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Case Name Lindh v. Warden PC-IN-0016
Docket / Court 09-cv-00215 ( S.D. Ind. )
State/Territory Indiana
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Attorney Organization ACLU Chapters (any)
Case Summary
On June 18, 2009, a group of Muslim prisoners (including John Walker Lindh, the "American Taliban") filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana against the warden of the Federal Correctional Institute. The plaintiffs, represented by the ACLU of Indiana, ... read more >
On June 18, 2009, a group of Muslim prisoners (including John Walker Lindh, the "American Taliban") filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana against the warden of the Federal Correctional Institute. The plaintiffs, represented by the ACLU of Indiana, asked for declaratory and injunctive relief, alleging that the prison's allowance of only one hour of group prayer per week violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Arguments focused on Muslim tradition, which calls for five sessions of prayer of each day with group prayer being preferable over individual sessions. The plaintiffs alleged that the prison's policy of only allowing one hour of prayer per week did not serve a compelling government purpose. Furthering their belief was the living conditions of the prisoners, which allowed them to be out of their cells most of the day.

The plaintiffs moved for certification of a class consisting of all Muslim prisoners aggrieved by this policy. However, the district court (Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson) denied this motion, holding that the plaintiffs failed to sufficiently define a class and, regardless, could not satisfy the numerosity requirement necessary to have class certification approved. The plaintiffs could only identify five Muslim prisoners under the warden's control whose beliefs on prayer coincided with their own.

Both parties filed motion for summary judgment, and Judge Magnus-Stinson granted in part and denied in part the plaintiffs' motion, while denying the defendant's motion (2012 WL 379737). She held, as a matter of law, that "recitation of the five daily Muslim group prayers is a religious exercise rooted in Mr. Lindh's sincerely held religious beliefs," thus satisfying that requirement of RFRA. However, she deemed that there were genuine issues of material fact surrounding the issue of whether the warden substantially burdened the plaintiffs' religious practices.

Following a bench trial, the court issued its findings of fact and conclusions of law (2013 WL 139699). The court issued a permanent injunction against the Federal Correctional Institute, holding that the prison's policy violated RFRA. As such, the prison was required to change its policy regarding prayer sessions without 60 days of the issuing of the order. Under the order, the prison was required to allow prisoners to have prayer sessions at any time that the prisoners would otherwise be allowed out of their cells.

The prison changed its policy to allow religious groups to pray at three assigned times per day, with no more than 10 inmates allowed in the room at any time. Feeling that the policy violated the order of the court, the plaintiffs filed a motion to hold the defendant in contempt. After the filing of the motion, the prison again changed its policy to only allow for group prayer within individual cells, with a maximum of two prisoners allowed in any cell. The plaintiffs alleged that the warden violated the express and unambiguous command of the court, and therefore must be held in contempt.

The court held that its prior ruling was not clear and unambiguous, and therefore did not hold the defendant in contempt (2013 WL 3790897). However, Judge Magnus-Stinson did further clarify her past order, declaring that "the Warden is to allow group prayer during every Muslim prayer time for which the inmates are not confined to their cells. While the Warden may place a limit on the location and number of inmates who may assemble in a single place, the limitations must be reasonable and in keeping with RFRA's requirement that they are the least restrictive means of furthering a compelling interest be employed. Put simply, just as inmates are free to assemble, socialize, and engage in other group activities in common, recreational areas during times they are released from their cells, so too must they be allowed to engage in group prayer in common, out-of-cell areas, which the Warden may designate in his discretion."

Jonathan Forman - 07/24/2013

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Constitutional Clause
Free Exercise Clause
Content of Injunction
Discrimination Prohibition
Religion discrimination
Religious programs / policies
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Causes of Action Religious Freedom Rest. Act/Religious Land Use and Inst. Persons Act (RFRA/RLUIPA)
Defendant(s) Federal Correctional Institute
Plaintiff Description Muslim inmate refused sufficient time to pray as a group
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU Chapters (any)
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Declaratory Judgment
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Order Duration 2013 - n/a
Filed 06/18/2009
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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  See this case at (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
  Civil Rights Injunctions Over Time: A Case Study of Jail and Prison Court Orders
N.Y.U. Law Review
Date: May 2006
By: Margo Schlanger (Washington University Faculty)
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
Date: Jan. 1, 1998
By: Malcolm M. Feeley & Edward Rubin (UC Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law & Vanderbilt School of Law Faculty Faculty)
Citation: (1998)
[ Detail ]

2:09−cv−00215 (S.D. Ind.)
PC-IN-0016-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/19/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief [ECF# 1]
PC-IN-0016-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/18/2009
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 36] (S.D. Ind.)
PC-IN-0016-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/26/2010
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Consolidating Cases [ECF# 61] (S.D. Ind.)
PC-IN-0016-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/09/2010
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Denying Plaintiffs' Motion to Certify Class [ECF# 67] (S.D. Ind.)
PC-IN-0016-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/08/2010
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Second Amended Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief [ECF# 86]
PC-IN-0016-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/25/2011
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [re cross-motions for summary judgment] [ECF# 121] (2012 WL 379737) (S.D. Ind.)
PC-IN-0016-0007.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 02/03/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law [ECF# 200] (2013 WL 139699) (S.D. Ind.)
PC-IN-0016-0008.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 01/11/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 227] (2013 WL 3790897) (S.D. Ind.)
PC-IN-0016-0001.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 07/19/2013
show all people docs
Judges Dinsmore, Mark. J. (S.D. Ind.) [Magistrate] show/hide docs
Magnus-Stinson, Jane Elizabeth (S.D. Ind.) show/hide docs
PC-IN-0016-0001 | PC-IN-0016-0005 | PC-IN-0016-0006 | PC-IN-0016-0007 | PC-IN-0016-0008 | PC-IN-0016-9000
McKinney, Larry J. (S.D. Ind.) show/hide docs
Plaintiff's Lawyers Falk, Kenneth J. (Indiana) show/hide docs
PC-IN-0016-0002 | PC-IN-0016-0003 | PC-IN-0016-9000
Rose, Gavin Minor (Indiana) show/hide docs
Defendant's Lawyers Kieper, Thomas E (Indiana) show/hide docs
McCoskey, William Lance (Indiana) show/hide docs

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