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Karvia A. Hamilton v. M. Erhardt

August 9, 2011

KARVIA A. HAMILTON,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
M. ERHARDT, J. CARTWRIGHT, JAMES CONWAY, W. MURRAY, AND BRIAN FISCHER, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Charles J. Siragusa United States District Judge

DECISION AND ORDER

INTRODUCTION

Karvia A. Hamilton ("Plaintiff"), a prison inmate in the custody of the New York State Department of Correctional Services ("DOCS"), brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Sergeant M. Erhardt ("Erhardt"), Corrections Officer J. Cartwright ("Cartwright"), Superintendent James Conway ("Conway"), Lieutenant W. Murray ("Murray"), and DOCS Commissioner Brian Fischer ("Fischer"), for alleged violations of his rights under the First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments. (Docket No [# 1]). Now before the Court is Defendant‟s motion to dismiss. (Docket No [# 4]). For the reasons that follow, the motion to dismiss is granted in part and denied in part.

BACKGROUND

Unless otherwise noted the following facts are taken from the complaint and are assumed to be true for purposes of this motion. At all times relevant Plaintiff was housed at Attica Correctional Facility ("Attica"). Plaintiff is a member of the Rastafarian religion, and his DOCS records indicate that fact. (Docket No [# 8] pg 6). One established tenet of the Rastafarian religion is the belief against trimming beards.

Directive 4914 of the New York Official Compilation of Codes, Rules and Regulations, generally prohibits inmates from growing their beards longer than one-inch. However, the Directive states that an inmate may grow a beard longer than one inch if the inmate is granted an exemption based upon his documented membership in a religion which has a tenet against the trimming of beards. Inmates who are granted exemptions are issued beard permits by the Deputy Commissioner for Correctional Facilities. Specifically, Directive 4914 states, in pertinent part:

Beards and Mustaches: An inmate may grow a beard and/or mustache, but beard/mustache hair may not exceed one (1) inch in length unless

a. the inmate has a court order restraining the Department from enforcement; or

b. the inmate has requested and received an exemption based upon his or her documented membership in a religion which has an established tenet against the trimming of beards including but not limited to inmates who are Rastafarian, Orthodox Jew or Muslim. All inmate requests for such exemption shall be referred to and reviewed by Counsel‟s Office after consultation with the facility chaplain. After such review, Counsel‟s Office will make a recommendation to the Deputy Commissioner for Correctional Facilities. If the request is approved by the Deputy Commissioner for Correctional Facilities, a permit will be issued to the inmate.

Further, pending Counsel‟s Office determination of requests for exemption from the one (1) inch rule, inmates shall not be required to cut or time their beards, or [be] disciplined for refusing the order to shave or subject to repeat orders to shave.

An inmate who refuses to comply with this rule will be given 14 days from the date of the written order to shave in which to request an exemption. If the inmate fails to submit a request for an exemption within 14 days, he may be disciplined for refusal to obey such order.

Copies of the written order, an inmate‟s request for exemption and the exemption will be filed in the inmate‟s legal file. (DOCS Inmate Grooming Standards, Docket No [#8], 11). On January 19, 2007 Plaintiff requested an exemption to the general beard rule, but never received approval or a permit. (Docket No [#8], pg 8). Plaintiff apparently also made another such request, the date of which is unclear.

On October 10, 2008 Erhardt told Plaintiff that if Plaintiff did not cut his beard to comply with Directive 4914, he would not be allowed in Attica‟s recreation yard. (Docket No [#1], pg 6). Plaintiff told Erhardt that growing his hair and beard was part of his religious beliefs, but Erhardt said that he did not care. Id. Cartwright was present at the time and laughed at Erhardt‟s comments. Id.*fn1 Erhardt then ordered Plaintiff back to his cell without allowing him any time in the recreation yard. Id.*fn2

On October 12, 2008 Cartwright denied Plaintiff access to the recreation yard, after Plaintiff failed to produce a beard exemption permit. (Docket No [#1], pg 6). Cartwright asked Plaintiff if he had the required permit, and Plaintiff responded by saying that he did not need a permit because it was part of his Rastafarian religion to refrain ...


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