United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
KAREN L. STROMBOM, Magistrate Judge.
Before the Court is Defendant Pierce County's motion for summary judgment. Dkt. 124. Plaintiff Ronald Holtz is currently confined at the Washington Department of Corrections. This lawsuit was filed on February 9, 2012, while he was in custody at the Pierce County Jail. Pierce County and the other named defendants filed two successive motions to dismiss which the Court granted in part, dismissing all of Mr. Holtz's claims except his religion-based claims against Pierce County.
Defendant Pierce County's motion for summary judgment was originally filed on November 14, 2014 and noted for consideration on December 19, 2014. Dkt. 124. Mr. Holtz's deadline to respond to the motion was extended twice - the first time until February 6, 2015 and the second time until March 6, 2015. Dkts. 140 and 142. Mr. Holtz has had over three months to respond to the motion. His third request for an extension was denied. Dkts. 146.
The undersigned recommends that Pierce County's motion for summary judgment be granted and this lawsuit dismissed with prejudice.
A. Facts Pertaining to Exhaustion
The Pierce County Jail has a four-step process for inmates seeking review of an issue. In 2012, the Inmate Grievance Process instructed inmates as follows:
Steps Inmates Should Follow For Resolving a Grievance:
1. Request resolution assistance from unit officer. If not resolved, proceed to step #2.
2. Submit a KITE to the appropriate supervisor to address the inmate's issue. Kites must be submitted within 10 days of the date the issue of concern occurred.
The supervisor will respond within 10 working days. If not resolved, proceed to step #3.
3. When the inmate receives a reply from the supervisor on the returned kite, the inmate may grieve the response on a grievance form. The time limit for filing a grievance is 25 days from the date of the original request/kite.
The supervisor will respond within 10 working days. If not resolved proceed to step #4.
4. An inmate may appeal the grievance response within 20 calendar days from the date the responder signed the grievance form. The appeal may address only the issue in the original grievance. Specific reason for appeal must be stated and appeals may not be combined.
The supervisor of the responder will respond within 10 working days of the appeal receipt.
If steps 1 through 3 are not followed the kite/grievance may be rejected.
Inmates may be sanctioned for submitting false or frivolous grievances.
Kites or grievances will be rejected for inappropriate or threatening language.
Kites or grievances will be rejected if they have spills or unknown substances on them.
One issue is allowed per kite or grievance or the kite or grievance may be rejected.
An inmate may not submit a kite or grievance on behalf of another inmate.
A kite or grievance may not be filed by a group of inmates.
If additional space is needed additional sheets may be added.
Dkt. 127, Declaration of Maureen Weber, Program Coordinator, Pierce County Sheriff's Office, at 2:17, Exhibit A ("Inmate Grievance Process").
Mr. Holtz received a copy of the Inmate Grievance Process in October 2009 in response to a grievance. Dkt. 130, Declaration of Steven Jones, Pierce County Jail Correctional Lieutenant, at 2, Exhibit A, p. 4. In January 2012, Mr. Holtz requested and received his own personal copy of the Inmate Handbook, which contains a copy of the Inmate Grievance Process. Dkt. 145, Declaration of Katherine Miller, Pierce County Correctional Sergeant, at 3:24-4:7. According to Sergeant Miller, a copy of the Inmate Handbook was already available for review in Mr. Holtz's jail unit. Id., Miller Declaration, at 4:2-5. In March 2012, Mr. Holtz received two additional copies of the Grievance Process, each in response to grievances he had filed. Dkt. 127, Declaration of Maureen Weber, Program Coordinator Pierce County Sheriff's Department, at 2:17-21; Dkt. 128, Declaration of Martha Karr, Captain Pierce County Sheriff's Department, at 2:4-9.
Mr. Holtz used the inmate grievance process many times during his various periods of confinement at the Pierce County Jail. From 2009 to 2012, he filed 56 grievances, and he filed appeals of the grievance responses he received in 48 of these instances. Dkt. 127, Weber Declaration, at 3:17-19. Mr. Holtz filed 25 of these grievances in 2012 alone. Id., at 3:19-20.
Only five of the grievances filed pertained to religion-based claims. Id., at 4:6-22. Pierce County Jail Chaplain Richard Odegard worked with Mr. Holtz with his religion-based concerns. Chaplain Odegard was employed from 1999 to 2011 as the Pierce County Jail's chaplain and thereafter, he became the jail's program coordinator. Dkt. 126, Declaration of Richard Odegard, at 1:23-25. He retired from Pierce County in May 2013, but he continues to perform volunteer work in the Pierce County Jail on a regular basis. Id., at 1:25-2:1. Chaplain Odegard was the supervisor with regard to religion-based issues. Id., at 2:23-24; Dkt. 127, Weber Declaration, at Exhibit A.
During the times that Mr. Holtz was incarcerated at the Pierce County Jail, he communicated many times with Chaplain Odegard about his religion-based concerns and requests. Dkt. 126, Odegard Decl., at 2:2-4. Chaplain Odegard believes it is possible that he spent more time during his career at Pierce County working with Ronald Holtz than with any other inmate. Id., at 2:4-6. Chaplain Odegard received kites and other communications from Mr. Holtz concerning issues such as Halal meals, Ramadan fasting, requests for an extra towel to use as a prayer rug (which were provided to him), Muslim reading material, and requests to be placed in communication with specific clergy or religious advisors. Id., at 2:8-14.
Chaplain Odegard recalls only one instance when Mr. Holtz requested a grievance form. Dkt. 126, Odegard Declaration, at 3:8-9. In July 2012, Chaplain Odegard sent Mr. Holtz and other Muslim inmates an erroneous notification concerning the start date of Ramadan and when Chaplain Odegard discovered his error, he sent inmates a correction notice. Mr. Holtz requested a grievance form over the error apparently prior to receiving Chaplain Odegard's correction. Id., Odegard Declaration, at 3:10-4:8.
Mr. Holtz raises numerous religion-based allegations in this lawsuit. However, he filed no grievances with ...