The opinion of the court was delivered by: CHARLES KOCORAS, District Judge
This matter comes before the court on the motion of Defendants
Kenneth Briley, Marilyn Coutee, Joseph Quijano, Robert Griffin,
Darrin Hunter, James Tsoulos, Alex Jones, Robert Catchings, and
Tracey Engelson to dismiss the amended complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.Proc. 12(b)(6). For the reasons set
forth below, the motion is denied.
Defendants are employed by the Illinois Department of
Corrections ("IDOC") in various capacities.*fn1 Plaintiff
James Clark was an inmate at Stateville Correctional Facility. He
claims to be a practicing Rastafarian. As part of his beliefs, he
maintains uncut hair in dreadlocks. In October 2002, Clark was
advised that he would have to cut his hair in accordance with an
IDOC policy allowing an "individual grooming requirement" to be
applied to inmates whose hairstyles met certain criteria. Clark
agreed to allow guards to employ various means of searching his
hair for contraband but repeatedly refused to comply with the
mandate to cut it, citing his religious beliefs. After several
refusals, Clark was shackled and forcibly required to submit to
the haircut. In addition, Clark was disciplined in various ways
as a result of his refusal to cut his hair.
The complaint alleges that Clark filed several grievances
protesting his treatment, but none produced any response. Clark
also alleges that he filed an appeal and completed the grievance
procedure. He filed the instant suit in June 2003, seeking relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for impingement of his First
Amendment right to practice his religion.*fn2 Defendants now
move to dismiss his suit in accordance with Rule 12(b)(6),
insisting that Clark has failed to state a claim upon which
relief can be granted.
A Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss is used to test the legal
sufficiency of a complaint. Gibson v. City of Chicago,
910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir. 1990). In ruling on a motion to dismiss, a
court must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the
plaintiff, construe allegations of a complaint in the light most
favorable to the plaintiff, and accept as true all well-pleaded
facts and allegations in the complaint. Bontkowski v. First
Natl. Bank of Cicero, 998 F.2d 459, 461 (7th Cir. 1993);
Perkins v. Silverstein, 939 F.2d 463, 466 (7th Cir. 1991). The
allegations of a complaint "should not be dismissed for failure
to state a claim unless it appears beyond doubt that the
plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which
would entitle him to relief." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41,
45-46 (1957). With these principles in mind, we turn to the
motion at hand DISCUSSION
Defendants first focus on Clark's compliance with the
administrative exhaustion requirement of the Prisoner Litigation
Reform Act ("PLRA"). The PLRA provides that
[n]o action shall be brought with respect to prison
conditions under section 1983 of this title, or any
other Federal law, by a prisoner confined in any
jail, prison, or other correctional facility until
such administrative remedies as are available are
42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a).
Defendants contend that Clark did not follow the procedures
established within the Illinois Administrative Code and therefore
did not exhaust his administrative remedies. 20 Ill. Adm. Code §§
504.800-504.870. In support of this argument, Defendants offer
evidence in the form of an affidavit of Jackie Miller, an IDOC
official. As detailed above, 12(b)(6) motions are to be decided
based on the contents of the complaint itself. Clark's complaint
alleges, with some degree of detail, his efforts to resolve his
issues at the administrative level, including an unequivocal
allegation that he pursued appeal. Whether these allegations are
ultimately borne out by evidentiary support is a question for
another day. At this stage of the proceedings, Clark has done
what is required to satisfy an initial examination of compliance
with the PLRA exhaustion requirement. Defendants move on from their PLRA argument to the substantive
allegations of the § 1983 claim. To state a claim for relief
under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege that only two things: 1) a
deprivation of a federal right 2) by a person acting under color
of state law. See Gomez v. Toledo, 446 U.S. 635, 640, 100 So.
Ct. 1920 (1980). Here, Clark has alleged that he was deprived of
his federal right to practice his Rastafarian beliefs by persons
acting under color of Illinois law. Defendants even concede that
the cutting of his hair imposed a substantial burden on his free
exercise of his religious beliefs. See 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-2(a).
Thus, Defendants establish that Clark has stated a viable claim,
but they attempt to prevail on their motion by setting forth
affirmative matters in support of a judgment in their favor and
offering inapplicable case law. The former cannot be properly
assessed in the absence of a fully developed factual record,
which is clearly not present during the examination of the
sufficiency of an initial pleading.
As for the latter, the first case Defendants cite, Reed v.
Faulkner, was not decided in the context of a motion to dismiss
but after a full trial on the merits. 842 F.2d 960, 962 (7th Cir.
1988). Moreover, the court in Reed did not definitively state
that no prison hair regulation could run afoul of the First
Amendment, as would be required to underpin a 12(b)(6) dismissal.
The second case, Moore-Bey v. Cohn, is an unpublished opinion,
as indicated by its inclusion in the Federal Appendix. 69 Fed. Appx. 784, 788 (7th Cir. 2002). Seventh Circuit
Rule 53 establishes that unpublished orders and opinions may not be cited
as precedent in any document filed in any court within the
Seventh Circuit, which clearly applies to this court and to
Defendants' memoranda. Accordingly, Moore-Bey has no
precedential value that could assist Defendants and should not
have been included in their brief in the first instance. Clearly,
this presentation will not carry the day.
We concluded Clark has presented a viable claim under
42 U.S.C. § 1983, and Defendants' motion to dismiss is denied.
Based on the foregoing, Defendants' motion to ...