United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division
SHARON M. HALL, Plaintiff,
JANET CONOVER, et al., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
Gregory F. Van Tatenhove United States District Judge
Sharon M. Hall is a prisoner incarcerated at the Kentucky
Correctional Institute for Women (“KCIW”) in
Peewee Valley, Kentucky. Proceeding without an attorney, Ms.
Hall has filed a civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 alleging that the defendants violated her
statutory and constitutional rights to freely practice her
religion. [R. 1; R. 10.] Specifically, Ms. Hall's
Complaint alleges that KCIW's canteen does not stock and
sell unidentified hair products that she, as a Rastafarian,
needs to properly practice her faith. Ms. Hall contends that
this failure constitutes a violation of the Religious Land
Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, 42 U.S.C. §
2000cc (“RLUIPA”), and of her rights under the
First Amendment. [R. 1 at 3-4; R. 10 at 4.] The Court
previously dismissed Ms. Hall's claims seeking money
damages, but permitted the action to proceed with respect to
her request for prospective injunctive relief against the
defendants. [R. 27.]
January 26, 2018, Defendants Janet Conover, Vanessa Kennedy,
Randy Hargis, and Kenny Talbott filed a Motion for Summary
Judgment [R. 35], which was also joined by Defendant Libby
Gail [R. 36, 38]. In their motion, Defendants state that KWIC
now carries hair product which appear to be compliant with
Ms. Hall's request for Rastafari hair products, as they
are all-natural and may be used to care for dreadlocks. [R.
35.] Specifically, Defendants offer as evidence an Affidavit
of Lisa Lewis, fiscal manager at the KCIW, indicating that
canteen at the KCIW now carries the following hair care
products: Knotty Boy Dreadlock Shampoo, Lock, Twist and Braid
Gel, Olive Oil Cream Hair Dress, and Murphy's 100%
Beeswax. [R. 35-2 at ¶ 3.] Moreover, Defendants indicate
that, as these products are now on the “Master List,
” the canteen manager may simply reorder them when they
run out. [Id. at ¶ 5]. Accordingly, Defendants
argue that Ms. Hall's remaining claim for injunctive
relief is now moot. In the alternative, Defendants argue that
Ms. Hall's claim under the First Amendment and the RLUIPA
should be dismissed because she has failed to establish that
the prison has impaired the practice of her religion.
February 1, 2018, the Court entered an order directing Ms.
Hall to file a response to Defendants' motion within 45
days and warned her that, if she failed to do so, the Court
may dismiss her case for failure to prosecute, see
Fed. R. Civ. P. 41(b), or grant Defendants' motion for
any reason adequately supported by the record, see Carver
v. Bunch, 946 F.2d 451, 454-55 (6th Cir. 1991). [R. 38.]
This deadline has come and gone and Ms. Hall has not filed
any response or taken any other action in this case. Ms. Hall
was specifically warned that her failure to file a response
may result in the dismissal of her case for failure to
prosecute. Dismissal is generally warranted where the party
fails to act in the face of a clear prior warning that the
case would be dismissed. Bowles v. City of
Cleveland, 129 F. App'x 239, 244 (6th Cir. 2005).
Thus, Ms. Hall's failure to respond alone would justify
dismissal of her Complaint.
in the interest of completeness and finality, the Court will
consider the substantive arguments set forth by Defendants in
their Motion for Summary Judgment. A motion under Rule 56 of
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure challenges the viability
of another party's claim by asserting that at least one
essential element of that claim is not supported by
legally-sufficient evidence. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Celotex
Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324- 25 (1986). A party
moving for summary judgment must establish that, even viewing
the record in the light most favorable to the nonmovant,
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that
the party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.
Loyd v. St. Joseph Mercy Oakland, 766 F.3d 580, 588
(6th Cir. 2014). The burden then shifts to the nonmoving
party to “come forward with some probative evidence to
support its claim.” Lansing Dairy, Inc. v.
Espy, 39 F.3d 1339, 1347 (6th Cir.1994). However, if the
responding party's allegations are so clearly
contradicted by the record that no reasonable jury could
adopt them, the court need not accept them when determining
whether summary judgment is warranted. Scott v.
Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007). The Court must grant
summary judgment if the evidence would not support a jury
verdict for the responding party with respect to at least one
essential element of his claim. Johnson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251 (1986).
in order to prevail on her RLUIPA claim, Ms. Hall must first
show that the government “substantially burdened”
her exercise of religion. 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-1(a).
See also Holt v. Hobbs, __ U.S. __, 135 S.Ct. 853,
862 (2015). Similarly, her First Amendment claim requires an
inquiry into whether a prison regulation “substantially
infringes” on Ms. Hall's First Amendment rights.
Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78, 89 (1987). However,
Ms. Hall has failed to provide the Court with any evidence or
explanation regarding what her specific religious hair care
requirements are. Thus, there is no information before the
Court which would permit it to conclude that Ms. Hall's
religious rights have been substantially burdened or
otherwise infringed upon. Accordingly, Defendants' Motion
for Summary Judgment with respect to Ms. Hall's RLUIPA
and First Amendment claims will be granted.
Defendants have submitted evidence that hair products
appearing to meet Ms. Hall's request for hair products
that would enable her to care for her dreadlocks have been
ordered and are now available through the canteen at the
KWIC. Because Ms. Hall did not file a substantive response to
the defendants' motion, the Court accepts the
defendants' factual assertions as true. Guarino v.
Brookfield Tp. Trustees, 980 F.2d 399, 404-05 (6th Cir.
1992). Thus, as Ms. Hall is now being provided with the hair
care products that she requires, her request for prospective
injunctive relief is moot. Jaami v. Compton, 248
F.3d 1149 (6th Cir. 2000)(Table)(“This change in the
prison policy renders [plaintiff's] requests for
declaratory and injunctive relief moot because no need exists
for this court to issue an injunction when prison authorities
have voluntarily changed the allegedly unconstitutional
practice.”)(citing Kellogg v. Shoemaker, 46
F.3d 503, 507 (6th Cir.1995)).
it is hereby ORDERED as follows:
1. Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment [R.
35] is GRANTED;
2. Plaintiff's Complaint [R. 1; R. 10]
is DISMISSED WITH ...