Ahdom v. Etchebehere

Decision Date20 August 2017
Docket Number1:13-cv-01623-DAD-GSA-PC
PartiesBILAL AHDOM, Plaintiff, v. C. ETCHEBEHERE, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of California



Bilal Ahdom ("Plaintiff") is a state prisoner proceeding pro se with this civil rights action filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff filed the Complaint commencing this action on October 9, 2013. (ECF No. 1.) This case now proceeds on Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint (SAC), filed on December 8, 2015. (ECF No. 24.)

On January 20, 2017, Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, or in the alternative, a motion for an order requiring payment of security. (ECF No. 44.) On April 12, 2017, Plaintiff filed an opposition to Defendant's motion.1 (ECF No. 52.) On April 19, 2017, Defendant filed a reply to Plaintiff's opposition. (ECF No. 54.)

The motion has been submitted upon the record without oral argument pursuant to Local Rule 230(l), and for the reasons that follow, Defendant's motion for summary judgment should be granted.


Plaintiff is currently incarcerated at the California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility (SATF) in Corcoran, California, in the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), where the events at issue in the Second Amended Complaint allegedly occurred. Plaintiff alleges as follows:

Plaintiff is a practicing Muslim and also a vegetarian with an approved vegetarian meal card. During the month of Ramadan, fasting Muslims are required to partake of ceremonial "sacred meals" known as Iftar and Suhoor meals.

On or about July 18, 2012, Plaintiff was sent to the Echo-Yard Chapel for a Ramadan announcement. Plaintiff was informed by a female prison employee (Doe I), by way of a 7/11/12 memo by defendant Associate Warden Etchebehere, that he had to be a participant in the CCR T15 Religious Meat Alternate Program ("RMA") to receive his Ramadan meals. The RMA meal is unofficially and erroneously termed the Halal Meal or Halal Religious Meal by prison officials. Plaintiff alleges that the RMA meal can substitute for the Iftar meal during Ramadan, but not for the Suhoor meal. The Suhoor meal is made up of different food items than the RMA meal, and all of its foods are packaged for Treft (contamination) protections.

Plaintiff asked Doe I why he was required to participate in the RMA program to receive his Iftar and Suhoor meals. Plaintiff told Doe I that he was a vegetarian and asked why he was required to give that up and sign up for the RMA meals. Plaintiff showed Doe I his vegetarian meal card, but Doe I said she was not allowed to make an exception, and Plaintiff could "602" it. Doe I denied Plaintiff's requests to speak directly to defendant Etchebehere or to be added to the Ramadan meal list without signing up for RMA meals. She told Plaintiff that defendant Etchebehere was the only one who authorizes it. Plaintiff asked Doe I for a CDCR 3030-D Religious Diet Request Form (to sign up for the RMA diet), and she told him he could get one from the Chaplain.

On July 19, 2012, the first day of Ramadan, Plaintiff met with Catholic Chaplain Guembe to sign up for the RMA diet. Plaintiff asked Guembe if Guembe could provide him with Ramadan meals or add his name to the Ramadan participation list without Plaintiff signing up for the RMA diet, in that way he would not have to give up his vegetarian diet and could still receive his Iftar and Suhoor meals. Guembe told Plaintiff she was not authorized to do that but would inform her supervisor and ask her to make the requests. Plaintiff filled out the diet request form and handed it, and his vegetarian meal card, to Guembe, who took them with her to the office. When Guembe returned she told Plaintiff she had forwarded everything to Etchebehere, that it was approved, and that he would receive his Ramadan meals that evening. Guembe returned Plaintiff's vegetarian meal card to him and left.

That evening, Plaintiff went to the dining facility for his Iftar and Suhoor meals. The correctional officer told Plaintiff he was not on the Ramadan list. Plaintiff said he had been approved by Guembe earlier in the day; the officer then told Plaintiff to talk to the Sergeant. The Sergeant said custody [staff] has nothing to do with the Ramadan program, and Plaintiff would have to talk to Guembe or Etchebehere tomorrow. Plaintiff told the Sergeant he did not have any food to eat and asked for his meals. The Sergeant said he was not authorized to give Plaintiff the meals unless he was on the Ramadan list.

