Lindquist v. City of Coral Gables

Citation323 F. Supp. 1161
Decision Date04 March 1971
Docket NumberCiv. No. 70-979.
PartiesOran J. LINDQUIST, Plaintiff, v. CITY OF CORAL GABLES, a municipal corporation, C. L. Dressel, individually and as Mayor of the City of Coral Gables, and Paul T. Matheson, individually and as Chief of the City of Coral Gables Fire Department, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of Florida

Jack P. Attias, of Bretan, Marks & Attias, Miami, Fla., for plaintiff.

Charles H. Spooner, City Atty., and Robert D. Zahner, Asst. City Atty., Coral Gables, Fla., for defendants.


ATKINS, District Judge.

This is a case where the City of Coral Gables, an affluent bedroom community in South Florida, urges that it is essential in maintaining safety, order and discipline to require that members of its fire department not wear sideburns extending below the earlobes. A violator of this policy now brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. Sections 1981, 1983, 1985(3) and 28 U.S.C. Sections 1331, 1343, 2201 and 2202 seeking compensatory damages and reinstatement as a firefighter with the City of Coral Gables. Before reaching the legal contentions involved, it is helpful to sketch a brief factual history of this case.

Plaintiff Oran J. Lindquist was employed as a firefighter in the City of Coral Gables on or about February 20, 1967. It is uncontroverted that prior to the confrontation regarding his sideburns, Plaintiff maintained an exemplary record with the Department. His employment record is without any complaint of misconduct, unlawful behavior, breach of responsibility or other improper attitude or conduct on his part.

On March 4, 1969 a memorandum was issued from the Office of Coral Gables Fire Chief Paul T. Matheson which sought to interpret a standing provision of the Departmental Rules and Regulations. Section V, Paragraph C, Item 21 of the Rules states as follows:

Members shall be clean shaven, neat and clean in their attire and exemplary in all matters regarding personal appearances whenever they are in dress or fatigue uniform.

In the March 4 communication, Chief Matheson declared that "The wearing of long hair, mustaches, beards, mutton chop sideburns or sideburns extending below earlobes are not regarded as exemplary personal appearance and are therefore prohibited in the Coral Gables Fire Department."

September 12, 1969 brought the first of three meetings between Lindquist and his fire department supervisors concerning the length of Lindquist's sideburns. At none of these meetings did anyone attempt to justify the departmental interdict against sub-earlobe sideburns on the basis of safety. On the contrary, the only explanation of the sideburn requirement was to refer Lindquist to Chief Matheson's regulation clarification of March 4, 1969. When Lindquist failed to reduce the length of his sideburns1, he was suspended by Chief Matheson on September 17, 1969. Efforts by Plaintiff to appeal his suspension to the Coral Gables Trial Board and the Coral Gables Commission were unsuccessful.

At the outset, it should be noted that all counsel are in agreement as to the fundamental question facing this Court. That is, whether or not the City of Coral Gables has demonstrated a reasonable relationship between the regulation interpretation and the successful functioning of its Fire Department so as to show a compelling governmental interest as required by the substantial burden of justification test.

The case law is well settled that a State may not arbitrarily refuse an individual the opportunity to receive a public school education or to work in public service. Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, 393 U.S. 503, 89 S.Ct. 733, 21 L.Ed.2d 731 (1969); Pickering v. Board of Education, 391 U.S. 563, 88 S.Ct. 1731, 20 L.Ed.2d 811 (1958); Keyishian v. Board of Regents, 385 U.S. 589, 87 S.Ct. 675, 17 L.Ed.2d 629 (1967). Additionally, the greater weight of authority has found that the right to determine one's personal appearance is an ingredient protected by the United States Constitution. See Griffin v. Tatum, 425 F.2d 201 (5 Cir. 1970); Richards v. Thurston, 424 F.2d 1281 (1 Cir. 1970); Breen v. Kahl, 419 F.2d 1034 (7 Cir. 1969); Blackwell v. Issaquena County Board of Education, 363 F.2d 749 (5 Cir. 1966); Burnside v. Byars, 363 F.2d 744 (5 Cir. 1966). Although the great majority of cases herein deal with rules and regulations promulgated in a school setting, I find the reasoning entirely applicable to the instant situation. Recognizing therefore that Mr. Lindquist has a constitutionally protected right to wear his sideburns in any fashion that he might see fit, it is necessary to determine whether the City of Coral Gables has "substantially justified" its right to limit or curtail said right.

Defendants contend that they have met their burden in the following ways:

1. The City of Coral Gables Fire Department is a paramilitary organization in which disobedience cannot be tolerated. Plaintiff's failure to obey his superiors' instructions regarding sideburns, therefore, substantially justified his dismissal;

2. The regulation clarification in question was justified in that: (a) lengthy sideburns constitute a serious physical danger because hair is highly flammable; (b) lengthy sideburns cannot be allowed for the reason that they prevent a satisfactory seal on gas masks.

At the trial of this cause on January 28, 1971, I allowed Defendants great latitude in presenting evidence which purported to justify Chief Matheson's memorandum of March 4, 1969. With respect to safety and/or equipment considerations, however, the parties' pretrial stipulation filed in this cause on January 18, 1971 controls.

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"5. Plaintiff performed his duties in a competent and satisfactory manner, without complaint from his supervisory personnel or from the public. His employment record is without any complaints of misconduct, unlawful behavior, breach of responsibility or other improper attitude or conduct on his part.
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14 cases
  • Hunt v. Board of Fire Com'rs of Massapequa Fire Dist.
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court
    • November 29, 1971
    ...of Public Instruction of Duval County, D.C., 303 F.Supp. 958; Lucia v. Duggan, D.C., 303 F.Supp. 112; or firemen, Lindquist v. City of Coral Gables, D.C., 323 F.Supp. 1161. The Board suggests no similar tradition with respect to firemen, and while its answering affidavit uses the word disci......
  • Board of Selectmen of Framingham v. Civil Service Commission
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts Supreme Court
    • December 24, 1974
    ...Yarbrough v. Jacksonville, 363 F.Supp. 1176 (M.D.Fla.1973) (regulation valid where effect on safety shown); but see Lindquist v. Coral Gables, 323 F.Supp. 1161 (S.D.Fla.1971) (regulation invalid; no such effect shown). As to police, see Stradley v. Andersen, 478 F.2d 188 (8th Cir. 1973); Bu......
  • Greenwald v. Frank
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court — Appellate Division
    • October 30, 1972
    ...Crews v. Cloncs, 7 Cir., 432 F.2d 1259, 1264; Richards v. Thurston, 1 Cir., 424 F.2d 1281; Breen v. Kahl, Supra; Lindquist v. City of Coral Gables, D.C., 323 F.Supp. 1161.) 4 As Mr. Justice Meyer pointed out in Matter of Hunt v. Board of Fire Comrs. of Massapequa Fire Dist., 68 Misc.2d 261,......
  • Dwen v. Barry
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Second Circuit
    • August 22, 1973
    ...and Order No. 71-1 which the district court apparently found designed to inculcate discipline. 7 See, e. g., Linquist v. City of Coral Gables, 323 F.Supp. 1161 (S.D.Fla.1971). 8 However, with the exception of Hunt v. Board of Fire Commissioners of Massapequa Fire District, 68 Misc.2d 261, 3......
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