Kindred v. Cal. Dep't of Mental Health

Decision Date11 July 2011
Docket Number1:08-cv-01321-AWI-GSA-PC
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of California




(Doc. 17.)


Richard S. Kindred ("Plaintiff"), a civil detainee proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on September 5, 2008. This action is proceeding on Plaintiff's original Complaint against defendants Pam Ahlin, Barbara Devine,1 and Linda Fields2 for infringing on Plaintiff's rights to freely exercise his religion, in violation of theFirst Amendment and 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-1 (Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act ("RLUIPA")).3 (Doc. 1.)

On December 14, 2010, defendants Ahlin and Devine ("Defendants") filed a motion to dismiss some of Plaintiff's claims against them, based on Plaintiff's failure to state a claim. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). (Doc. 17.) On December 30, 2010, Plaintiff filed an opposition to the motion, and on January 6, 2011, Defendants filed a reply. (Docs. 19, 20.) Defendants' motion to dismiss is now before the Court.

A. Plaintiffs Allegations

Plaintiff is currently housed at Coalinga State Hospital ("CSH"), in Coalinga, California, where the events complained of occurred. At the time of the events at issue, defendant Pam Ahlin was the Acting Executive Director of CSH, defendant Barbara Devine was the Program Director for Program One at CSH, and defendant Linda Fields was a member of the Level of Care Staff at CSH. Plaintiff alleges that defendants Ahlin and Devine denied him permission "to order a prayer rug, even though [prayer rugs] are not considered contraband by the hospital and other patients at the hospital have them." (Cmpl., Doc. 1 at 3-4 ¶IV.) Plaintiff alleges that "this action [permission to order prayer rug] was denied by Defendant Barbra DeVine, who was the Program Director for Program One, . . . [and i]t was fully supported by Pam Ahlin, Executive Director (A)." Id. at 4. Plaintiff also claims that one of his spiritual books was damaged, alleging that "this was done by defendant Linda Fields, level of care staff and fully supported by her supervisors, who as of date have not taken any action to replace or compensate plaintiff for the cost of the book." Id.

Plaintiff requests declaratory relief and punitive damages.

B. Plaintiff's Claims

The Civil Rights Act under which this action was filed provides:

Every person who, under color of [state law] . . . subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States . . . to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution . . . shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress.

42 U.S.C. § 1983. "Section 1983 . . . creates a cause of action for violations of the federal Constitution and laws." Sweaney v. Ada County, Idaho, 119 F.3d 1385, 1391 (9th Cir. 1997) (internal quotations omitted). "To the extent that the violation of a state law amounts to the deprivation of a state-created interest that reaches beyond that guaranteed by the federal Constitution, Section 1983 offers no redress." Id.

1. First Amendment Free Exercise - Civil Detainee

Plaintiff claims that defendants Ahlin, Devine, and Fields violated his rights to freely exercise his religion under the First Amendment. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that "Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . . ." U.S. Const. amend. I. Prisoners "retain protections afforded by the First Amendment," including the free exercise of religion. O'Lone v. Estate of Shabazz, 482 U.S. 342, 348 (1987). "Under the Constitution, 'reasonable opportunities must be afforded to all prisoners to exercise the religious freedom guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments.'" Pierce v. County of Orange, 526 F.3d 1190, 1209 (9th Cir. 2008) (quoting Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319, 322 n. 2, 92 S.Ct. 1079 (1972) (addressing the rights of convicted prisoners)). "[C]ivil detainees retain greater liberty protections than individuals detained under criminal process . . . ." Jones v. Blanas, 393 F.3d 918, 932 (9th Cir. 2004) (citations omitted). "However, as with other First Amendment rights in the inmate context, detainees' rights may be limited or retracted if required to 'maintain [ ] institutional security and preserv[e] internal order and discipline.' " Pierce, 526 F.3d at 1209 (quoting Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 549, 99 S.Ct. 1861 (1979); citing see, e.g., Freeman v. Arpaio, 125 F.3d 732, 737 (9th Cir. 1997)).

