United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky
DION L. LUTHER PLAINTIFF
RANDY WHITE, et al. DEFENDANTS
L. Luther KENTUCKY STATE PENITENTIARYPRO SE
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
B. RUSSELL, SENIOR JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
matter comes before the Court upon Second Motion for Summary
Judgment filed by Defendants Randy White, Dan Smith, Terry
Peede, Jesse Coombs, Gage Rodriguez, and Skyla Grief. (R.
64). Plaintiff Dion L. Luther, proceeding pro se, has
responded, (R. 81), and the Defendants' time to reply has
long since passed. As such, this matter is ripe for
adjudication and, for the following reasons, IT IS HEREBY
ORDERED that Defendants' Motion, (R. 64), is GRANTED IN
PART AND DENIED IN PART.
its ruling on the Defendants' Second Motion for Summary
Judgment, the Court also DENIES AS MOOT Luther's Motion
for Preliminary Injunction, (R.11), and DENIES Luther's
Motion for Leave to File an Amended Complaint, (R, 24).
and pro se Plaintiff Dion Luther is a Bobo Shanti Rastafari.
(R. 1, Pl.'s Compl.). He is also a Kentucky State
Penitentiary (“KSP”) inmate. Luther alleges
various constitutional and statutory violations while
incarcerated, all concerning his Bobo Shanti Rastafarian
Luther's Initial Claims
Luther's Dreadlocks are Allegedly Forcibly
arrived at KSP on January 12, 2017 with his hair in
dreadlocks. (Id.). Upon arrival, Luther was to be
placed directly in KSP's Restrictive Housing Unit.
(Id.). During processing, Luther was approached by
Defendant Jessie Coombs and allegedly told that he must comb
his dreadlocks out. (Id.). Luther refused, asserting
that he was required to wear his hair in dreadlocks pursuant
to his Bobo Shanti Rastafarian faith. (Id.). Upon
refusal, Coombs placed Luther in a security cage.
(Id.). Once in the cage, Defendant Terry Peede again
told Luther to comb his dreadlocks out. (Id.).
Again, Luther refused on religious grounds. (Id.).
point, Peede produced a memorandum from Warden White and
showed it to Luther. (Id.). The memorandum allowed
restricted housing inmates to have long hair but stated that
inmates' hair must “remain free flowing” and
prohibited “Weaves, Corn rows, Braids, Dread Locks,
Twists, or any other hair style that would hinder or affect
the security or operations of the unit.” (R. 1
Pl.'s Compl. Ex. 1, Warden White Mem.). Along with the
memo, Peede allegedly handed Luther a comb and told him he
had thirty minutes to comb his hair out. (R. 1, Pl.'s
Compl.). Luther refused to comply. (Id.).
his thirty minutes lapsed, Luther was restrained, and his
dreadlocks were cut off by Defendant Gage Rodriguez.
(Id.). According to Luther, Rodriguez had to yank at
his dreadlocks while cutting them off, and the clippers used
were unsanitary. (Id.). Consequently, Luther
allegedly suffered lacerations to the back of his head and
developed a rash. (Id.).
alleges that the forcible removal of his dreadlocks violated
his right to religious exercise under the First Amendment and
the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act
(“RLUIPA”). (Id.). Luther further claims
that in violently cutting his hair, Gage exhibited deliberate
indifference towards his safety and subsequent medical need.
Luther's Religious Property is Allegedly
upon entering KSP, Luther claims that H.C. Vinson confiscated
his medallion and headgear. (Id.). Luther was
allegedly denied the right to send such confiscated property
home through the mail. Luther claims that he wrote a
grievance concerning the issue on January 17, 2017, but
Defendant Dan Smith never responded to the grievance.
(Id.). Instead, according to Luther, Dan Smith
thwarted his opportunity to properly take advantage of the
grievance process. (Id.).
claims that the alleged confiscation of his property violated
his rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendment, as well
as RLUIPA. (Id.).
Luther is Allegedly Denied a Turban.
to Luther, as a part of his religious faith, he is required
to wear a turban. (Id.). Allegedly, KSP Chaplin John
Neece had agreed to allow Luther to wear a turban. However,
before Luther could purchase the turban, Chaplin Neece died.
(Id.). According to Luther, Defendant Dan Smith is
now in Charge of the situation and is denying Luther a
claims that in being denied a turban, his First Amendment and
RLUIPA rights have been violated. (Id.).
Luther is Allegedly Denied a Diet in Conformity with His
to Luther, he was only served bologna, fruit, milk, and chips
during a lock-down at KSP that lasted for some weeks in July.
(Id.). Luther claims that he is prohibited from
eating bologna pursuant to his religious beliefs.
