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Case Name Ali v. Thaler PC-TX-0017
Docket / Court 9:09-cv-00052-RC-JKG ( E.D. Tex. )
State/Territory Texas
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Special Collection DOJ Civil Rights Division Statements of Interest
Case Summary
On March 29, 2009, a Muslim prisoner at the Gib Lewis Unit in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. The plaintiff, bringing the case pro se, sued the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ). He sought a ... read more >
On March 29, 2009, a Muslim prisoner at the Gib Lewis Unit in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. The plaintiff, bringing the case pro se, sued the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ). He sought a declaratory judgment that TDCJ's enforcement of grooming standards violated his First and Fourteenth amendment rights and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA). He also sought a preliminary and permanent injunction to enjoin TDCJ from enforcing these standards. Specifically, he asked the court to require TDCJ to permit him to grow his beard a full fist length and wear Islamic head gear (Kufi), in line with his religious beliefs.

On June 4, 2009, District Judge Thad Heartfield put the case on hold pending a decision in Garner v. Morales, 2009 WL 577755 (5th Cir. 2009), which addressed the same issue in a different prison, and had recently been remanded by the Fifth Circuit back to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas. Judge Heartfield denied all pending motions, including the plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction. 2009 WL 1586691.

On June 12, 2009, the plaintiff appealed Judge Heartfield's opinion to the Fifth Circuit. On appeal, the plaintiff also filed a motion asking the Fifth Circuit to compel the District Court to issue the preliminary injunction. The Fifth Circuit denied the motion to compel on December 29, 2009, but ultimately vacated the lower court's opinion. On May 28, 2010, the appeals court held that the lower court had erred in pausing the case without findings of fact or conclusions of law. It remanded the motion for preliminary injunction to the District Court. (J. E. Grady Jolly)607 F.3d 1046.

Meanwhile, in District Court, the plaintiff moved for a preliminary injunction on July 7th, 2009. Judge Heartfiled denied the motion.

In response to the Fifth Circuit's May 28th ruling, the District Court reopened the case. The plaintiff moved for appointment of counsel, but Magistrate Judge Judith Guthrie denied the motion on July 7, 2010.

Following an evidentiary hearing in District Court, Judge Heartfield dismissed the case with prejudice for failure to state a claim. Judge Heartfield noted that the Fifth Circuit had recently found in Gooden v. Crain, 353 Fed.Appx. 885 (5th Cir. 2009), that a District Court could credit prison officials' testimony that changing grooming codes could present a significant security concern. Judge Heartfield further held that the claim was moot because a temporary medical exemption had permitted the plaintiff to grow a beard. 2010 WL 3790823.

The plaintiff appealed the judgment on October 8, 2010. The Fifth Circuit issued a per curiam decision on July 18, 2011 partially vacating and remanding the lower court's ruling. (J. Fortunato Benavides, J. Carl E. Stewart, J. Edith Brown Clement). The court affirmed the District Court's dismissal of the plaintiff's RLUIPA claim challenging the head-covering policy, and its dismissal of the equal protection and first amendment claims. The Fifth Circuit vacated and remanded the District Court's dismissal of the plaintiff's RLUIPA claim challenging the grooming policy. It held that the issue was not moot because the medical exemption had been temporary and had most likely expired in January 2011. 434 Fed.Appx. 322 (5th Cir. Tex.).

Meanwhile, in District Court, the plaintiff sought a temporary restraining order to permit him to grow a beard. Judge Ron Clark denied the motion on April 4, 2011, finding that the plaintiff was asking the Court to grant him relief on an issue on which he had already failed to prevail. That summer, on August 23, 2011, the case was officially reassigned to Judge Ron Clark.

On October 24, 2011, the plaintiff filed another motion for a temporary restraining order, arguing that in a prior order, the Court had recognized that if Garner was successful in his case in the Southern District, the Plaintiff here could prevail as well. The plaintiff pointed to the Southern District's recent opinion granting declaratory relief to Garner, 2011 WL 2038581. Judge Clark denied the motion for a temporary restraining order on January 9, 2012 because the Garner case was stayed while on appeal. The next day, the plaintiff again moved for a preliminary injunction.

