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Posts Tagged ‘O’Connor’

The Fourth Circuit today reinstated the claim of a Muslim prisoner incarcerated in Virginia who sued state correctional officials under the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”) after they refused to permit him to grow a short beard for religious reasons. The decision means that the prisoners claim can go forward, but further proceedings will be needed to determine whether the prisoner actually wins on the merits.

Chief Judge Traxler wrote the opinion for the court in Couch v. Jabe, in which Justice O’Connor and Judge Shedd joined. Here is the opening of the opinion:

William R. Couch, a Sunni Muslim currently incarcerated in a state correctional facility, brought this action alleging that prison officials violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”) by refusing to permit him to grow a one-eighth-inch beard in compliance with the requirements of his faith. The district court granted summary judgment to the prison officials, and Couch appeals. Because the prison officials did not explain how a one-eighth-inch beard would implicate health or security concerns, they failed
to satisfy their burden under RLUIPA of showing that the general grooming policy that they rely upon is the least restrictive means of furthering a compelling governmental interest. Accordingly, we vacate the grant of summary judgment and remand for further proceedings.

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Hurricane Irene brought peace (eirene) of a sort to Richmond. Without power, there is only so much that one can do. And many in Richmond have been, and remain, without power.

The Fourth Circuit has not done much this week. Until today, there were no opinions in argued cases. The one opinion issued today breaking this week’s argued-case silence is United States v. Martin.The decision affirms an illegal sentence under plain-error review. One suspects there may be more to the case than revealed in the relatively spare unpublished per curiam opinion released today. The case was argued on December 10, 2010, before a panel consisting of Justice O’Connor, Chief Judge Traxler, and Judge Keenan. It is unusual for an opinion to take this long to be issued.

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