University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
new search
page permalink
Case Name Voshell v. Spence PC-IA-0022
Docket / Court 03-40522 ( S.D. Iowa )
State/Territory Iowa
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Case Summary
On September 22, 2003, several inmates in the Iowa State Penitentiary in Fort Madison, Iowa, filed a lawsuit pro se under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against administrative officials of the Iowa Department of Corrections in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Iowa. The plaintiffs, ... read more >
On September 22, 2003, several inmates in the Iowa State Penitentiary in Fort Madison, Iowa, filed a lawsuit pro se under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against administrative officials of the Iowa Department of Corrections in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Iowa. The plaintiffs, later appointed private counsel, asked the court for declaratory and injunctive relief and damages, alleging that the defendants were subjecting them to "religious discrimination and persecution." Specifically, the plaintiffs contended that the defendants locked them in disciplinary segregation, retaliated against them, and falsely labeled them a gang due to their affiliation with their religion, the Church of New Song (CONS).

The plaintiffs asked the Court to declare (1) that they had been subject to religious persecution, discrimination, and retaliatory treatment in violation of their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights; and (2) that the defendants had falsified investigative and disciplinary records to, among other things, close down CONS. The plaintiffs also sought injunctive relief enjoining the defendants from further persecuting and retaliating against members of CONS and compensatory and punitive damages in excess of $1,500,000.00.

On March 8, 2004, the District Court (Judge James E. Gritzner) denied the plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction. The Court denied the plaintiffs' motion for a temporary restraining order on June 28, 2004. On October 21, 2004, the Court referred the case to Magistrate Judge Bremer to determine whether a settlement conference should be held. The final entry on the docket is on February 22, 2005, when the Court (Judge Gritzner) issued an order staying the case pending the outcome of another case, Wycoff v. Brewer, which also concerned the CONS. The Court reasoned that the proceedings in Wycoff, where prison officials sought court relief with respect to the CONS, would very likely affect the outcome of this case.

On March 4, 2009, as a result of the ruling in Wycoff (which had been recaptioned Smith v. Ault) that the CONS would no longer have protected status, the Court lifted the stay. Defendants filed a motion for summary judgement (a decision rendered when the law allows only one outcome) on various grounds. Plaintiffs did not resist the motion, and the Court extended time to reply, but Plaintiffs still did not resist. Holding that the record showed Plaintiffs had broken prison disciplinary rules and had failed to show that the motivating factor for the disciplinary measures was retaliation, the Court found in favor of the Defendants and dismissed the case on July 23, 2009.

Other cases related to the Church of New Song include Remmers v. Brewer, 361 F.Supp. 537 (S.D. Iowa 1973), PC-IA-0013 and Goff v. Mascher, PC-IA-0023.

Stacey Jensen - 06/05/2006
Kenneth Gray - 07/11/2013


compress summary

- click to show/hide ALL -
Issues and Causes of Action
click to show/hide detail
Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Equal Protection
Free Exercise Clause
Defendant-type
Corrections
Discrimination-basis
Religion discrimination
General
Disciplinary procedures
Religious programs / policies
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) Administrative Officials
Plaintiff Description Inmates in the Iowa State Penitentiary in Fort Madison, Iowa who were members of the Church of New Song
Indexed Lawyer Organizations None on record
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Prevailing Party Defendant
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief None
Source of Relief None
Form of Settlement None on record
Order Duration not on record
Case Closing Year 2009
Case Ongoing No
Case Listing PC-IA-0013 : Remmers v. Brewer (S.D. Iowa)
PC-IA-0024 : Loney v. Scurr (S.D. Iowa)
PC-IA-0023 : Goff v. Maschner (S.D. Iowa)
Additional Resources
click to show/hide detail
Case Studies Civil Rights Injunctions Over Time: A Case Study of Jail and Prison Court Orders
N.Y.U. Law Review
By: Margo Schlanger (Washington University)
Citation: 81 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 550 (2006)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ] [ External Link ]

  Judicial Policy Making and the Modern State: How the Courts Reformed America's Prisons
By: Malcolm M. Feeley & Edward Rubin (UC Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law & Vanderbilt School of Law Faculty)
Citation: (1998)
[ Detail ]

Docket(s)
4:03-cv-40522 (S.D. Iowa) 02/22/2005
PC-IA-0022-9000 PDF | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint for Declaratory Judgment, Injuctive Relief, and Damages 09/22/2003
PC-IA-0022-0001 PDF | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Staying Case 02/22/2005 (S.D. Iowa)
PC-IA-0022-0002 PDF | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment 05/22/2009
PC-IA-0022-0005 PDF | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Granting Summary Judgment for Defendants 07/23/2009 (S.D. Iowa)
PC-IA-0022-0003 PDF | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judgment in a Civil Case 07/24/2009 (S.D. Iowa)
PC-IA-0022-0004 PDF | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Bremer, Celeste F. (S.D. Iowa) [Magistrate]
PC-IA-0022-9000
Gritzner, James E. (S.D. Iowa)
PC-IA-0022-0002 | PC-IA-0022-0003 | PC-IA-0022-9000
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Ingram, Patrick E. (Iowa)
PC-IA-0022-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Miller, Thomas J. (Iowa)
PC-IA-0022-0005
Wallace, H. Loraine (Iowa)
PC-IA-0022-0005 | PC-IA-0022-9000
Other Lawyers None on record

- click to show/hide ALL -

new search
page permalink

- top of page -