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Holmes v. Miller-Stout

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma

December 21, 2017

JOEL CHRISTOPHER HOLMES, Plaintiff,
v.
MAGGIE MILLER-STOUT, MIKE DOUGLAS, and KERRY LAWRENCE, Defendants.

          ORDER ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          ROBERT J. BRYAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. Dkt. 30. The Court has considered the motion and the remainder of the file herein.

         BACKGROUND

         A. Procedural history

         Plaintiff first filed pleadings, including the initial Complaint, on February 23, 2017. Dkt. 1. The Amended Complaint, Dkt. 21, is the operative complaint.

         Defendants filed the Motion for Summary Judgment on October 27, 2017. Dkt. 30. On November 16, 2017, Plaintiff requested-and was given-an extension of time to respond to the motion. Dkts. 34, 35, 36. Plaintiff's request included substantive argument responding to Defendants' motion, so the Court has construed that pleading (Dkt. 35) as a Response to Defendants' motion.

         On November 29, 2017, the Court gave Plaintiff Rand warnings explaining the risk of dismissal if Plaintiff failed to sufficiently respond to Defendants' motion for summary judgment. Dkt. 36. See also, Dkt. 33. On December 11, 2017, Plaintiff filed a “supplementary brief of plaintiff opposing defense motion for summary judgement [sic], ” which the Court construes as a supplement to Plaintiff's Response. Dkt. 40. See Dkt. 35. Defendants filed a Reply on December 13, 2017. Dkt. 37.

         B. Factual background and claims.

         Facts recited herein are agreed or uncontested, except where noted.

         This cause of action centers on what occurred while Plaintiff was in Department of Corrections (DOC) custody, from approximately May 2013 until December 4, 2014. Dkt. 31-1. According to Plaintiff's recitation of the facts, on February 7, 2014, Defendant DOC Sargent Mike Douglas threatened Plaintiff with a forced haircut, despite Defendant Douglas' knowledge that doing so would compromise Plaintiff's Rastafarian religious beliefs. Dkt. 21 at 3. Plaintiff states that Defendant Douglas made this threat with authorization from Defendant Kerry Lawrence, DOC Corrections Unit Supervisor, who verbally threatened to “knock out” Plaintiff so that Plaintiff's hair could be cut. Id.

         Defendant Lawrence recalls a conversation with Plaintiff a few days after the February 7, 2014 incident, on February 10, 2014, where Defendant Lawrence discussed with Plaintiff complaints from “some of the unit custody staff . . . about Holmes's [sic] hygiene and the difficulty . . . searching his hair for contraband[.]” Dkt. 31 at 2. Defendant Lawrence states that in that conversation he “stressed that no . . . DOC official would force him [Plaintiff] to cut his hair.” Id. See also, Dkt. 31-1 at 8.

         On February 28, 2014, Plaintiff sent to DOC the following grievance message:

…riot at Stafford Creek. Maybe there will be one here if the South African born Douglas attempts to cut my hair again-or you and Inslee will all lose your jobs. I have had enough-The U.S. SUP CT has accepted a case on the issue . . . [of] prison hair.

Id. at 13. Based on the February 28, 2014 grievance, on March 3, 2014, Defendant Lawrence wrote an initial serious infraction report and cited Plaintiff for violating “WAC 506.” Id. at 12, 13. See WAC 137-25-030 (“506-Threatening another with bodily harm or with any offense against any person or property”). Also on March 3, 2014, Defendant Lawrence spoke with Plaintiff about the grievance, including what Defendant Lawrence called a “threat, ” Dkt. 31 at ¶7, and Plaintiff was placed Plaintiff in administrative segregation pending a disciplinary hearing.

         At a disciplinary hearing held on March 10, 2014, the administrative hearing office reduced the “WAC 506” infraction for threatening bodily harm to a “WAC 663” infraction for intimidation. Dkt. 31-1 at 14. See WAC 137-25-030 (“663-Using physical force, intimidation, or coercion against any person”). According to the administrative hearing minutes, Plaintiff told the administrative hearing officer that “Sgt Douglas did demand that I cut my hair in front of 30 other inmates. Other officers have also made similar threats.” Id. The administrative hearing officer reduced the infraction after finding that “[t]here is no evidence of offender threatening staff with bodily harm, however offender did attempt to intimidate staff.” Id. Plaintiff was released from administrative segregation on March 10, 2014. See id.

         While in DOC custody, Plaintiff filed multiple Personal Restraint Petitions (PRPs) to prevent DOC from cutting his hair. The Washington State Court of Appeals granted a preliminary request for relief, but later dismissed the PRP as moot because DOC represented it had no present or future intent to cut Plaintiff's hair. Dkt. 32-1 at 10. The second PRP was dismissed at the outset, id. at 32, and similar appeals of the PRPs failed. Id. at 51, 66, 68. A letter from Defendant DOC Superintendent Maggie Miller-Stout to Plaintiff written on January 6, 2014, underlines DOC's official position about Plaintiff's haircut. The letter addresses a “situation where an officer conducted a pat search . . . [and] made a comment that your hair was an obstacle to search[, ]” which, according to the letter, is an opinion that falls within DOC policy, which allows “the Superintendent [Defendant Miller-Stout] to restrict hair styles that present a security risk.” The letter emphasized that “[a]t this time, a directive for your hair to be cut has not been issued, nor is it being considered.” Id. at 5. The Amended Complaint alleges “connivance” on the part of Defendant Miller-Stout to get rid of Plaintiff's hair. Dkt. 21 at 3.

         Plaintiff was released from DOC custody on December 4, 2014, and according to DOC records, Plaintiff was released without a supervision requirement. Dkt. 31-1 at 18, 19. The Amended Complaint alleges that on August 13, 2015, Plaintiff was subjected to a forced haircut by “WA DOC Post-Release Transitional Housing Facility, Pioneer Human Services-PHS-Hudson House.” Dkt. 21 at 3 (internal quotations omitted). Plaintiff still resides at the Hudson House. See Dkt. 35 at 1.

         The Amended Complaint does not allege discrete claims, but Plaintiff brings this case pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983 and the Religious Land Use & Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA). The Amended Complaint seeks “financial compensation for WA DOC/PHS [Pioneer Human Services] forced haircuts in violate of my sincere religious beliefs (Rastafarian). Injunctive relief barring any MORE forced haircutting of me[sic].” Dkt. 21 at 4 (internal quotations and omitted).

         SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

         Summary judgment is proper only if the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). The moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law when the nonmoving party fails to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of a claim in the case on which the nonmoving party has the burden of proof. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1985). There is no genuine issue of fact for trial where the record, taken as a whole, could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986)(nonmoving party must present specific, significant probative evidence, not simply “some metaphysical doubt.”). See also Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e). Conversely, a genuine dispute over a material fact exists if there is sufficient evidence supporting the claimed factual dispute, requiring a judge or jury to resolve the differing versions of the truth. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 .S. 242, 253 (1986); T.W. Elec. Service Inc. v. Pacific Electrical Contractors Association, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987).

         The determination of the existence of a material fact is often a close question. The court must consider the substantive evidentiary burden that the nonmoving party must meet at trial - e.g., a preponderance of the evidence in most civil cases. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 254, T.W. Elect. Service Inc., 809 F.2d at 630. Any factual issues of controversy must be resolved in favor of the nonmoving party only when the facts specifically attested by that party contradict facts specifically attested by the moving party. The nonmoving party may not merely state that it will discredit the moving party's evidence at trial, in the hopes that evidence can be developed at trial to support the claim. T.W. Elect. Service Inc., 809 F.2d at 630 (relying on Anderson, supra). ...


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