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Barrett v. State

United States District Court, D. Oregon

May 7, 2015

JACOB BARRETT, Plaintiff,
v.
STATE OF OREGON; KATE BROWN[1], Governor of Oregon; OREGON DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS; COLLETTE PETERS, Director of ODOC; KARIN POTTS, ICC Coordinator for ODOC; R. SCHMIDT, ICC Coordinator, Defendants.

Jacob Barrett, C07320, Santa Rosa Correctional Institution Annex, Milton, FL, Plaintiff Pro Se.

Shannon M. Vincent, OREGON DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Trial Division, CLS, Salem, OR, Attorney for Defendants.

ORDER

MARCO A. HERNNDEZ, District Judge.

Pro se Plaintiff Jacob Barrett brings this action against Defendants State of Oregon; Kate Brown, Governor of Oregon; Oregon Department of Corrections (ODOC); Collette Peters, Director of ODOC; Karin Potts, Interstate Compact Coordinator (ICC) for ODOC[2]; and R. Schmidt, ICC Coordinator. Plaintiff is an ODOC inmate housed in the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) pursuant to the Interstate Corrections Compact (ICC). See Or. Rev. Stat. §§ 421.245, 421.250. Plaintiff seeks relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of his rights under the United States Constitution's First and Fourteenth Amendments and Article I, Section 8 of the Oregon Constitution; and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, 42 USC §§ 2000cc- 2000cc-5 (2000). Defendants move to dismiss Plaintiff's claims.

The essence of Plaintiff's claims is that the transfer to and continued confinement in Florida substantially burdens Plaintiff's religious exercise and free speech rights. Because a state court judgment on the same issues has already been entered, Plaintiff is precluded from relitigating the issues. Accordingly, the Court dismisses Plaintiff's complaint.

BACKGROUND

The following facts are taken from Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, [27]. Since May 2007, Plaintiff has been transferred by ODOC to Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Florida. Am. Compl. 9, n.1. According to Plaintiff, Defendants knew or should have known about Plaintiff's religious faith before transferring him to Florida. Id. at 8.

Plaintiff practices the faith of Druidism; specifically, he practices "Glefiosa (Bright Knowledge') or what is often referred to as Celtic Shamanism, a sect within the broader Druid faith." Id. at 11. The following are central aspects of Plaintiff's faith: (1) using religious items in routine rituals and holy day observances; (2) possessing religious items including a "les bag" (medicine bag), "crane-bag", altar cloth, oak wood "rune set and rune bag", ritual bowl, various herbs, and a "Dudeen" (ceremonial pipe); (3) creating art, specifically "paño art[3]"; and (4) sharing his faith with others and participating in political and social justice issues, including by receiving publications with political articles by prisoners and participating in pen-pal services. Id. at 11, 19-21, 24-25.

During his time in FDOC custody, Plaintiff has been unable to exercise central aspects of his faith. FDOC denied Plaintiff access to the religious items described above. Id. at 15. A piece of Plaintiff's paño art was confiscated and now Plaintiff cannot create paño art because "FDOC has a blanket ban on both paño art and art in general." Id. at 21. Plaintiff cannot receive "Black and Pink, " a newspaper produced for prisoners which has pen-pal advertisements and political articles because "the FDOC as a matter of policy and practice prohibits political articles by prisoners and publications with pen-pal services." Id. at 24. Plaintiff alleges that he has exhausted his administrative remedies within FDOC and ODOC. Id. at 15-18, 22-23, 26-27.

STANDARDS

A motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of the claims. Navarro v. Block, 250 F.3d 729, 732 (9th Cir. 2001). "All allegations of material fact are taken as true and construed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party." Am. Family Ass'n, Inc. v. City & Cnty. of S.F., 277 F.3d 1114, 1120 (9th Cir. 2002). However, the court need not accept conclusory allegations as truthful. See Warren v. Fox Family Worldwide, Inc., 328 F.3d 1136, 1139 (9th Cir. 2003) ("[W]e are not required to accept as true conclusory allegations which are contradicted by documents referred to in the complaint, and we do not necessarily assume the truth of legal conclusions merely because they are cast in the form of factual allegations.") (internal quotation marks, citation, and alterations omitted). Rather, to state a plausible claim for relief, the complaint "must contain sufficient allegations of underlying facts" to support its legal conclusions. Starr v. Baca, 652 F.3d 1202, 1216 (9th Cir. 2011).

A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) will be granted if a plaintiff alleges the "grounds" of his "entitlement to relief" with nothing "more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action[.]" Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). "Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact)[.]" Id. (citations and footnote omitted).

To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint "must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face[, ]" meaning "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal quotation marks omitted). Additionally, "only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss." Id. at 679. A complaint must contain "well-pleaded facts" which "permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct[.]" Id. at 679.

"A document filed pro se is to be liberally construed, ' and a pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.'" Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)) (citations omitted).

DISCUSSION

Plaintiff brings seven claims against Defendants. All of Plaintiff's claims allege that, due to his transfer and assignment to custody in FDOC, Plaintiff has been denied free speech rights and religious exercise rights that he would have if he were in custody in Oregon. Plaintiff asserts that Defendants, all of whom are Oregon government agencies or employees, expressly approved of the denial of Plaintiff's rights. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants knew or should have known that Plaintiff's rights would be violated while in FDOC custody.

Defendants move to dismiss Plaintiff's claims. Relying on the doctrine of issue preclusion, Defendants argue that Plaintiff's claims are precluded by two Oregon state court cases filed by Plaintiff that are currently pending. Even if Plaintiff's claims are not precluded, Defendants argue that Plaintiff's claims should be dismissed because Defendants are not responsible for FDOC's conditions of confinement. Additionally, Defendants argue that Plaintiff's state law claim invoking the Oregon Constitution cannot move forward in this Court. Finally, and alternatively, Defendants move the Court for an order abstaining from hearing the case in light of Plaintiff's pending state cases.

The Court finds that the issues raised in Plaintiff's complaint are precluded by Plaintiff's state habeas corpus case. Thus, the Court dismisses the action without ...


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