501 F.2d 196, 206 (9th Cir.1974).

DISCUSSION
I. PLAINTIFF'S OBJECTIONS
A. Miscellaneous Objections

Plaintiff contends that Defendants supported their motion for summary judgment with false evidence and that the Magistrate Judge erred in assessing the credibility of the evidence. As Plaintiff correctly notes in his objection filed July 5, 1995, determining the credibility of the evidence is a function of the jury. Where the parties submit different versions of material facts, there is a genuine issue for trial.

The Court finds that the Magistrate Judge did not improperly assess the credibility of the evidence. With respect to Plaintiff's claims under the RFRA, the Magistrate Judge found that there were genuine factual disputes regarding whether Plaintiff's exercise of his religion was substantially burdened. In so doing, the Magistrate Judge did not assess the credibility of the evidence submitted by Plaintiff and Defendants but rather found there were factual discrepancies which would need to be resolved at trial. All other findings by the Magistrate Judge were based on Plaintiff's failure to allege facts sufficient to support his claims. These findings were thus based on the Magistrate Judge's conclusion that no jury could have found in Plaintiff's favor and did not require the Magistrate Judge to assess the credibility of the evidence. Moreover, the Magistrate Judge's recommendation that Defendants' motion for summary judgment be granted in part was not based on the evidence Plaintiff alleges to be false. Plaintiff suggests that certain prison logs attached to Defendants' motion have been tampered with. These logs were not a determinative factor in the Magistrate Judge's rulings.

The Court finds no merit in Plaintiff's contention that the Court must consider every allegation of his complaint as true simply because Plaintiff filed his motion for summary judgment prior to the date Defendants filed an answer to his complaint. With respect to each motion, the allegations and evidence must still be viewed in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party. T.W. Electrical. Serv. v. Pacific Elec. Contractors Assoc., 809 F.2d 626, 630-31 (9th Cir.1987). However, the nonmoving party may not avoid summary judgment by relying on the mere allegations in his pleadings. T.W. Electrical. Serv., 809 F.2d at 630.

B. Construction of Plaintiff's Claims

Plaintiff contends that the Magistrate Judge improperly "attacked" the construction of his pleadings. The Court has reviewed Plaintiff's complaint, the evidence submitted in this case, and the Magistrate Judge's findings and recommendation and finds that the Magistrate Judge went to great lengths to liberally construe Plaintiff's complaint. The Magistrate Judge interpreted Plaintiff's complaint to include claims under the RFRA, the Due Process Clause, the Equal Protection Clause, state statutory law and state common law. The Court will now consider the Magistrate Judge's treatment of each of those claims.

1. Religious Freedom Restoration Act

In deciding that Plaintiff's claim under the RFRA survived Defendants' motion for summary judgment, the Magistrate Judge clearly viewed Plaintiff's allegations in a light most favorable to Plaintiff. Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236, 94 S.Ct. 1683, 1686, 40 L.Ed.2d 90 (1974); Wileman Brothers & Elliott, Inc. v. Giannini, 909 F.2d 332, 334 (9th Cir.1990). To prevail on his constitutional claims, Plaintiff must prove that the government's action prevented him from engaging in conduct or having a religious experience which his faith mandates. Bryant v. Gomez, 46 F.3d 948, 949 (9th Cir.1995). "This interference must be more than an inconvenience; the burden must be substantial and an interference with a tenet or belief that is central to religious doctrine." Id.

To support his claim that the prison's policy of cutting his hair substantially burdened his right to freely exercise his religion, Plaintiff has stated only that: (1) long hair is religiously significant to native Americans because it symbolizes manhood and personal spiritual strength; (2) his "hair was to be used as a sacrifice to render answered prayers;" (3) long hair is significant to Christianity by being Christ-like. Viewed in light of the above standard, Plaintiff's claim that the government substantially burdened the exercise of his religion appears weak. Yet, construing the allegations liberally in Plaintiff's favor, the Magistrate Judge found that a trier of...

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