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Jones v. Arizona Department of Corrections

United States District Court, D. Arizona

May 5, 2016

Edward Lee Jones, Plaintiff,
Arizona Department of Corrections, et al., Defendants.


Honorable Diane J. Humetewa United States District Judge

On May 18, 2015, Plaintiff Edward Lee Jones, Jr., who is confined in the Arizona State Prison Complex-Eyman in Florence, Arizona, filed a pro se civil rights Second Amended Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. 30.) On June 29, 2015, the Court Screened the Second Amended Complaint, ordered Defendants Ryan, Linderman, Vicklund, Lopez, Woods, Miser, and Forbes to answer portions of Counts One, Two, Three, Seven, Eight, Ten, and Eleven of the Second Amended Complaint, and dismissed the remaining claims and Defendants without prejudice. (Doc. 31.) Now pending before the Court is Plaintiff’s Request to Amend Counts 1, 2, 3, 4, 8, 9 and Request to Dismiss With Prejudice Counts 5 and 6 of the Second Amended Complaint. (Doc. 56.) Plaintiff attached a proposed amended complaint to his Motion.[1] As detailed below, the Court will grant Plaintiff’s Motion to Amend, order the Clerk to file Plaintiff’s proposed Third Amended Complaint, and, after screening, dismiss Plaintiff’s claims for conspiracy, Eighth Amendment conditions of confinement claims, and racial discrimination claim, and order Defendants to answer the remaining claims in the Third Amended Complaint.

I. 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, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (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 679. 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 681. 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)).

Although pro se pleadings are liberally construed, Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972), conclusory and vague allegations will not support a cause of action, Ivey v. Bd. of Regents of the Univ. of Alaska, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982). Further, a liberal interpretation of a civil rights complaint may not supply essential elements of the claim that were not initially pled. Id.

II. Plaintiff’s Third Amended Complaint

In his Third Amended Complaint, Plaintiff sues the following Defendants: Arizona Department of Corrections (ADOC) Director Charles L. Ryan, Pastoral Administrator Mike Linderman, Senior Chaplain J. Vicklund, Warden Ron Credio, Correctional Officer (CO) II/Counselor E. Lopez, Assistant Deputy Warden G. Woods, Lieutenant Swayne, and Unit Chaplain Miser, and CO II/Kitchen Staff (Security) Forbes. In his Request for Relief, Plaintiff seeks declaratory relief, monetary damages, and his costs of suit.

In his Motion to Amend, Plaintiff asserts that he seeks to do the following in his Third Amended Complaint: (1) amend Counts One, Two, Three, Four, and Eight to state a claim based on Plaintiff’s inability to properly observe the Islamic practice of Ramadan; (2) state claims for relief against Defendant Credio (Count Four) and Defendant Swayne (Count Nine) sufficient for the Court to issue service packets for those two Defendants; and (3) dismiss Counts Five and Six with prejudice. (Doc. 56.)[2]

Plaintiff asserts that he is a practicing Muslim. He contends that in the Islamic faith, it is not permissible for Muslim males to remove any hair from their beards below a fistful and that beard trimming violates the Sunnah. Plaintiff also asserts that during Ramadan, all Muslims initiate a fast subsequent to the performance of “‘Fair’ prayer, ” which Plaintiff asserts in 2012, was “performed prior to the meal time of 0500 hours.”

a. Count One

In Count One, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Ryan violated his rights under the First Amendment and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA). Plaintiff claims that Defendant Ryan denied Plaintiff his constitutional right to grow his beard and denied him the opportunity to freely practice his faith during the observation of Ramadan. More specifically, Plaintiff asserts that Defendant Ryan created, implemented, and enforced a prison grooming policy that barred Plaintiff from growing his beard longer than 1/4 of an inch for religious reasons. Plaintiff asserts that Defendant Ryan knew the policy was unconstitutional.