"Restrictions on access to 'religious opportunities' . . . must be found reasonable in light of four factors: (1) whether there is a 'valid, rational connection' between the regulation and a legitimate government interest put forward to justify it; (2) 'whether there are alternative means of exercising the right that remain open to prison inmates;' (3) whether accommodation of the asserted constitutional right would have a significant impact on guards and other inmates; and (4) whether ready alternatives are absent (bearing on the reasonableness of the regulation)." Pierce, 526 F.3d at 1209 (quoting Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78, 89-90, 107 S.Ct. 2254 (1987); citing see also Beard v. Banks, 548 U.S. 521, 126 S.Ct. 2572 (2006); and citing Mauro v. Arpaio, 188 F.3d 1054, 1058-59 (9th Cir.1999) (en banc)). "Further, [when] dealing with [civil] detainees, to satisfy substantive due process requirements the restriction or regulation cannot be intended to serve a punitive interest." Pierce, 526 F.3d at 1209 (citing Bell, 441 U.S. at 535, 99 S.Ct. 1861).


Although Plaintiff did not specifically bring a RLUIPA claim in his Complaint, he is not foreclosed from pursuing claims under RLUIPA where his factual allegations are sufficient to have presented a claim under RLUIPA so as to have amounted to "fair notice" of that claim, even though the statute was not cited in the Complaint itself. Alvarez v. Hill, 518 F.3d 1152, 1159 (9th Cir. 2008).

RLUIPA provides:

No government shall impose a substantial burden on the religious exercise of a person residing in or confined to an institution. . . , even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability, unless the government demonstrates that imposition of the burden on that person-
(1) is in furtherance of a compelling government interest; and
(2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling government interest.

42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-1(a). To succeed on a RLUIPA claim, the plaintiff must allege facts demonstrating that defendants substantially burdened the exercise of his religious beliefs. Warsoldier v. Woodford, 418 F.3d 989, 994-95 (9th Cir. 2005). In any RLUIPA claim, one must first identify the "religious exercise" allegedly impinged upon, and then must ask whether the prisonregulation at issue "substantially burdens" that religious exercise. Greene v. Solano County Jail, 513 F.3d 982, 987 (9th Cir. 2008).


Defendants Ahlin and Devine bring a motion to dismiss some of Plaintiff's claims against them under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, based on Plaintiff's failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Specifically, Defendants argue that Plaintiff's § 1983 claim cannot proceed against them in their official capacity; that Plaintiff fails to state any § 1983 claim against defendant Ahlin; that Plaintiff's request for monetary damages for violation of RLUIPA is not cognizable against them in their official or individual capacity; and that Plaintiff fails to state any RLUIPA claims against them in their individual capacity. In the alternative, Defendants request that this matter be stayed pending a United States Supreme Court decision in Sisney v. Reisch, U.S.S.C. Case No. 09-821, on the availability of monetary damages in a RLUIPA action.

A. Legal Standard - 12(b)(6) Motion

"The focus of any Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal . . . is the complaint," Schneider v. California Dept. of Corr., 151 F.3d 1194, 1197 n.1 (9th Cir. 1998), which must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief . . . ," Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). "To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-65 (2007)); Moss v. U.S. Secret Service, 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009). The mere possibility of misconduct falls short of meeting this plausibility standard. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949-50; Moss, 572 F.3d at 969.

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," Iqbal at 1949 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555), and 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). While factual allegations are accepted as true, legal conclusions are not. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949.

B. Official Capacity - § 1983 Claims

Defendants argue that Plaintiff's § 1983 suit for monetary damages against them in their official capacities is barred by the Eleventh Amendment. Defendants also argue that Plaintiff's Complaint cannot proceed against Defendants in their official capacities because they are not "persons" under § 1983. In opposition, Plaintiff asserts that he is suing Defendants in...

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