University of Michigan Law School
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Case Name Native American Council of Tribes v. Weber PC-SD-0007
Docket / Court 4:09-cv-04182-KES ( D.S.D. )
State/Territory South Dakota
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Special Collection DOJ Civil Rights Division Statements of Interest
Case Summary
On December 9, 2009 Plaintiffs are comprised of (1) the Native American Council of Tribes, the lead Plaintiff, and (2) the individual Plaintiffs of the case, current and former Native American inmates in the South Dakota State Penitentiary. Native American inmates in the South Dakota State ... read more >
On December 9, 2009 Plaintiffs are comprised of (1) the Native American Council of Tribes, the lead Plaintiff, and (2) the individual Plaintiffs of the case, current and former Native American inmates in the South Dakota State Penitentiary. Native American inmates in the South Dakota State Penitentiary were forbidden from using tobacco in their Native American rituals and ceremonies. Therefore Plaintiffs, in addition with the Native American Council of Tribes, an additional Paintiff, sought declaratory and injunctive relief under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), the American Indian Religious Freedom Act, 42 U.S.C. §1996, international law, and 42 U.S.C. §1983, alleging a violation of due process and their first amendment right to free exercise of religion. Plaintiffs alleged that there were other, less restrictive means, by which the South Dakota State Penitentiary could accomplish their goals. There were conflicting accounts as to what, exactly, lead to the inmates being disallowed from using tobacco for their ceremonies.

The United States filed a Statement of the Interest with the Court on July 16, 2012, stating that the defendant’s arguments were a request for the court to determine the importance and centrality of tobacco to the Plaintiff’s religious practices. However, under common law and the RLUIPA, courts are forbidden from inquiring into the centrality of beliefs to religions.

In a motion for summary judgment brought by the defendants on February 22, 2011, the Court decided that the Plaintiffs did not have a cause of action under the American Indian Religious Freedom Act. Furthermore, the court stated that the Plaintiffs did not have claims under international law, as they did not create an independent cause of action for the Plaintiffs. This left the First, Fourteenth, and RLUIPA claims for the jury to decide at trial.

The trial began on March 27, 2012. The Court concluded that the use of tobacco in the Plaintiffs’ Native American ceremonies was protected by RLUIPA because the Plaintiffs’ beliefs were sincerely held and because the practice of using tobacco is part of their religious tradition. Furthermore, the Court held that the ban on tobacco was a substantial burden to the Plaintiffs because tobacco was an “essential and fundamental part of Plaintiffs’ religious exercise.” The Court also held that there was not a compelling government interest in the ban of tobacco and, even if there was, a total ban was not the least restrictive means required by RLUIPA. (897 F. Supp. 2d 828).

On January 25, 2013, the District Court ordered a remedial order that limited the amount of tobacco to be 1% of the total mixture used for religious ceremonies. This was in accordance with the statements of one of the plaintiffs who argued that it did not matter how much tobacco was in the mixture, but rather that tobacco was present in the mixture.

The Plaintiffs were then granted attorneys fees in the amount of $75,350.87.

The Defendants appealed the case to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit on February 25, 2013. On April 24, 2015 the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit upheld the District Court’s decision for the same reasons asserted by the District Court. (750 F.3d 742)

Cianan Lesley - 10/08/2017


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Free Exercise Clause
Content of Injunction
Discrimination Prohibition
Defendant-type
Corrections
Discrimination-basis
Religion discrimination
General
Religious programs / policies
Plaintiff Type
Non-profit religious organization
Private Plaintiff
Race
American Indian/Alaskan Native
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Religious Freedom Rest. Act/Religious Land Use and Inst. Persons Act (RFRA/RLUIPA)
Defendant(s) South Dakota
Plaintiff Description Plaintiffs were Native American Inmates in the South Dakota State Penitentiary.
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Nature of Relief Attorneys fees
Source of Relief Litigation
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Case Closing Year 2013
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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  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
Book
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 ]

Docket(s)
4:09-cv-4182 (D.S.D.)
PC-SD-0007-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/09/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Plaintiff's Complaint Under 42 U.S.C. §2000cc-1(a)(1)-(2) For Violation of the Right to Free Exercise of Religion [ECF# 1]
PC-SD-0007-0009.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/09/2009
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Plaintiff's Complaint for Violation of the Right to Free Exercise of Religion [ECF# 5]
PC-SD-0007-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/16/2009
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Plaintiffs' Unopposed Second Amended Complaint [ECF# 71]
PC-SD-0007-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/15/2010
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Granting In Part and Denying In Part Defendants' Motion For Summary Judgment [ECF# 109] (2011 WL 4382271) (D.S.D.)
PC-SD-0007-0010.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 09/20/2011
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Statement of Interest of the United States
PC-SD-0007-0001.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 07/10/2012
Source: U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Special Litigation Section
Amended Memorandum Opinion and Order [ECF# 189] (897 F.Supp.2d 828) (D.S.D.)
PC-SD-0007-0011.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 09/19/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Remedial Order [ECF# 196] (2013 WL 310633) (D.S.D.)
PC-SD-0007-0007.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 01/25/2013
Source: Westlaw
Brief for the United States as Amicus Curiae in Support of Plaintiffs-Appellees and Urging Affirmance
PC-SD-0007-0002.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 06/26/2013
Source: U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Special Litigation Section
Order Denying Stay and Awarding Attorney Fees and Sales Tax [ECF# 219] (2013 WL 3923451) (D.S.D.)
PC-SD-0007-0012.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 07/29/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion [Ct. of App. ECF# 228] (750 F.3d 742)
PC-SD-0007-0008.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 04/25/2014
Source: Google Scholar
Judges Bright, Myron H. (Eighth Circuit)
PC-SD-0007-0008
Bye, Kermit Edward (Eighth Circuit)
PC-SD-0007-0008
Schreier, Karen E. (D.S.D.)
PC-SD-0007-0007 | PC-SD-0007-0010 | PC-SD-0007-0011 | PC-SD-0007-0012 | PC-SD-0007-9000
Smith, Lavenski R. (Eighth Circuit)
PC-SD-0007-0008
Plaintiff's Lawyers Anderson, April J. (District of Columbia)
PC-SD-0007-0002
Deerinwater, Verlin Hughes (District of Columbia)
PC-SD-0007-0001
Gonzalez, Mario (South Dakota)
PC-SD-0007-0004 | PC-SD-0007-9000
Gross, Mark L. (District of Columbia)
PC-SD-0007-0002
Mygatt, Timothy D (District of Columbia)
PC-SD-0007-0001
Parsons, Ronald A. Jr. (South Dakota)
PC-SD-0007-9000
Perez, Thomas E. (District of Columbia)
PC-SD-0007-0001 | PC-SD-0007-0002
Reiter, Pamela R. (South Dakota)
PC-SD-0007-9000
Show, Sara E. (South Dakota)
PC-SD-0007-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Leuning, Scott H. (South Dakota)
PC-SD-0007-9000
Moore, James Ellis (South Dakota)
PC-SD-0007-9000
Munson, Michele A. (South Dakota)
PC-SD-0007-9000
Other Lawyers Songer, Michael J. (District of Columbia)
PC-SD-0007-9000

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