Plaintiff further asserts that according to the Islamic practice of Ramadan, “‘Fair’ prayer is the start of the fast for Muslims during Ramadan each day, ” and “according to the Ramadan 2012 prayer time schedule[, ] “Fair’ prayer on July 20[] had to be performed at approximately 0414 hours[, ] no later. Thereafter, a minute or two would be added to that time each day following to perform ‘Fair’ prayer.” Plaintiff contends, however, that Defendant Ryan signed off on a Memorandum, “passed down” by Defendant Linderman to all Units in the Eyman/Florence Complexes, instructing “staff/officials” regarding when the observation of Ramadan could begin and the “feeding timeframe set by Defendant Linderman, ” which burdened Plaintiff because it forced Plaintiff to either break his fast or starve. Plaintiff asserts that “[b]y July 23[], Ramadan participants started to be called out for Morning feeding subsequent to ‘Fair’ prayer, placing a burden on individuals such as Plaintiff.”

Plaintiff claims that he submitted inmate letters to CO II Cione and A.D.W. Cluff regarding the issue, and, after being denied, submitted a grievance. Plaintiff further claims that “at Defendant’s level, ” Plaintiff “was informed that [he] could start his fast at any time.” Plaintiff asserts that “because Ryan is responsible for all the policy and Memorandums signed by him and circulated to be implemented in the ADOC, he should have known or knew those policies and Memorandums were unfair to Muslims and violated the law.” Finally, Plaintiff complains that Defendant should have accepted Plaintiff’s proposals to either allow an earlier feeding time during Ramadan or deliver meals to the Housing Units for practicing Muslims during Ramadan.

b. Count Two

In Count Two, Plaintiff claims that Defendant Linderman violated his rights under RLUIPA and the First Amendment because Defendant Linderman “fashions policies and Memorandums regarding religious activities, ” “came up with” the 1/4-inch beard length limitation, and denied Plaintiff’s requests to grow his beard pursuant to his faith. Plaintiff also claims that Defendant Linderman violated his rights when he “fashioned the morning mealtime during Ramadan [in 2012] at 0500 hours, ” which “placed a burden on the Plaintiff and other Muslims to either starve or break their fast.” Plaintiff contends that Defendant Linderman knew or should have known that his actions were unconstitutional.

c. Count Three

In Count Three of his Third Amended Complaint, Plaintiff asserts the same allegations as those in Count Three of his Second Amended Complaint. Specifically, Plaintiff claims that Defendant Vicklund violated his rights under RLUIPA and the First Amendment. Plaintiff contends that after Defendant Miser and another chaplain denied Plaintiff’s request for a religious shaving waiver and to grow his beard longer than 1/4 inch, Plaintiff requested that Defendant Vicklund overturn those decisions, grant Plaintiff a religious shaving waiver, and allow Plaintiff to grow his beard longer than 1/4 inch. Plaintiff asserts that Defendant Vicklund refused to do so, either claiming that there was no basis for Plaintiff’s requests or that Plaintiff needed to write a statement agreeing to comply with ADOC policies in order to receive a waiver. Plaintiff asserts that the statement would have required him to violate his religious customs and practices in order to receive a waiver. Plaintiff contends that Defendant Vicklund would not assign a chaplain to interview Plaintiff without this written statement and that the interview was necessary to obtain the waiver. Plaintiff claims that he complied with Defendant Vicklund’s request, but Defendant Vicklund nevertheless denied Plaintiff’s requests based on Plaintiff’s “institutional disciplinary record in relation to the subject of following the ten[e]ts of Plaintiff’s faith/practic[]es.”

Plaintiff also claims that because Defendant Vicklund failed to approve his shaving waiver, Plaintiff was threatened and harassed by ADOC officials and was issued disciplinary infractions for failing to comply with prison policies (presumably regarding facial hair).

