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Nance v. Miser

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

June 20, 2013

Keith Preston Nance, Plaintiff,
Allen Miser, et al., Defendants.


ROBERT C. BROOMFIELD, Senior District Judge.

Plaintiff Keith Preston Nance, who is confined in the Arizona State Prison Complex, South Unit, in Florence, Arizona, has filed a pro se civil rights Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and an Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis. The Court will order Defendants Ryan, Linderman, and Miser to answer Count I of the Complaint.

I. Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis and Filing Fee

Plaintiff's Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis will be granted. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). Plaintiff must pay the statutory filing fee of $350.00. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). The Court will assess an initial partial filing fee of $10.66. The remainder of the fee will be collected monthly in payments of 20% of the previous month's income each time the amount in the account exceeds $10.00. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2). The Court will enter a separate Order requiring the appropriate government agency to collect and forward the fees according to the statutory formula.

II. Statutory Screening of Prisoner Complaints

The Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or an officer or an employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if a plaintiff has raised claims that are legally frivolous or malicious, that fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1), (2).

A pleading 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) (emphasis added). While Rule 8 does not demand detailed factual allegations, "it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id.

"[A] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Id . (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim is plausible "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id . "Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief [is]... a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id. at 1950. Thus, although a plaintiff's specific factual allegations may be consistent with a constitutional claim, a court must assess whether there are other "more likely explanations" for a defendant's conduct. Id. at 1951.

But as the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has instructed, courts must "continue to construe pro se filings liberally." Hebbe v. Pliler , 627 F.3d 338, 342 (9th Cir. 2010). A "complaint [filed by a pro se prisoner] must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.'" Id . (quoting Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) ( per curiam ))....

III. Complaint

Plaintiff alleges one count for violation of his religious exercise and equal protection rights. Plaintiff sues the following current or former employees of the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC): Director Charles L. Ryan, Pastoral Administrator Mike Linderman, and Florence Complex Senior Chaplain Allen Miser. Plaintiff seeks declaratory, injunctive, and punitive relief.

Plaintiff alleges the following facts: Plaintiff is a Muslim. During the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims must fast from sunrise until sunset. During Ramadan, Muslims may eat their morning meal prior to sunrise and must engage in group prayer. At the end of Ramadan, Muslims engage in a celebration for successful completion of Ramadan with a Halal meal. In 2012, Ramadan commenced on July 20 until August 19, 2012.

On June 6, 2012, Plaintiff submitted an Inmate Letter to South Unit Chaplain Samuel Lee requesting enrollment in 2012 Ramadan observances, which were to commence July 20, 2012 at 4:14 a.m. and end August 19, 2012. Lee approved Plaintiff's request.

On July 13, 2012, a meeting was held between ADC officials, specifically Chaplain Irby and Linderman, and representatives from the Islamic Center of Tucson (ICT) concerning Ramadan observances. The ICT representatives had learned that ADC planned to provide Muslim inmates with their morning meal during Ramadan at 5:00 a.m., which was after sunrise. The ADC officials indicated that Muslim inmates could pray and eat purchased food in their cells prior to sunrise, if they chose. They also indicated that Muslim inmates could eat donated food in their cells prior to sunrise. ICT ...

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