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Bruin v. White

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Paducah Division

January 9, 2017

BRANDON R. BRUIN PLAINTIFF
v.
WARDEN RANDY WHITE et al. DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Greg N. Stivers, Judge United States District Court

         Plaintiff Brandon R. Bruin, a convicted prisoner at the Kentucky State Penitentiary (KSP), filed a pro se complaint (DN 1) pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The complaint is before the Court for preliminary review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. For the reasons that follow, a portion of the claims will be dismissed, and a portion of the claims will continue.

         I.

         Plaintiff brings this action against the following KSP officers and employees in their individual and official capacities: Warden Randy White; Grievance Coordinator Dan Smith; Unit Administrators Roger Mitchell, Bruce Von Dewingelo, and Jill Roberts; Sergeant James R. Beeler; Case Treatment Officer Micah Melton; and Corrections Officers James Smith and Charles Crick.

         Plaintiff alleges that upon transfer to KSP on April 7, 2016, he advised KSP officers that he is a “‘proclaimed Rastafarian, and the Locks upon my head were apart of my religious Beliefs.'” He reports that he had a state-court order prohibiting the grooming of his head and that on April 11, 2016, KSP non-Defendant Unit Administrator Shea Carlson “informed me I was permitted to continue my religious practice and if I inherited any problems, to direct my opposers to her.” He reports that non-Defendant Carlson also sent an email to “all Unit Supervisors to refrain from grooming” him.

         According to Plaintiff, when KSP officers had wanted to cut his hair, he referred them to the orders and memo prohibiting the cutting of his hair and the officers would manually search his hair for contraband. Plaintiff reports that around April 12, 2016, he asked Defendant Melton to allow him to have a copy of the memorandum permitting him to retain his locks “because I felt uncomfortable with how officers were molesting and using derogatory and Bigotry statements toward my religious practices and Beliefs. Cto; Melton laughed and replied ‘Technically by [or] plicy [w] can cut it” (alterations by Plaintiff). Plaintiff reports that he was not provided with a copy of the memorandum.

         As a protection from removal of his hair, Plaintiff states that in early May 2015, he filed a grievance asking KSP “to cease the grooming of proclaimed Rastararians hair, and in addition . . . to have possession of written authorization.” On May 16, 2016, Defendant Dan Smith denied Plaintiff's informal grievance, and Plaintiff was permitted to appeal directly to the Commissioner.

         Plaintiff indicates that on May 26, 2016, he was transferred to the “‘Super Maximum' housing unit.” He alleges that on May 27, 2016, around 7:15 a.m., Defendants Crick, Mitchell, James Smith, and Beeler “approached Plaintiff's door, with a grievance allegedly Plaintiff filed, which allegedly gave authorization by KDOC Commissioner to cut Plaintiff's hair/locks.” Plaintiff was ordered to remove the dreadlocks from his head, but Plaintiff advised Defendants that “Manually they (locks) do not come down or out, So their request wasn't feasible because I could not get possession of a comb, razor or clippers.” Plaintiff reports telling Defendants about the court order and memo prohibiting the grooming his dreadlocks and indicates that Defendants Beeler and Mitchell left to review the information and to contact Defendant White. Plaintiff alleges that later in the day at around 11:14 a.m.,

[D]efendant(s) returned in mask and equiped with football like attire and x26 tasers. Defendant Beeler stated along with defendant Mitchell's Eloquence that defendant, White said “Cut it no excuses.” Plaintiff was restrained by the use of force into a restraint chair at which time Plaintiff asked defendant(s) Mitchell, Smith, Crick and Beeler: “did the want to Search his head in relation to CPP 9.8 Search Policy. All relevent defendant(s) at this time cut Plaintiff's locks Perfidy to Constitutional rights, Corrections Policy and Procedures and on Honorable Court Order.

         Plaintiff states that following the Defendants' cutting of his dreadlocks, he “noticed defendant Beeler possessed the locks in a garbage bag alone” and that when he “requested the locks be sent home to honor the covenant Separation to the lord, Beeler states: ‘These contraband around her Boy, ' with a sacastic grin, displaying no scruple and volumes of Bigotry and Solecism.” Plaintiff reports filing a few grievances following the cutting of his dreadlocks, which Defendant Dan Smith rejected.

         Plaintiff alleges several constitutional violations arising out of the cutting of his dreadlocks and failure to send them home, including a violation of the First Amendment Free Exercise Clause and the Fourteenth Amendment Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses.

         Plaintiff additionally alleges an Eighth Amendment violation by Defendants White, Von Dewingelo, Roberts, and Melton for failing to protect him from an assault by another inmate on June 11, 2016. Plaintiff claims that Defendant Dan Smith rejected his grievance filed regarding this matter.

         As relief, Plaintiff seeks damages and injunctive relief “to cease the Unlawful grooming of ...


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