Deaton v. May et al
ORDER adopting in part and rejecting in part 3 partial report and recommendations; denying as moot 18 37 42 motions for ruling, 25 motion for order to show cause, 30 motion for ruling and motion to extend time; denying 22 motion for TRO; and adopting in its entirety 31 partial report and recommendations. The Clerk of the Court is directed to file Mr. Deaton's letter as a supplement to his complaint. Signed by Judge Kristine G. Baker on 07/09/2014. (Attachments: # 1 Supplement) (rhm)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
Case No. 2:13-cv-00136 KGB-JTK
LARRY MAY, et al.
The Court has received Proposed Findings and Recommendations from United States
Magistrate Judge Jerome T. Kearney (Dkt. No. 3). After a review of those Proposed Findings
and Recommendations, the objections filed by plaintiff Christopher Deaton (Dkt. No. 9), as well
as a de novo review of the record, the Court adopts in part and rejects in part the Proposed
Findings and Recommendations.
The Proposed Findings and Recommendations conclude that Mr. Deaton’s allegations
concerning the grievance procedure fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The
Court agrees with, and adopts, the Proposed Findings and Recommendations as to Mr. Deaton’s
claim regarding the grievance procedure, and that claim is dismissed without prejudice.
The Proposed Findings and Recommendations construe Mr. Deaton’s complaint as
alleging that defendant Larry May failed to follow properly grievance procedures and conclude
that Mr. Deaton’s allegations in this regard in his complaint fail to state a claim against Mr. May
upon which relief can be granted. Mr. Deaton objects to this characterization of his complaint.
Mr. Deaton maintains that he intends to allege that Mr. May acted with deliberate indifference to
Mr. Deaton’s health or safety by failing to respond sufficiently to several letters from Mr. Deaton
regarding his complaints against the other defendants (Dkt. No. 9, at 3). In other words, it
appears that Mr. Deaton intends to allege an Eighth Amendment claim against Mr. May based on
Mr. May’s direct participation in a constitutional violation or an alleged failure to train,
supervise, direct, or control the actions of a subordinate who caused the injury. See Tlamka v.
Serrell, 244 F.3d 628 (8th Cir. 2001); Pearl v. Dobbs, 649 F.2d 608, 609 (8th Cir. 1981). The
Court will permit Mr. Deaton to proceed on such a claim against Mr. May, as this Court has
permitted Mr. Deaton’s underlying claims for relief against the other defendants to proceed.
The Court agrees with, and adopts, the Proposed Findings and Recommendations as to
Mr. Deaton’s allegations concerning denied access to current events and a Christmas Package.
Those allegations are dismissed for failure to state a claim.
The Court rejects the Proposed Findings and Recommendations as to Mr. Deaton’s claim
based on the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (“RLUIPA”), 42
U.S.C. § 2000cc-1 et seq. The RLUIPA provides that no government shall impose a substantial
burden on the religious exercise of an inmate, even if the burden results from a rule of general
applicability, unless the government demonstrates that imposition of the burden on that person:
(1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest, and (2) is the least restrictive means
of further that compelling governmental interest. Id., § 2000cc-1(a).
Mr. Deaton alleges that his religious beliefs as a Nazarite prohibit him from cutting his
hair. This is in conflict with the grooming policy of the Arkansas Department of Correction
(“ADC”), which requires all male prisoners to keep their hair above their ears and no longer than
the middle of the nape of the neck in the back. Mr. Deaton states that current ADC policy
provides that inmates in non-compliance with the ADC grooming policy will not be written a
subsequent disciplinary while still serving a sentence for a previous violation of grooming
standards (Dkt. No. 2, at 30, 121). Mr. Deaton claims that the East Arkansas Regional Unit
(“EARU”) typically provided him an average minimum of seven days of relief between
sentences to punitive isolation. He also states that EARU custom and practice afforded him an
average of 17 days between stays in punitive isolation (Id. at 30). By contrast, Mr. Deaton
alleges that administrators at the Varner Unit, where has since been transferred, provide him only
48 hours of relief between stays in punitive isolation (Id. at 31). He claims that the transfer to
the Varner Unit violates the RLUIPA because the EARU is a “less restrictive unit” as to the
exercise of his religious beliefs (Id.).
The Proposed Findings and Recommendations conclude that Mr. Deaton fails to state a
claim under the RLUIPA because he does not allege that the shorter restriction at the Varner Unit
is improper or unconstitutional and does not specify how the shorter period of relief from
punitive isolation burdens his religious exercise, especially since he openly admits to violating
the grooming policy since 2009.
In his objections to the Proposed Findings and
Recommendations, Mr. Deaton clarifies that he is contending that the Varner Unit’s enforcement
of the grooming policy is not the least restrictive means necessary for furthering the
governmental interest here, given that the EARU enforces the grooming policy while providing
substantially longer periods of relief between disciplinary stays.
