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Case Name Dowl v. Williams PC-AK-0002
Docket / Court 3:18-cv-00119-HRH ( D. Alaska )
State/Territory Alaska
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Attorney Organization Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)
Case Summary
On May 22, 2018, two prisoners at the Anchorage Correctional Complex, both practicing Muslims, brought this lawsuit against the Alaska Department of Corrections (DOC), alleging that prison officials failed numerous times to accommodate their religious needs during Ramadan. According to the ... read more >
On May 22, 2018, two prisoners at the Anchorage Correctional Complex, both practicing Muslims, brought this lawsuit against the Alaska Department of Corrections (DOC), alleging that prison officials failed numerous times to accommodate their religious needs during Ramadan. According to the plaintiffs, during both the 2017 and 2018 Ramadan seasons they received only two bagged meals per day, which were smaller, less in number, and lower in calorie count than that which is legally required; in some instances these meals allegedly included sandwiches containing pork, which their religious convictions forbid them from eating. They alleged that this “Ramadan Policy” violated the First Amendment's Free Exercise Clause, the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause, the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment, and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA). Represented by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), they filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as attorney’s fees.

Since Ramadan was still ongoing at the time the complaint was filed, the plaintiffs also moved for a temporary restraining order that would compel prison officials to provide them with nutritionally adequate and pork-free meals through the end of Ramadan on June 15. The case was initially assigned to District Judge John W. Sedwick, but was re-assigned to District Judge H. Russel Holland on May 23, 2018 after Judge Sedwick recused himself (Judge Sedwick did not give a reason in his recusal order). After a hearing, Judge Holland granted the plaintiffs motion for a temporary restraining order after deciding that they were likely to succeed on their RLUIPA claims. 2018 WL 2392498.

The DOC filed its answer to the complaint on June 26, 2018, largely denying the plaintiffs' pertinent factual allegations. In addition, the department also asserted several affirmative defenses: that the DOC official defendants in the suit were protected by qualified immunity, that the plaintiffs’ alleged failure to exhaust administrative remedies made a lawsuit in federal court premature, and that the damages suffered by the plaintiffs were de minimis.

On June 29, 2018, Judge Holland approved the parties’ joint discovery plan, which anticipates discovery being completed by May 30, 2019. On July 6, the plaintiffs filed an amended complaint to further allege that officials at the prison prohibited Muslims from holding religious services or study groups, while allowing Christian prisoners to do the same. The DOC denied these allegations in its answer filed on July 20, 2018.

As of July 29, 2018, the case is still ongoing.

Alexander Walling - 07/30/2018


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Due Process
Equal Protection
Free Exercise Clause
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief granted
Defendant-type
Corrections
Discrimination-basis
Religion discrimination
General
Conditions of confinement
Food service / nutrition / hydration
Language/ethnic/minority needs
Religious programs / policies
Totality of conditions
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
Religious Freedom Rest. Act/Religious Land Use and Inst. Persons Act (RFRA/RLUIPA)
Defendant(s) Alaska Department of Corrections
Plaintiff Description Two practicing Muslim prisoners at the Anchorage Correctional Complex.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order
Source of Relief Litigation
Filing Year 2018
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)
3:18-cv-119 (D. Alaska)
PC-AK-0002-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/31/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
PC-AK-0002-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/22/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 18] (2018 WL 2392498) (D. Alaska)
PC-AK-0002-0002.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 05/25/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Amended Complaint [ECF# 35]
PC-AK-0002-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/06/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Holland, Hezekiah Russel (D. Alaska)
PC-AK-0002-0002 | PC-AK-0002-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Abbas, Gadeir Ibrahim (District of Columbia)
PC-AK-0002-0001 | PC-AK-0002-0003 | PC-AK-0002-9000
Homer, Carolyn M. (District of Columbia)
PC-AK-0002-0003 | PC-AK-0002-9000
Masri, Lena Fatina (District of Columbia)
PC-AK-0002-0001 | PC-AK-0002-0003 | PC-AK-0002-9000
Mohamed, Ahmed M. (District of Columbia)
PC-AK-0002-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Cicotte, Matthias (Alaska)
PC-AK-0002-9000

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