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Hypolite v. CDCR

April 27, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kendall J. Newman United States Magistrate Judge


I. Introduction

Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding without counsel, with a claim brought under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA).*fn1 Pending before the court are defendants' motion for summary judgment, filed on April 3, 2009, to which plaintiff filed his opposition on April 22, 2009. Defendants filed a reply on April 29, 2009.

On March 5, 2010, the court ordered the parties to brief the issue whether monetary damages are legally recoverable under RLUIPA against defendants in their individual or official capacities. Both parties have timely filed briefs.

For the reasons that follow, it is recommended that summary judgment be granted for defendants and this case be closed.

II. Complaint

In his amended complaint, plaintiff challenges the grooming regulation implemented in 1997 by the California Department of Corrections, now the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). That regulation restricted the length of a male inmate's hair as follows:

A male inmate's hair shall not be longer than three inches and shall not extend over the eyebrows or below the top of the shirt collar while standing upright. Hair shall be cut around the ears, and sideburns shall be neatly trimmed, and shall not extend below the mid-point of the ear. The width of the sideburns shall not exceed one and one-half inches and shall not include flared ends.

Cal. Code of Regs., tit.15 § 3062(e) (1997).

In his amended complaint, plaintiff alleges that he is of the Rastafarian faith and that a fundamental tenet of that faith prohibits the cutting of his hair. Amended Complaint (Am. Compl.), Dkt. No. 10, at 2. Plaintiff alleges that while incarcerated at the California Medical Facility (CMF), he was charged with several rule violations between October of 2001 and August of 2005 for failing to comply with the challenged grooming regulation. Id. at 2-6. Specifically, plaintiff alleges that Rule Violation Reports (RVRs) were issued against him for violating California Code of Regulations, title 15 § 3062 on October 19, 2001, February 17, 2005, March 30, 2005, May 25, 2005, and August 17, 2005. Id. Plaintiff contends that the final August 17, 2005 rule violation report was reissued on September 21, 2005, and that on September 22, 2005, he was found guilty of violating the challenged grooming regulation. Id. at 5-6. Plaintiff also alleges that from February of 2005 through November of 2005 he notified various prison officials, including CDCR Director Tilton, Warden Schwartz, Associate Warden O'Ran, Appeals Coordinator Grannis and others, of the RVRs being issued against him and requested, among other things, that the charges be withdrawn or at least be held in abeyance until there was a final ruling on the regulation by the courts. Id. at 6-8.

Twelve defendants remain in this action. Those defendants are the correctional officers who issued the RVRs, the prison officials who found plaintiff guilty of the rule violations following disciplinary hearings, the warden and associate wardens of CMF, the officials who reviewed plaintiff's administrative appeals, the Director of CDCR and the Chief of the Inmate Appeals Branch. Plaintiff seeks the following relief: (1) that the disciplinary actions relating to his grooming violations be expunged from his CDCR records;*fn2 (2) nominal and compensatory damages in the amount of $100,000 from each defendant; and (3) punitive damages from each defendant. Id. at 13.

III. Motion for Summary Judgment

Legal Standard Summary judgment is appropriate when it is demonstrated that the standard set forth in Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c) is met. "The judgment sought shall be rendered forthwith if . . . there is no genuine issue as to any material fact, and . . . the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c).

Under summary judgment practice, the moving party 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 the affidavits, if any," ...

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