On May 7, 1993, a Wiccan prisoner incarcerated by the California Department of Corrections since 1979 filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, and California state law against prison officials. The plaintiff, represented by sometimes no counsel and sometimes private counsel, asked the court for injunctive relief and damages, claiming that the prison officials had violated his right to freedom of religion. Specifically, the prisoner claimed that officials' failed to accommodate his practice of the Wiccan religion by denying him access to Tarot cards and his Witches Bible while in segregation.
On March 31, 1995, the District Court (Judge Lawrence K. Karlton) granted the prisoner's motion for summary judgment as to his free exercise claim but denied the motion in all other respects. Also, Judge Karlton granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment in all respects other than the claims regarding tarot cards and the denial of the Witches Bible while in administrative segregation. Judge Karlton issued a preliminary injunction requiring the defendants to allow the prisoner to have tarot cards for religious rituals, but the prisoner's request for injunctive relief was denied in all other respects.
The United States intervened for the limited purpose of defending the constitutionality of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and both the prisoner and the prison officials moved for summary judgment. The prisoner also moved for a preliminary injunction.
On October 28, 1996, Judge Karlton denied the parties' motions for summary judgment and the prisoner's motion for preliminary injunction. Judge Karlton held that (1) even if the Act provided greater federal protection for exercise of religion than currently provided under First Amendment case law, its adoption fell within Congress' power to enact legislation to enforce Fourteenth Amendment, and therefore the Act was constitutional, and that material issues of fact as to sincerity of prisoner's religious beliefs precluded summary judgment for either party. Rouser v. White, 944 F. Supp. 1447 (E.D. Cal. 1996).
On February 12, 1997, the prisoner filed an amended complaint concerning his ability to practice his Wiccan religion from approximately 1990 to 1997 at California State Prison-Sacramento (CSP-Sac).
On May 6, 1997, Judge Karlton dismissed the prisoner's claims for money damages under the California Constitution and denied the defendants' motions to dismiss.
In November, 1997, the parties settled. The terms of the settlement provided, in part, that the prisoner would have access to the Wiccan Bible and other religious materials, even while housed in a Security Housing Unit or Administrative Segregation, consistent with policies and procedures regulating inmate access to religious articles. Additionally, the settlement agreed to permit a volunteer Wiccan spiritual advisor to conduct Wiccan services. On December 5, 1997, the court dismissed the case pursuant to the parties' private settlement.
However, in 2003, the prisoner notified the court that the defendants were not honoring the terms of the settlement. Therefore, on May 8, 2003, Judge Karlton remanded the case to the magistrate judge.
On December 17, 2003, Magistrate Judge Gregory G. Hollows found that the defendants were in compliance with the 1997 settlement agreement. However, on March 23, 2004, Judge Karlton adopted in part and rejected in part the magistrate judge's findings. Accordingly, Judge Karlton reopened the case pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act, which provides that the only way for courts to enforce private settlement agreements is to reinstate civil proceedings.The prisoner's prior counsel withdrew and then in 2006 the prisoner's substituted counsel also withdrew.
On August 4, 2004, Magistrate Judge Hollows denied the defendants' motion to vacate the evidentiary hearing date set by the court. On August 17, 2004, Judge Karlton affirmed that decision.
On January 30, 2006, proceeding pro se, the prisoner filed a supplemental complaint which included claims regarding his ability to practice his Wiccan religion occurring at CSP-Sac from 1999 until his transfer to Mule Creek State Prison (MCSP) as well as his ability to practice his religion while at MCSP. The supplemental complaint named 26 new defendants. The defendants moved moved to dismiss the claims regarding the events occurring at CSP-Sac after 1999. The defendants also moved to stay this action pending a determination of an inmate class of Wiccan/Pagain inmates in McCollum, et al. v. California Department of Corrections, No. C-04-3339 CRB (N.D.Cal.).
On July 11, 2006, Magistrate Judge Gregory G. Hollows determined that it would be more efficient to sever the claims raised in the supplemental complaint, but for the injunctive relief claims regarding MCSP, and allow plaintiff to proceed with these claims in a separate action. The jury trial in this action would then concern plaintiff's claims for damages regarding the events occurring at CSP-Sac alleged in the operative amended complaint and his claims for injunctive relief regarding MCSP. Thus, the defendants' motion to dismiss the claims raised in the supplemental complaint was vacated. Magistrate Judge Hollows also found that the defendants' motion to stay is premature because the plaintiffs in McCollum had not yet moved for class certification. Rouser v. White, 2006 WL 1897125 (E.D. Cal. July 11, 2006). On September 27, 2006, Judge Karlton adopted the findings and recommendations of the Magistrate Judge in full and denied the defendants' March 14, 2006, motion to stay. Rouser v. White, 2006 WL 2790525 (E.D. Cal. Sept. 27, 2006).
In June 2007, the prisoner was transferred to Pleasant Valley State Prison ("PVSP"). As a result, on June 20, 2007, Judge Karlton dismissed the prisoner's claim for injunctive relief as moot and ordered the jury trial date be rescheduled at the trial confirmation hearing.
