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Zainulabadin v. Arizona Department of Corrections

United States District Court, D. Arizona

August 15, 2019

Pardis Zainulabadin, Plaintiff,
Arizona Department of Corrections, et al., Defendants.


          James A. Teilborg, Senior United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Pardis Zainulabadin, who is currently confined in the Arizona State Prison Complex (ASPC)-Eyman, Meadows Unit in Florence, Arizona brought this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. 8.) Before the Court are Defendants Kent and Ryan's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 82) and Defendants GEO, Riddell, Coday, and Ryan's (“GEO Defendants”) Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 84), which Plaintiff opposes (Docs. 89, 90).[1]

         The Court will grant Defendants Ryan and Kent's Motion for Summary Judgment, grant GEO Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, and terminate the action.[2]

         I. Background

         On screening of Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint (Doc. 8) under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a), the Court determined that Plaintiff stated the following claims: (1) religious exercise claims under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), the First Amendment, and article 2 section 12 of the Arizona Constitution against Defendants GEO Group, Inc., GEO Officer Riddell, Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) Disciplinary Officers John Doe and Jane Doe, ADC Director Ryan, and ADC Deputy Warden Coday[3] in Count One; and (2) a Fourteenth Amendment equal protection claim against Defendants ADC Corrections Officer (CO) II Kent and Ryan in Count Two. The Court directed these Defendants to answer the respective claims against them and dismissed the remaining claims and Defendants. (Docs. 6, 32.) The Court did not order service on the Doe Defendants at this time. (Doc. 6 at 12.)

         GEO Defendants move for summary judgment on Plaintiff's claim in Count One on the grounds that he failed to exhaust the available administrative remedies and that the claim fails on the merits. (Doc. 84.) Defendants Kent and Ryan move for summary judgment on the merits of Plaintiff's claim in Count Two, and in the alternative, argue that they are entitled to qualified immunity. (Doc. 82.)

         II. Summary Judgment Standard

         A court must grant summary judgment “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). The movant bears the initial responsibility of presenting the basis for its motion and identifying those portions of the record, together with affidavits, if any, that it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323.

         If the movant fails to carry its initial burden of production, the nonmovant need not produce anything. Nissan Fire & Marine Ins. Co., Ltd. v. Fritz Co., Inc., 210 F.3d 1099, 1102-03 (9th Cir. 2000). But if the movant meets its initial responsibility, the burden shifts to the nonmovant to demonstrate the existence of a factual dispute and that the fact in contention is material, i.e., a fact that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law, and that the dispute is genuine, i.e., the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmovant. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 250 (1986); see Triton Energy Corp. v. Square D. Co., 68 F.3d 1216, 1221 (9th Cir. 1995). The nonmovant need not establish a material issue of fact conclusively in its favor, First Nat'l Bank of Ariz. v. Cities Serv. Co., 391 U.S. 253, 288-89 (1968); however, it must “come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (internal citation omitted); see Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1).

         At summary judgment, the judge's function is not to weigh the evidence and determine the truth but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. In its analysis, the court must believe the nonmovant's evidence and draw all inferences in the nonmovant's favor. Id. at 255. The court need consider only the cited materials, but it may consider any other materials in the record. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3).

         III. GEO Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment

         In Count One of the First Amended Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that his religious exercise rights were violated when he was placed on disciplinary report for missing mandatory orientation in order to attend a religious service on April 8, 2016. (Doc. 8 at 7.)

         A. Exhaustion Legal Standard

         Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, a prisoner must exhaust “available” administrative remedies before filing an action in federal court. See 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a); Vaden v. Summerhill, 449 F.3d 1047, 1050 (9th Cir. 2006); Brown v. Valoff, 422 F.3d 926, 934-35 (9th Cir. 2005). The prisoner must complete the administrative review process in accordance with the applicable rules. See Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 92 (2006). Exhaustion is required for all suits about prison life, Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 523 (2002), regardless of the type of relief offered through the administrative process, Booth v. Churner, 532 U.S. 731, 741 (2001).

         The defendant bears the initial burden to show that there was an available administrative remedy and that the prisoner did not exhaust it. Albino v. Baca, 747 F.3d 1162, 1169, 1172 (9th Cir. 2014); see Brown, 422 F.3d at 936-37 (a defendant must demonstrate that applicable relief remained available in the grievance process). Once that showing is made, the burden shifts to the prisoner, who must either demonstrate that he, in fact, exhausted administrative remedies or “come forward with evidence showing that there is something in his particular case that made the existing and generally available administrative remedies effectively unavailable to him.” Albino, 747 F.3d at 1172. The ultimate burden, however, rests with the defendant. Id. Summary judgment is appropriate if the undisputed evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the prisoner, shows a failure to exhaust. Id. at 1166, 1168; see Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a).

         If summary judgment is denied, disputed factual questions relevant to exhaustion should be decided by the judge; a plaintiff is not entitled to a jury trial on the issue of exhaustion. Albino, 747 F.3d at 1170-71. But if a court finds that the prisoner exhausted administrative remedies, that administrative remedies were not available, or that the failure to exhaust administrative remedies should be excused, the case proceeds to the merits. Id. at 1171.

         B. Relevant Facts

         1. Grievance Procedure

         The Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) has adopted Department Order (DO) 802 to address prisoners' complaints regarding their conditions of confinement. (Doc. 85 (GEO Defs.' Statement of Facts) ¶ 9.)

         Under the version of DO 802 that was in effect when Plaintiff's claim arose, prisoners must first attempt to resolve their complaints through informal means, such as discussing the issue with staff or submitting an Inmate Informal Complaint Resolution Form to their unit Correctional Officer (CO) III. (Id. ¶¶ 10-11.) The Informal Complaint must be submitted within ten days from the date of the incident that gave rise to the grievance. (Doc. 85-1 at 14 (DO 802.02 § 1.2).) The CO III has 15 workdays to respond to the Informal Complaint. (Id. (DO 802.02 § 1.3.2).)[4] If the prisoner is unable to resolve the issue informally, the prisoner ...

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