On January 31, 2012, the plaintiff appealed Judge Clark's opinion on the temporary restraining order. The Fifth Circuit dismissed the appeal and denied the motion on January 4, 2013. It held that it lacked jurisdiction to entertain an appeal on a temporary restraining order. The Court did remand the case, urging the lower court to reexamine the motion for a preliminary injunction. (per curiam decision, J. Judge Jerry E. Smith, J. Edward C. Prado, J. Stephen A. Higginson) 505 Fed.Appx. 369 (5th Cir. 2013).

Meanwhile, in District Court, the defendant moved for summary judgment and the plaintiff again moved to appoint counsel. On March 29 2012, the U.S. Department of Justice appeared as Amicus Curiae stating that the United States believed TDCJ's "blanket prohibition on religious beards is not narrowly tailored to the generalized budgetary and security interests it asserts" and asking the court to deny TDCJ's motion for summary judgment. Without deciding on either motion, Magistrate Judge Guthrie stayed the proceedings pending the appeal on the temporary restraining order opinion on April 11, 2012.

After the Fifth Circuit remanded the case, on June 3, 2013, the plaintiff brought an objection to the District Court's handling of the case. In particular, he complained that the Magistrate Judge had made so many of the rulings. He asked that the District Judge perform his duty. A month later, on July 2, 2013, he asked the Fifth Circuit to order the District Court to do its job. He alleged that the District Court had failed to decide on injunctive relief, even after the Fifth Circuit had urged it to reexamine the motion for a preliminary injunction. On August 12, 2013, the Fifth Circuit denied the plaintiff's request, but with the caveat that the plaintiff could reinstate it if the District Court had not ruled in 180 days.

On December 19, 2013, two pro bono lawyers were appointed as counsel for the plaintiff, and on January 17, 2014, Judge Clark assigned the case to Magistrate Judge Zack Hawthorn.

On February 4, 2014, Judge Hawthorn granted the plaintiff's motion for a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction enjoining TDCJ from enforcing a policy prohibiting the plaintiff from maintaining a quarter-inch beard. 2014 WL 495162.

A bench trial was held in July 2014 before Magistrate Judge Hawthorn. On September 26, he granted declaratory and injunctive relief requiring TDCJ to allow the plaintiff to wear a fist-length beard and a Kufi. 69 F.Supp.3d 633. The state appealed the decision on October 16, 2014.

The case was stayed for several months pending resolution in Holt v. Hobbs [135 S.Ct. 853], but after the Supreme Court found for the prisoner plaintiff in that case, the Fifth Circuit affirmed the District Court's judgment and permanent injunction on May 2, 2016. 822 F.3d 776.

Meanwhile, on December 3, 2014, Magistrate Judge Hawthorn denied the defendant's motion to stay the judgment pending the appeal in the Fifth Circuit. On April 29, 2015, he order the defendant to pay the plaintiff $16,312.72 in costs and $214,160.44 in attorney's fees and expenses. The defendant appealed the ruling on May 18, 2015, but withdrew the appeal on May 16, 2016. There has been no significant activity since 2016, and the case appears closed.