Plaintiff asserts that because he chose not to abandon his religious practices and beliefs, he was forced, for a year between January 2012 and January 2013, to only eat one meal per day and to not eat meals in the “chow hall.” Plaintiff asserts that in March 2013, Defendant Vicklund finally approved a shaving waiver for Plaintiff, but refused to overturn Defendant Miser’s and the other chaplain’s prior denial of Plaintiff’s request to grow his beard longer than 1/4 inch. Plaintiff also asserts that Defendant Vicklund “conspired” with the other Defendants to deny Plaintiff his rights under RLUIPA and the First Amendment.

d. Count Four

In Count Four, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Credio violated his rights under RLUIPA and the First Amendment. Plaintiff asserts that on January 31, 2013, Plaintiff submitted a grievance appeal to Defendant regarding Plaintiff’s attempts, over two years, to obtain a shaving waiver, and Defendant Vicklund’s recent denial of Plaintiff’s request based on Plaintiff’s disciplinary record for refusing to shave. Plaintiff asserts that “as a result of not having a waiver[, ] Plaintiff was being denied meals (2 in one day) without due process and continuously threaten[ed] with disciplinary for standing firm to his religious beliefs and practices.” Plaintiff asserts that in his grievance appeal, he requested a shaving waiver and to receive his meals in his cell.

Plaintiff contends that Defendant Credio responded to Plaintiff’s grievance appeal on March 29, 2013. Plaintiff asserts that Defendant Credio stated it is the Chaplain’s responsibility to evaluate the validity of Plaintiff’s waiver request, and “the intent of Defendant Vicklund’s evaluation was not punitive.” However, Defendant Credio instructed Plaintiff that “while waiting for approval of any shaving wavier inmates are expected to report to the Chow Hall in Compliance with policy.” According to Plaintiff, Defendant Credio further stated that Plaintiff, “by obtaining a medical waiver, was” attempting “to circumvent procedure in order to get any shaving wavier [and] that such acts do[] not demonstrate sincerity if the request for a religious wavier approval [arose] again.” Plaintiff claims that Defendant Credio further stated he had investigated Plaintiff’s grievance, and concluded that he concurred with the Deputy Warden’s determination that Plaintiff would not be able to grow his beard beyond the 1/4 inch level, the policy had been implemented to comply with RLUIPA, the Department had a penological interest in “keeping a safe and secure environment through inmate accountability and ease of identification” and the 1/4 inch limitation “was the least restrictive means” in furthering that interest, in 2013, Plaintiff had signed a waiver agreeing to the 1/4 inch limitation, and he considered “the matter resolved.”

Plaintiff also claims that on March 20, 2014, he submitted an inmate letter to Defendant Credio regarding the requirement the Plaintiff cannot grow his beard longer than 1/4 inch, explaining that officials had threatened Plaintiff, and that the beard length policy required Plaintiff to “abandon his religious beliefs and practices.” On April 22, 2014, before Defendant Credio responded to Plaintiff’s inmate letter, Plaintiff submitted a grievance appeal to Defendant Credio regarding the beard length policy and how it violated Plaintiff’s rights. Plaintiff requested a new shaving waiver that complies with his religious beliefs. Plaintiff asserts that he provided “Islamic Literature” to contradict the “mis-information” by Chaplain Daniels that wearing a beard beyond 1/4 inch is a choice within the Muslim faith.

Plaintiff further alleges that on April 28, 2014, Defendant Credio responded to Plaintiff’s March 20, 2014 inmate letter, quoted policy, and referenced Plaintiff’s shaving waiver, signed by Plaintiff, which states that growing his beard beyond the 1/4 inch level was a choice.

With regard to observing Ramadan, Plaintiff asserts that Defendant Credio failed to act during Ramadan by using an earlier meal time schedule to allow Plaintiff to eat before fair prayer. Plaintiff alleges that on August 20, 2012, he submitted a grievance appeal to Defendant Credio regarding the negative effects caused by the 0500 meal time during Ramadan. Plaintiff contends that Defendant Credio responded to Plaintiff’s grievance appeal, stating that the meal time was “set in order to . . . maintain the safe and secure[] operations of the unit, ” and “Plaintiff may begin his fast at any time he chooses to do so.” Plaintiff asserts that Defendant Credio could have allowed Plaintiff to receive his meals in his cell to accommodate Plaintiff’s religious beliefs, which would be a less restrictive means of achieving the penological goal of a safe environment.

e. Counts Five and Six

Plaintiff removed Counts Five and Six in his Third ...

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