University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
new search
page permalink
Case Name Weir v. Nix PC-IA-0017
Docket / Court 91-30463 ( S.D. Iowa )
State/Territory Iowa
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Case Summary
On August 5, 1991, a fundamentalist Christian inmate incarcerated in the Iowa State Penitentiary, in Fort Madison, Iowa, filed a lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act against prison authorities in the United States District Court for the Southern ... read more >
On August 5, 1991, a fundamentalist Christian inmate incarcerated in the Iowa State Penitentiary, in Fort Madison, Iowa, filed a lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act against prison authorities in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Iowa. The prisoner alleged that various prison policies infringed on his religious freedom. Specifically, he complained that the prison only employed a Protestant pastor, offered just three hours of group worship each week, prohibited inmates in protective custody from attending Sunday worship, forbid inmates from bringing a Bible into the exercise yard, limited in-cell books and magazines in number, lacked a baptismal font, and prohibited inmates from receiving certain fundamentalist Christian pamphlets.

After trial, the District Court (Magistrate Judge Ross A. Walters) found for the defendants on most issues, but ruled that the inmate should have been allowed to participate in a baptismal ceremony and to receive certain religious publications. Weir v. Nix, 890 F. Supp. 769 (S.D. Iowa 1995). Both parties appealed, but the defendants voluntarily withdrew their appeal when the plaintiff was transferred to another prison. The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit (Judge David R. Hansen) upheld the lower court's ruling, reasoning that the prison's religious programs did not substantially burden the inmate's exercise of his rights. Weir v. Nix, 114 F.3d 817 (8th Cir. 1997). The court affirmed the district court's ruling.

On June 14, 2000, the court ordered the plaintiff be reimbursed for litigation expenses.

Rebekah Henn Sullivan - 08/11/2005


compress summary

- click to show/hide ALL -
Issues and Causes of Action
click to show/hide detail
Issues
General
Protective custody
Religious programs / policies
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action Religious Freedom Rest. Act/Religious Land Use and Inst. Persons Act (RFRA/RLUIPA)
42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) Iowa State Penitentiary
Plaintiff Description Fundamentalist Christian inmate in protective custody sued state prison officials for violations of Religious Freedom Restoration Act
Indexed Lawyer Organizations None on record
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party Mixed
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Form of Settlement None on record
Order Duration 1995 - n/a
Case Closing Year n/a
Case Ongoing No
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)
91-30463 (S.D. Iowa) 06/14/2000
PC-IA-0017-9000 PDF | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Order for Judgment 05/25/1995 (890 F.Supp. 769) (S.D. Iowa)
PC-IA-0017-0001 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Reported Opinion 06/11/1997 (114 F.3d 817)
PC-IA-0017-0002 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Judges Arnold, Morris Sheppard (W.D. Ark., Eighth Circuit)
PC-IA-0017-0002
Arnold, Richard Sheppard (E.D. Ark., W.D. Ark., Eighth Circuit)
PC-IA-0017-0002
Hansen, David Rasmussen (N.D. Iowa, Eighth Circuit)
PC-IA-0017-0002
Walters, Ross A. (S.D. Iowa) [Magistrate]
PC-IA-0017-0001 | PC-IA-0017-9000
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Ellsworth, Brian G. (Iowa)
PC-IA-0017-9000
Ingram, Patrick E. (Iowa)
PC-IA-0017-0001 | PC-IA-0017-0002 | PC-IA-0017-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Ensign, Kristin W. (Iowa)
PC-IA-0017-0001 | PC-IA-0017-0002 | PC-IA-0017-9000
Other Lawyers None on record

- click to show/hide ALL -

new search
page permalink

- top of page -