The Court recognizes, and Mr. Deaton acknowledges, that the Eighth Circuit ruled in
Fegans v. Norris, 537 F.3d 897 (8th Cir. 2008), that the ADC grooming policy withstood
scrutiny under the RLUIPA.
However, in Fegans, the Eighth Circuit did not specifically
consider a challenge to the disciplinary enforcement of the grooming policy like the challenge
Mr. Deaton now makes. More importantly, this Court notes that the Supreme Court of the
United States has recently granted certiorari to review an Eighth Circuit decision rejecting a
RLUIPA challenge to the ADC grooming policy. See Holt v. Hobbs, 509 F. App’x 561 (8th Cir.
2013) cert. granted, 134 S. Ct. 1490, cert. limited, 134 S. Ct. 1512 (2014). Although the
Supreme Court has limited certiorari in that case to reviewing under the RLUIPA the provisions
of the ADC grooming policy governing beard length, 134 S. Ct. 1512, this Court acknowledges
that the Supreme Court’s decision in that case may have implications on the analysis to be
applied in this case.
Given the distinguishing facts between Mr. Deaton’s complaint and the Eighth Circuit’s
decision in Fegans, and given the potential implications of the Supreme Court’s pending review
of the ADC grooming policy in Holt, this Court cannot say at this time that Mr. Deaton fails to
state a claim upon which relief can be granted under the RLUIPA. The Court will permit Mr.
Deaton to proceed on his RLUIPA claim.
In addition, Mr. Deaton has clarified in a letter to the Court, which is attached to this
Order, that he also intends to assert an equal protection claim based on his allegations that other
male inmates with long hair in violation of the ADC grooming policy received more favorable
treatment than Mr. Deaton. Mr. Deaton claims in his letter that no other inmate who is in noncompliance with the grooming standards received a disciplinary. Mr. Deaton’s complaint makes
a slightly different allegation, claiming that one specific inmate in non-compliance with the
grooming policy received more favorable treatment as to relief from punitive status (Dkt. No. 2,
at 6-7). The Proposed Findings and Recommendations do not consider an equal protection
claim, as they were submitted without having had the benefit of Mr. Deaton making clear that he
intends to assert an equal protection claim.
Because Mr. Deaton raises allegations in his letter to the Court that differ from those in
his complaint, the Court will construe Mr. Deaton’s letter as an amendment to his complaint and
will grant Mr. Deaton leave to amended his complaint to include these factual allegations
regarding his equal protection claim. The Clerk of the Court is directed to file Mr. Deaton’s
letter as a supplement to his complaint. The Court notes that the Eighth Circuit in Fegans
rejected an equal protection claim based on the difference in the grooming policy’s requirements
for female inmates. 537 F.3d at 906. Mr. Deaton’s claim here is distinguishable from the claim
in Fegans. The Court will permit Mr. Deaton to proceed on his equal protection claim. To the
extent Mr. Deaton attempts to raise a retaliation claim in his letter, Mr. Deaton stated a
retaliation claim in his complaint, and the Court has already permitted Mr. Deaton to go forward
on his retaliation claim (Dkt. No. 3, at 4; Dkt. No. 4, at 2).
The Court also has reviewed the second Proposed Findings and Recommendations
submitted by Judge Kearney (Dkt. No. 31).
The second Proposed Findings and
Recommendations construe Mr. Deaton’s motion for temporary restraining order as a motion for
preliminary injunction and recommend denying the motion (Dkt. No. 22). After a review of
those Proposed Findings and Recommendations, Mr. Deaton’s objections, (Dkt. No. 40), as well
as a de novo review of the record, the Court adopts the Proposed Findings and Recommendations
in their entirety.
It is therefore ordered that:
Mr. Deaton’s allegations concerning the grievance procedure are dismissed
without prejudice for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.
Mr. Deaton is permitted to proceed on his claim against defendant Larry May.
The Clerk of the Court shall prepare summons for Mr. May. The United States Marshall is
directed to serve a copy of the complaint (Dkt. No. 2), the supplement to the complaint, this
Order, and the summons on Mr. May in care of the Arkansas Board of Correction and
Community Punishment Compliance Division, P.O. Box 20550, Pine Bluff, Arkansas 716120550, without prepayment of fees and costs or security thereof.
Mr. Deaton’s allegations concerning denied access to current events and a
Christmas package are dismissed without prejudice for failure to state a claim upon which relief
can be granted.
Mr. Deaton is permitted to proceed on his claim based on the Religious Land Use
and Institutionalized Persons Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-1.
Mr. Deaton’s motion for temporary restraining order, which the Court construes
as a motion for preliminary injunction, is denied (Dkt. No. 22).
Mr. Deaton’s motions for ruling, motion for order to show cause, and motion to
extend time to serve process on Mr. May are denied as moot (Dkt. Nos. 18, 25, 30, 37, 42).
SO ORDERED this 9th day of July, 2014.
Kristine G. Baker
United States District Judge
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