Gabriela Hybel - 07/06/2017


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Affected Gender
Male
Constitutional Clause
Equal Protection
Free Exercise Clause
Freedom of speech/association
Content of Injunction
Discrimination Prohibition
Defendant-type
Corrections
Discrimination-basis
Religion discrimination
General
Conditions of confinement
Religious programs / policies
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983
Religious Freedom Rest. Act/Religious Land Use and Inst. Persons Act (RFRA/RLUIPA)
Defendant(s) Texas Department of Criminal Justice
Plaintiff Description Muslim inmate at the Gib Lewis Unit in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order
Declaratory Judgment
Attorneys fees
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Order Duration 2014 - n/a
Case Ongoing No reason to think so
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)
9:09-cv-52 (E.D. Tex.)
PC-TX-0017-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/02/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
PC-TX-0017-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/27/2009
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Adopting Report and Recommendation of The United States Magistrate Judge [ECF# 14] (2009 WL 1586691) (E.D. Tex.)
PC-TX-0017-0003.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 06/04/2009
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Adopting Report and Recommendation of The United States Magistrate Judge on Plaintiff's Post-Judgement Motion for Injunctive Relief [ECF# 36] (2009 WL 3448199) (E.D. Tex.)
PC-TX-0017-0004.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 10/21/2009
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Appeal From The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas [Ct. of App. ECF# 00511124824] (607 F.3d 1046)
PC-TX-0017-0010.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 05/28/2010
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Adopting Report and Recommendations of The United States Magistrate Judge and Entering Final Judgement [ECF# 88] (2010 WL 3790823) (E.D. Tex.)
PC-TX-0017-0005.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 09/24/2010
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas [Ct. of App. ECF# 00511542705] (434 Fed.Appx. 322)
PC-TX-0017-0011.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 07/18/2011
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Adopting Report and Recommendation of The United States Magistrate Judge on Plaintiff's Motion for Injunctive Relief [ECF# 136] (E.D. Tex.)
PC-TX-0017-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/09/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Statement of Interest of the United States [ECF# 159]
PC-TX-0017-0001.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 03/29/2012
Source: U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Special Litigation Section
Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas [Ct. of App. ECF# 00512101008] (505 Fed.Appx. 369)
PC-TX-0017-0012.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 01/04/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
In Re: David Ali [Ct. of App. ECF# 00512337850]
PC-TX-0017-0013.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/12/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion and Order [ECF# 227] (2014 WL 495162) (E.D. Tex.)
PC-TX-0017-0007.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 02/04/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law [ECF# 345] (69 F.Supp.3d 633)
PC-TX-0017-0008.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 09/26/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion and Order [ECF# 420] (2015 WL 2061981) (E.D. Tex.)
PC-TX-0017-0009.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 04/29/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas [Ct. of App. ECF# 00513487896] (822 F.3d 776)
PC-TX-0017-0014.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 05/02/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Clark, Ron (E.D. Tex.) [Magistrate]
PC-TX-0017-0006
Hawthorn, Zack (E.D. Tex.) [Magistrate]
PC-TX-0017-0007 | PC-TX-0017-0008 | PC-TX-0017-0009 | PC-TX-0017-9000
Heartfield, Thad (E.D. Tex.) [Magistrate]
PC-TX-0017-0003 | PC-TX-0017-0004 | PC-TX-0017-0005
Plaintiff's Lawyers Albritton, Eric M. (Texas)
PC-TX-0017-9000
Benefield, Michael Aaron (Indiana)
PC-TX-0017-9000
Latchford, Shawn A. (Texas)
PC-TX-0017-9000
Morse, Thomas Jackson (District of Columbia)
PC-TX-0017-0001
Mygatt, Timothy D (District of Columbia)
PC-TX-0017-0001
Perez, Thomas E. (District of Columbia)
PC-TX-0017-0001
Russell, Randi Davis (Texas)
PC-TX-0017-0001 | PC-TX-0017-9000
Smith, Jonathan Mark (District of Columbia)
PC-TX-0017-0001
Songer, Michael J. (District of Columbia)
PC-TX-0017-0001
Defendant's Lawyers Cunniff, Celamine (Texas)
PC-TX-0017-9000
Gardner, M. Carol (Texas)
PC-TX-0017-9000
O'Leary, Leah Jean (Texas)
PC-TX-0017-9000
Pope, Patrick (Texas)
PC-TX-0017-9000
Skrabanek, John Robert (Texas)
PC-TX-0017-9000
Other Lawyers Gargalicana, Rowena (California)
PC-TX-0017-0002

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