On March 31, 2004, a Native American inmate in the California Department of Corrections (CDC) filed a lawsuit under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) against the CDC in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, Western Division. The plaintiff, ...
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On March 31, 2004, a Native American inmate in the California Department of Corrections (CDC) filed a lawsuit under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) against the CDC in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, Western Division. The plaintiff, represented by the ACLU, claimed that the CDC's hair grooming policy that prohibits male inmates from maintaining their hair longer than three inches violates his rights to religious freedom. The plaintiff asked the court for preliminary and permanent injunctive relief prohibiting the CDC from punishing him for his religious beliefs and compelling the CDC to lift all disciplinary sanctions that have been imposed on him as a consequence of his refusal to adhere to the grooming policy. He also asked for a declaration that the policy violates his rights under RLUIPA.
The plaintiff is a Cahuilla Native American and an active participant in his tribe. According to the plaintiff's religious faith, hair is a symbol of knowledge and wisdom and is only to be shorn upon the death of a close relative. The plaintiff believed that if he were to cut his hair he would be unable to join his relatives in the afterlife. Except upon his father's death in 1980, the plaintiff had not cut his hair since 1971.
On May 11, 2004, the Court (Judge Ronald S.W. Lew) issued an order denying the plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction. On appeal in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Court (Judge Pregerson) reversed and remanded the District Court's order holding that (1) the policy imposed a substantial burden on the plaintiff's religious practice, (2) the policy was not the least restrictive alternative to achieve the CDC's interest in prison security, and thus violated RLUIPLA, (3) the plaintiff faced the possibility of irreparable injury absent issuance of an injunction, and (4) the balance of hardships favored the plaintiff.
On January 1, 2007, the parties reached a settlement agreement. The CDC agreed to a permanent injunction against the grooming policy that had been in place (the record is unclear, but presumably, the new policy includes some exemptions). California also agreed to expunge from the plaintiff's record all violations of the hair grooming policy, and to not re-incarcerate the plaintiff based on these violations. If re-incarcerated for other reasons, they agreed to not use these violations to determine his classification. Lastly, the CDC agreed to pay $130,000 to the ACLU of Southern California for reasonable attorneys fees.
On July 5, 2007, the case was dismissed with prejudice and the court retained jurisdiction for the sole purpose of enforcing the terms of the settlement agreement. Renita Khanduja - 07/27/2012