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Echols v. Ramos

July 31, 2007

DERRICK ECHOLS, JR., PLAINTIFF,
v.
MAJOR RAMOS, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Herndon, District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff, an inmate in the Menard Correctional Center, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, which provides:

(a) Screening.-- The court shall review, before docketing, if feasible or, in any event, as soon as practicable after docketing, a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity.

(b) Grounds for Dismissal.-- On review, the court shall identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint--

(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or

(2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.

28 U.S.C. § 1915A. An action or claim is frivolous if "it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). Upon careful review of the complaint and any supporting exhibits, the Court finds it appropriate to exercise its authority under § 1915A; portions of this action are subject to summary dismissal.

Plaintiff states that when he was transferred to Menard, he was informed by Defendants Ramos and Uchtman that he would have to cut his dreadlocks. Plaintiff objected on the basis of religion -- he is a follower of the Rastafarian faith.*fn1 Defendants advised him that the grooming policy at Menard applied to all inmates, regardless of faith. He was then taken to the prison barber, where his dreadlocks were cut off despite his objections.

"[W]hen a prison regulation impinges on inmates' constitutional rights, the regulation is valid if it is reasonably related to legitimate penological interests." Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78, 107 S.Ct. 2254, 2261, 96 L.Ed.2d 64 (1987). "This is not a demanding standard." Reed v. Faulkner, 842 F.2d 960, 962 (7th Cir. 1988). As explained in Reed, if "the regulation limiting the length of male inmates' hair strikes a reasonable balance between the interest in religious liberty and the needs of prison safety and security, he must lose on his free exercise claim." Id. at 962.

At this point in the litigation, the Court is unable to dismiss Plaintiff's First Amendment claim against Ramos and Uchtman.

Plaintiff has also named the Illinois Department of Corrections as a Defendant in this action. However, the Supreme Court has held that "neither a State nor its officials acting in their official capacities are 'persons' under § 1983." Will v. Michigan Department of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989). See also Wynn v. Southward, 251 F.3d 588, 592 (7th Cir. 2001) (Eleventh Amendment bars suits against states in federal court for money damages); Billman v. Indiana Department of Corrections, 56 F.3d 785, 788 (7th Cir. 1995) (state Department of Corrections is immune from suit by virtue of Eleventh Amendment); Hughes v. Joliet Correctional Center, 931 F.2d 425, 427 (7th Cir. 1991) (same); Santiago v. Lane, 894 F.2d 218, 220 n. 3 (7th Cir. 1990) (same). Thus, the I.D.O.C. is not a proper defendant in this action.

DISPOSITION

IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS is DISMISSED from this action with prejudice.

The Clerk is DIRECTED to prepare Form 1A (Notice of Lawsuit and Request for Waiver of Service of Summons) and Form 1B (Waiver of Service of Summons) for Defendants RAMOS and UCHTMAN. The Clerk shall forward those forms, USM-285 forms submitted by Plaintiff, and ...


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