On October 16, 2007, Magistrate Judge Hollows recommended that the prisoner's request for preliminary injunctive relief be denied in light of the upcoming jury trial where the issues were already set to be litigated. Rouser v. White, 2007 WL 3026639 (E.D. Cal. Oct. 16, 2007). On November 19, 2007, Judge Karlton adopted the findings and recommendations of the magistrate judge in full and denied the prisoner's September 26, 2007, motion for injunctive relief. Rouser v. White, 2007 WL 4149565 (E.D. Cal. Nov. 19, 2007).
On April 4, 2008, Judge Karlton dismissed the claims against defendants Gomez and White because the prisoner's only allegations against them appeared to be based on a theory of respondeat superior liability, which could not create a cause of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Accordingly, the case would proceed to a court trial on the prisoner's claims for injunctive relief regarding PVSP, but not for his claims for damages regarding his inability to practice his Wiccan religion while housed at CSP-Sac from 1990-1997. Rouser v. White, 2008 WL 926615 (E.D. Cal. Apr. 4, 2008). The prisoner objected to this order and moved for reconsideration.
On June 30, 2008, Judge Karlton granted the prisoner's motion and the prisoner filed a second amended complaint with the assistance of counsel, which included the claims against White and Gomez. Rouser v. White, 2008 WL 2682687 (E.D. Cal. June 30, 2008).
On September 16, 2008, Judge Karlton denied the defendants' motion dismiss the prisoner's third and sixth causes of action. Rouser v. White, CIVS93-0767 LKK GGHP, 2008 WL 4283650 (E.D. Cal. Sept. 16, 2008). Shortly thereafter, on September 23, 2008, the prisoner filed a third amended complaint, bringing claims against four defendants, White, Gomez, Matthew Cate, Secretary of CDCR, and James A. Yates, the warden at PVSP. This complaint sued all defendants in their individual and official capacities, and the prisoner sought both damages and injunctive relief.
On May 14, 2009, this court granted in part and denied in part defendants' motion for summary judgment. The motion was denied insofar as the prisoner sought injunctive relief. Specifically, the court concluded that there was a pattern of Constitutional violations sufficient to call into question the permanence of any changes defendants had voluntarily made now. Rouser v. White, 630 F. Supp. 2d 1165, 1180 (E.D. Cal. 2009).
On December 10, 2009, Judge Karlton granted the prisoner's motion to supplement his complaint to include claims for conduct occurring after he filed his third amended complaint, specifically retaliation. The prisoner sought to add three defendants to his complaint. The prisoner alleges that defendant correctional counselors P. Ortiz ("Ortiz") and B. Flores ("Flores") retaliated against his filing of grievances and litigation of this case by placing plaintiff in administrative segregation and then causing plaintiff to be transferred from PVSP to California State Prison Los Angeles County ("LAC"). The prisoner also added defendant Brian Haws ("Haws"), warden of LAC. Rouser v. White, 2009 WL 4884264 (E.D. Cal. Dec. 10, 2009).
On March 10, 2010, Judge Karlton denied the defendants' motion to dismiss the claim of retaliation asserted in the prisoner's fourth amended complaint. Judge Karlton held that the prisoner properly exhausted his administrative remedies and that the defendants were properly joined. Rouser v. White, 2010 WL 843764 (E.D. Cal. Mar. 10, 2010).
The prisoner then moved for a preliminary injunction and on April 15, 2010, Judge Karlton granted the motion as to most of the relief that the prisoner sought. The prisoner wanted to be allowed to obtain and maintain certain articles, which he characterized as religious, and to satisfy certain requirements with respect to his religious services. Rouser v. White, 707 F. Supp. 2d 1055 (E.D. Cal. 2010).
On May 18, 2010, the members of the Spotted Eagle Circle at LAC moved to intervene as a defendant in this action. They argued that the prisoner's request for preliminary injunction infringed upon the Constitutional rights of the Native American members of the Spotted Eagle Circle because part of the relief included allowing the prisoner access to a sweat lodge and fire pit used by the Native American inmates. The prisoner's use of the site would desecrate the site for the Native Americans. On May 24, 2010, Judge Karlton granted the motion to intervene and stayed enforcement of the preliminary injunction as it applied to the sweat lodge and fire pit.
On September 23, 2011, the parties submitted a joint notice and motion for an order approving settlement and transferring the venue to the Central District of California. The settlement agreement resolved the claims at issue, and the change of venue to the transferee court would serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses, and the interests of justice during the compliance and enforcement of the settlement since he had been transfered. On October 17, 2011, the Spotted Eagle Circle filed a statement of non-opposition to the settlement agreement and the transfer of venue. On October 18, 2011, Judge Karlton approved the settlement and the motion to transfer venue.
On November 15, 2012, Judge R. Gary Klausner granted in part and denied in part the prisoner's motion to enforce the consent decree. Judge Klausner found support for only two of the prisoner's eight alleged violations: damage to his religious property when in the defendants' control and failure to follow proper inmate appeals procedures.
On November 28, 2012, Judge Klausner denied the prisoner's motion for an injunction, evidentiary hearing, and sanctions because the prisoner failed to comply with the appeals process required by the consent decree.
On March 13, 2013, Judge Klausner granted the defendants' motion to vacate the October 18, 2011, order approving the settlement and dismissed the case with prejudice because the defendants had shown that they had substantially complied with the terms of the settlement agreement. The prisoner appealed, and the appeal to the 9th Circuit is ongoing. Jessica Kincaid - 07/07/2014