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Thomas v. Winters

March 8, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Harold A. Baker United States District Judge

Order Granting Summary Judgment

The plaintiff alleges the defendants violated his rights to practice his religion under the Constitution and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act when they forced him to cut his dreadlocks.*fn1 For the reasons below, the Court concludes that the haircut was the least restrictive means of furthering a compelling governmental interest in the security of the prison., and was not carried out in a manner that might violate the Eighth Amendment. Summary judgment must therefore be granted to the defendants and this case closed.

Summary Judgment Standard

A party moving for summary judgment must show, from the "pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, . . ." that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the "moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Outlaw v. Newkirk, 259 F.3d 833, 837 (7th Cir. 2001), citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986);Fed. R. Civ. P.56©; Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Herman v. National Broadcasting Co., Inc., 744 F.2d 604, 607 (7th Cir. 1984), cert. denied, 470 U.S. 1028 (1985). This burden can be satisfied by "'showing'--that is, pointing out to the district court--that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325. If such a showing is made, the burden shifts to the non-movant to "set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e); Outlaw, 259 F.3d at 837. A nonmoving party cannot rest on its pleadings, but must demonstrate that there is admissible evidence that will support its position. Tolle v. Carroll Touch, Inc., 23 F.3d 174, 178 (7th Cir. 1994).

In determining whether factual issues exist, the court must view all the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Beraha v. Baxter Health Corp., 956 F.2d 1436, 1440 (7th Cir. 1992). However, Rule 56© "mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322.

Undisputed Facts

The plaintiff does not state which of the defendants' proposed undisputed facts he disputes, if any. Accordingly, they are adopted herein, to the extent supported by cites to the record. (d/e 43, pp. 2-9). Some of the undisputed facts are also taken from plaintiff's response (d/e 48 and , and are so noted.

1. Plaintiff is a follower of the Rastafarian religion.

2. Before Plaintiff's dreadlocks were cut, he had worn dreadlocks in IDOC prisons since 1998. He wore his hair in dreadlocks in Menard Correctional Center, Graham Correctional Center, Stateville Correctional Center, Pinckneyville Correctional Center, and Lawrence Correctional Center. (d/e 48, p.3).

3. In September, 2003, Plaintiff was transferred from Lawrence Correctional Center to Western Correctional Center. (d/e 48, p.3). He estimated in his deposition that he about 300 dreadlocks at that time (though he was uncertain), and his hair length was to his shoulders. Each of Plaintiff's dreadlocks were a little thinner than the width of a pencil.

4. Rastafarianism prohibits one from cutting his hair.

5. Plaintiff could not take his dreadlocks out. The only way to remove Plaintiff's dreadlocks was to cut them out.

6. When Plaintiff arrived at Western in September, 2003, he was told to take his hair down. According to the defendants' affidavits, Officer Snow reported to Defendant Parker that he (Snow) was unable to search Plaintiff's dreadlocks. (d/e 43, Ex. C, para. 8)(there is no affidavit from Snow). Parker then reported the problem to Defendant Winters (the Warden). Plaintiff responded he could not take his hair down and that dreadlocks were part of his religion. Plaintiff was told that he would then have to have his hair cut, and Plaintiff refused, asking to be transferred to a prison where his dreadlocks would not be a problem. (d/e 43, Ex. A, pp. 46-48).

7. Plaintiff was brought to Defendant Parker's Office and told that he could not have his hair in dreadlocks due ...

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