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Glenn v. Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

May 14, 2018

Deon S. Glenn, Plaintiff,
v.
Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OF OPINION AND ORDER

          PATRICIA A. GAUGHAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         INTRODUCTION

         This matter is before the Court upon Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 12) and Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 13). This case arises under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”). For the reasons that follow, defendants' motion is DENIED and plaintiff's motion is GRANTED. The Court hereby grants plaintiff's request for a declaration that the grooming policies as applied to him violate RLUIPA. Defendants are hereby enjoined from enforcing such policies against plaintiff only. The Court takes no position on whether the dreadlock ban is enforceable with respect to other inmates.

         FACTS

         Plaintiff, Deon S. Glenn, brings this action against defendants, Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (“ODRC”) Director Gary C. Mohr and Trumbull Correctional Institution Warden Charmaine Bracy. Plaintiff alleges that the inmate grooming policy maintained by defendants, which prohibits dreadlocks, violates RLUIPA.

         The facts of this case are largely undisputed. Plaintiff is incarcerated at Trumbull Correctional Institute (“TCI”) where he is serving a lengthy sentence for murder and attempted murder. (ECF 12-1 at ¶ 5). Plaintiff is a “level 3” security risk, which corresponds to an inmate requiring “close security.” (Id.) Since his incarceration at TCI, plaintiff has received 28 “cases, ” which resulted in guilty findings with respect to 39 rule violations. (ECF 12-1 at ¶ 6). Plaintiff received seven violations for possession of contraband and one “weapons” violation. Id.

         Plaintiff is a practicing Rastafarian and has been since 2012. (ECF 13-6 at ¶ 2). One of the tenets of his faith includes the Nazarite vow, which prohibits the cutting of hair. According to his affidavit, Rastafarianism requires that “hair should grow and ‘lock' naturally without being cut.” (Id. at ¶ 4). Plaintiff's hair naturally grows in tight curls. As it gets longer, “the curls naturally coil together to form dreadlocks.” (Id. at ¶ 5). Braids are not an acceptable alternative. (Id. at ¶ 22). Currently, plaintiff's dreadlocks are “thinner than a wooden pencil and only extend about three inches from [his] scalp.[1]Id. at ¶ 23. He uses soap and water to keep his hair clean. (Id.).

         Ohio Administrative Code § 5120-9-25(D) governs the appearance of male prisoners. It provides as follows:

D) Haircuts shall be provided as needed. Hair shall be kept clean. Braids may be worn subject to the limitations of this rule. The following hairstyles or facial hair are not permitted: Initials, symbols, dyes, multiple parts, hair disproportionately longer in one area than another (excluding natural baldness), weaves, and dreadlocks. Other hairstyles not specifically listed herein may be prohibited if they are determined to be either a threat to security or contrary to other legitimate penological concerns, as determined by the office of prisons. If approved by the warden, an inmate may wear a wig for medical reasons or in conjunction with medical treatment.

         In addition to this policy, defendant does not dispute that a November 30, 2014 memorandum (“Memorandum”) drafted by TCI regarding hair care provides that there are “no religious exemptions” for dreadlocks. The Memorandum further defines a dreadlock as “a narrow ropelike strand of hair formed by matting that cannot be taken down easily or combed/brushed through.” According to plaintiff, he wore his hair in dreadlocks without incident until September of 2016, at which point TCI informed him that he would be required to cut his dreadlocks. Plaintiff refused on the basis that cutting his hair violated his religion. Defendant then disciplined plaintiff, including placing him in “the Hole, ” where he was unable to sleep for several days in a row. Ultimately, plaintiff conceded to have his dreadlocks cut in order to avoid further discipline.

         Thereafter, plaintiff filed this one count complaint alleging that the grooming policy violates RLUIPA. The parties cross-move for summary judgment and each opposes the other's motion.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Summary Judgment is appropriate when no genuine issues of material fact exist and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56©); see also LaPointe v. UAW, Local 600, 8 F.3d 376, 378 (6th Cir. 1993). The burden of showing the absence of any such genuine issues of material facts rests with the moving party:

[A] party seeking summary judgment always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of “the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with affidavits, ” if any, which it believes demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.

Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323 (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56©). A fact is “material only if its resolution will affect the outcome of the lawsuit.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

         Accordingly, the nonmoving party must present “significant probative evidence” to demonstrate that “there is [more than] some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.” Moore v. Philip Morris Cos., Inc., 8 F.3d 335, 340 (6th Cir.1993). The nonmoving party may not simply rely on its pleading, but must “produce evidence that results in a conflict of material fact to be solved by a jury.” Cox v. Kentucky Dep't. of Transp., 53 F.3d 146, 150 (6th Cir. 1995).

         The evidence, all facts, and any inferences that may permissibly be drawn from the facts must be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986); Eastman Kodak Co. v. Image Technical Servs., Inc., 504 U.S. 451, 456 (1992). However, “[t]he mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the plaintiff's position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the plaintiff.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252.

         Summary judgment should be granted if a party who bears the burden of proof at trial does not establish an essential element of his case. Tolton v. American Biodyne, Inc., 48 F.3d 937, 941 (6th Cir. 1995) (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322). Moreover, if the evidence is “merely colorable” and not “significantly probative, ” the court may ...


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