During the next few days, Plaintiff tried but was unable to contact Guembe or Etchebehere, and each day he was refused Ramadan meals because he was not on the list. By July 21, 2012, Plaintiff developed a headache and was very weak from not eating anything since July 18. Plaintiff continued to look for Guembe without success. By July 23, Plaintiff still had not eaten and was too weak to get out of bed. Plaintiff thought that Guembe must have lied to him about forwarding documents to defendant Etchebehere as well as the approval, but he had no proof. Finally, on July 25, 2012, Plaintiff received his Iftar and Suhoor meals.

Plaintiff filed a prison grievance, and on February 1, 2013, at the third level of review, prison officials decided that defendant Etchebehere's requirement for Plaintiff to be a participant in the RMA meal program to receive Ramadan meals was inappropriate. Plaintiff had suffered pain, weakness, isolation, and humiliation because of the denial of meals. He wasisolated from other fasting Muslims eating their sacred meals and unable to perform ceremonial "Sunnah" rituals.


The SAC named defendants Etchebehere, Guembe, and Does 1-4 for (1) violations of religious rights under the First Amendment, (2) deliberate indifference under the Eighth Amendment, and (3) discrimination under the Fourteenth Amendment. (ECF No. 24.) On December 16, 2015, the court dismissed all of the claims against defendants Guembe and Does 1-4, based on Plaintiff's failure to state any claims against them. (ECF No. 25 ¶VI(1).) As a result, this case now proceeds only against defendant Etchebehere. On January 26, 2016, the court directed the U.S. Marshal to serve process upon defendant Etchebehere. (ECF No. 27.)

Based on the following, this case now proceeds only against defendant Etchebehere in her individual capacity on Plaintiff's Free Exercise claim under the First Amendment, for money damages.

A. Claims Against Defendant Etchebehere

1. RLUIPA and First Amendment Free Exercise Claims

In the December 16, 2015, screening order, the court found that Plaintiff stated a claim against defendant Etchebehere under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 ("RLUIPA") [42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-1]. (ECF No. 25.) The court later clarified that the court intended in the December 16, 2015, order to permit Plaintiff to proceed against defendant Etchebehere under both RLUIPA and the Free Exercise clause of the First Amendment. (ECF No. 34 at 3.) However, on June 10, 2016, the court dismissed the RLUIPA claim with prejudice, for failure to state a claim. (Id. at 11.)

2. Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment Claims

It appears that by inadvertent omission, the court also intended in the December 16, 2015, screening order to dismiss Plaintiff's Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment claims against defendant Etchebehere, because in the orde, the court found the SAC appropriate for service only on Plaintiff's religious rights claims. The court acknowledged that the SAC included claims under the First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments, but in discussing the claimsagainst defendant Etchebehere, the court only addressed the RLUIPA and Free Exercise claims, concluding that "an answer will be required [for] the claim that Associate Warden Etchebehere violated Plaintiff's rights under [RLUIPA]." (ECF No. 25 at 5-7.) A review of the SAC shows that Plaintiff failed to state claims against defendant Etchebehere for deliberate indifference under the Eighth Amendment, nor equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment. This is apparent for the reasons that follow. Further, the court finds that the deficiencies in the Eighth and Fourteen Amendment claims outlined below are not capable of being cured by amendment, and therefore amendment would be futile. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii); Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1127 (9th Cir. 2000).

Eighth Amendment - Deliberate Indifference

The Eighth Amendment protects prisoners from inhumane methods of punishment and from inhumane conditions of confinement. Morgan v. Morgensen, 465 F.3d 1041, 1045 (9th Cir. 2006). Extreme deprivations are required to make out a conditions of confinement claim, and only those deprivations denying the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities are sufficiently grave to form the basis of an Eighth Amendment violation. Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 9, 112 S.Ct. 995 (1992) (citations and quotations omitted). "An Eighth Amendment claim that a prison official has deprived inmates of humane conditions of confinement must meet two requirements, one objective and the other subjective." Allen v. Sakai, 48 F.3d 1082, 1087 (9th Cir. 2010) cert. denied, 514 U.S. 1065 (1995). First, the alleged deprivation must be, in objective terms, "sufficiently serious." Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834, 114 S.Ct. 1970 (1994). Second, subjectively, the prison official must "know of and disregard an excessive risk to inmate health or safety." Id. at 837; Anderson v. County of Kern, 45 F.3d 1310, 1313 (9th Cir. 1995). The objective requirement is met if the prison official's acts or omissions deprived a prisoner of "the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities.'" Allen, 48 F.3d at...

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