(Id.). Luther alleges that Skyla Greif informed him
that he would have to be satisfied with the substitution
offered by the kitchen, and that he would receive no special
meals. (Id.). Luther allegedly told Grief that the
substitution was what he was requesting. She then stormed
away frustrated. (Id.). Luther never claims that
Grief denied him the substitution. (See Id.).
on these allegations, Luther claims that his First, Eighth,
and Fourteenth Amendment rights have been violated. He also
claims a RLUIPA violation.
Luther is Allegedly Denied Incense.
September 6, 2018, the Court allowed Luther to supplement his
Complaint with a claim against Skyla Grief, Dan Smith, and
Chris Kleymeyer. According to Luther, the burning of incense
is integral to his Rastafarian faith. (R. 16, Pl.'s Mot.
to Supplement Claims). Skyla Grief, Dan Smith, and Chris
Kleymeyer allegedly denied him incense. (Id.).
Claims that, as such, his rights under the First Amendment
and RLUIPA have been violated. (Id.).
Claims Dismissed Pursuant to the Court's 28 U.S.C. §
Luther is an inmate seeking relief against governmental
entities, officers, and/or employees, this Court reviewed
Luther's claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.
Pursuant to that review, the Court dismissed Luther's
official-capacity claims for damages, including those arising
under RLUIPA. (R. 6). This Court also dismissed Luther's
diet related claims against Defendant Skyla Grief.
(Id.). Finally, the Court dismissed Luther's
claims against Daniel Smith related to the grievance process.
The Settlement Conference Held on January 4, 2019.
the Defendants' Second Motion for Summary Judgment had
been filed, and pursuant to the Court's referral,
Magistrate Judge King conducted a settlement conference
between the Parties on January 4, 2019. At the Settlement
conference, Luther agreed that he is currently allowed to
wear a turban. (R. 89, Judge's Report). Also at that
settlement conference, the Defendants agreed that Luther or a
third-party would be allowed to purchase frankincense or
myrrh incense and donate it to the KSP religious center, if
available from an approved vendor, for congregate use in
religious ceremonies under the supervision of the KSP
religious advisor. (Id.). As such, Judge King
recommends that Luther's claims related to incense be
judgment is appropriate where “the movant shows that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In determining whether summary judgment
is appropriate, a court must resolve all ambiguities and draw
all reasonable inferences against the moving party. See
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp.,
475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986).
every issue of fact or conflicting inference presents a
genuine issue of material fact.” Street v. J. C.
Bradford & Co., 886 F.2d 1472, 1477 (6th Cir. 1989).
The test is whether the party bearing the burden of proof has
presented a jury question as to each element in the case.
Hartsel v. Keys, 87 F.3d 795, 799 (6th Cir. 1996).
The plaintiff must present more than a mere scintilla of
evidence in support of his position; the plaintiff must
present evidence on which the trier of fact could reasonably
find for the plaintiff. See Id. (citing Anderson
v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252, 106 S.Ct.
2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986)). The plaintiff may accomplish
this by “citing to particular parts of materials in the
record” or by “showing that the materials cited
do not establish the absence . . . of a genuine dispute . . .
.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). Mere speculation will not
suffice to defeat a motion for summary judgment; “the
mere existence of a colorable factual dispute will not defeat
a properly supported motion for summary judgment. A genuine
dispute between the parties on an issue of material fact must
exist to render summary judgment inappropriate.”
Monette v. Electronic Data Sys. Corp., 90 F.3d 1173,
1177 (6th Cir. 1996).
Randy White, Dan Smith, Terry Peede, Jesse Coombs, Gage
Rodriguez, and Skyla Grief now move for summary judgment. The
Court will address the Defendants' arguments, each in
turn, as they correspond to Luther's remaining claims.
Luther's Turban Claims
initially brought claims for monetary damages against the
Defendants both in their individual and official capacities
under the First Amendment and RLUIPA. (R.1, Pl.'s
Compl.). Luther also sought an injunction from the Court,
which would allow Luther to wear a turban. This Court has
already dismissed all Luther's claims for monetary
damages against the Defendants in their official capacities.
(R. 6). Furthermore, Luther is now permitted to wear a
turban. (R. 88 Judge's Report). As such, Luther's
request for injunctive relief is now moot, as is his separate
Motion for Preliminary Injunction filed January 8, 2018, (R.
11). This leaves only Luther's First Amendment and RLUIPA
claims for monetary damages against the Defendants in their
individual capacities. The Court will start with the simpler
of the two.
RLUIPA claims for money damages against the Defendants in
their individual capacities must be dismissed. The law is
settled. RLUIPA does not allow an inmate to collect monetary
damages from defendants sued in their individual capacities.
See Hardy v. Agee, No. 14-2230, 2015 U.S. App. LEXIS