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Case Name Goodman v. Davis PC-TX-0022
Docket / Court 2:12-cv-00166 ( S.D. Tex. )
Additional Docket(s) 2:12-cv-00169  [ 12-169 ]  S.D. Tex.
2:14-cv-00013  [ 14-13 ]  S.D. Tex.
2:14-cv-00022  [ 14-22 ]  S.D. Tex.
State/Territory Texas
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Special Collection Prison Legal News
Case Summary
On May 21, 2012, a Native American prisoner incarcerated at the McConnell Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) filed this lawsuit, pro se, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas. The plaintiff sued five TDCJ employees under 42 U.S.C. § 1983: the Director ... read more >
On May 21, 2012, a Native American prisoner incarcerated at the McConnell Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) filed this lawsuit, pro se, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas. The plaintiff sued five TDCJ employees under 42 U.S.C. § 1983: the Director of TDCJ, the Director of Chaplaincy Department, two chaplains, and the Deputy Director of Prison and Jail Operations. He claimed that TDCJ policies violated his rights under RLUIPA and the First Amendment. Specifically, he alleged that the TDCJ policies burdened the exercise of his religious beliefs by preventing him from: 1) smoking a prayer pipe during Native American pipe ceremonies; 2) wearing a religiously significant medicine bag other than within his cell and to and from religious ceremonies; 3) growing long hair, or alternatively, a kouplock, which is “a one inch square section of hair at the base of the skull.” Furthermore, he claimed the grooming policy violated his right to equal protection, because female prisoners were permitted to wear their hair long, but males were not.

The plaintiff sought declaratory and injunctive relief requiring TDCJ to: 1) hire more Native American chaplains; 2) have security personnel available to supervise ceremonies until more chaplains could be hired; 3) allow the plaintiff to grow his hair, or alternatively, a kouplock; 4) smoke a prayer pipe at pipe ceremonies; and 5) wear medicine bags at all times. In addition, the plaintiff sought damages and attorney’s fees and costs. Immediately after filing the complaint, the plaintiff moved to join another Native American prisoner claiming to experience the same deprivations, to whom the Court granted leave to join in June 2012.

On June 12, 2012, Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos ordered the consolidation of Davis v. Thaler, docket number 2:12-cv-169 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, with this case because the two were duplicates of each other.

At an evidentiary hearing held in front of Magistrate Judge B. Janice Ellington on June 21, 2012, the plaintiff orally moved for and was granted permission to add three employees as defendants: the Program Analyst for Designated Units, the Director of Rehabilitative Programs, and the McConnell Unit Chaplain. The plaintiffs again moved to add an additional defendant on July 12, 2012, and Judge Ellington permitted the Regional Chaplain to be added the following September.

On August 16, 2012, the initial plaintiff moved for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunctive relief. He alleged that he was not being allowed adequate time with his co-plaintiff in the law library to work on their lawsuit. Judge Ellington recommended denying this motion because the plaintiff had not explained what he could accomplish with more law library time and thus, did not suffer an irreparable injury. 2012 WL 4955289. Judge Ramos adopted these recommendations and denied the motion on October 16, 2012. 2012 WL 4959409.

On August 30, 2012, the McConnell Unit Chaplain filed a motion to dismiss, to which the plaintiffs agreed. The claims against McConnell Unit Chaplain were dismissed with prejudice.

On October 10, 2012, the Program Analyst moved to dismiss the claims against him. Judge Ellington recommended dismissing the plaintiffs’ claims for monetary damages against the Program Analyst in his official capacity, dismissing plaintiffs’ claims for injunctive relief against the Program Analyst in his individual capacity, and retaining the plaintiffs’ First Amendment claim for monetary damages against the Program Analyst in his individual capacity. On January 7, 2013, Judge Ramos adopted this recommendation.

The plaintiffs then filed an amended complaint on February 11, 2013 and consented to having a Magistrate Judge conduct all further proceedings. Shortly after, on February 22, 2013, they voluntarily dismissed all of their claims except their three RLUIPA challenges against the TDCJ Director in his official capacity and their First Amendment claim seeking damages against the Program Analyst in his individual capacity. The defendants also consented to proceed before a Magistrate Judge and Judge Ramos reassigned the case to Magistrate Judge Ellington for all further proceedings on April 29, 2013.

The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment on July 8, 2013. The plaintiffs responded with a cross-motion for summary judgment on July 19, 2013. Judge Ellington granted the defendants’ motion and entered a final judgment in the defendants’ favor for all claims on February 27, 2014. 2012 WL 4959409. On the RLUIPA claims, Judge Ellington found that the policies were a substantial burden on the plaintiffs’ exercise of their sincerely held beliefs, but that the defendants had demonstrated that they were employing the least restrictive means of furthering compelling governmental interests in security, controlling costs, and prison administration. On the First Amendment claim, Magistrate Judge Ellington found the Program Analyst defendant was entitled to qualified immunity because the plaintiffs had not established their First Amendment rights to exercise their religion had been violated. The plaintiffs appealed to the Fifth Circuit on April 2, 2014 and the docket number 14-40339 was assigned.

On July 6, 2016 the Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court’s judgment in part and vacated in part. (Circuit Judges Leslie H. Southwick and Gregg J. Costa, District Judge Halil Suleyman Ozerden). The Fifth Circuit affirmed summary judgment for the defendants on the First Amendment claim and the medicine bag RLUIPA claim because the plaintiffs failed to offer explanation as to how the district court erred in granting summary judgment in their appeal. In addition, the Fifth Circuit affirmed summary judgment for the defendants on the pipe ceremony RLUIPA claim, agreeing with the district court that the logistical, health, and security concerns of permitting the plaintiffs to purchase their own pipes and store them in the chaplain’s office outweighed the need for a religious accommodation. However, the Fifth Circuit vacated and remanded the grooming policy claim under RLUIPA because it was unclear if the district court considered all of the plaintiffs’ summary judgment evidence. Furthermore, the legitimacy of TDJC’s cost and security concerns over the wearing of a kouplock remained disputed, and the district court didn’t consider the plaintiffs’ claim in light of their individual circumstances as low security risk prisoners. 826 F.3d 258.

On remand, the district court ordered additional briefing. The defendants filed a motion for clarification of appeal, and on August 8, 2016, the Fifth Circuit clarified there was not a need for a trial at this time. Only additional briefing and a reexamination of the motion for summary judgment on the RLUIPA grooming policy claim was necessary. The parties then filed numerous replies and responses.

On March 7, 2017, Judge Ellington denied the defendant’s motion for summary judgment on plaintiffs’ RLUIPA grooming policy claim because there remained a material dispute as to whether the grooming policy was the least restrictive means of maintaining institutional security. 2017 WL 896299. Judge Ellington recommended that the Fifth Circuit remand the case for trial.

In November 2015, the initial prisoner plaintiff was released. In response, on December 21, 2017, the defendant moved to dismiss his claims. The defendant argued that the grooming policy no longer affected this plaintiff’s right to practice his Native American faith and the plaintiff lacked an injury that was likely to be redressed by a favorable decision. Judge Ellington agreed and granted the motion on January 25, 2018.

On March 2, 2018, the Court on its own motion ordered the consolidation of cases Casey v. Davis (2:14-cv-13) and Cobb v. Morris (2:14-cv-22) with this case. The plaintiffs in these cases challenged the same policies of TDJC, alleging that these policies conflicted with their right to practice their Native American faith in violation of RLUIPA and the First Amendment. Similar to Goodman v. Davis, only the plaintiffs’ RLUIPA grooming policy claim survived summary judgment and was set for trial. The cases were accordingly consolidated for trial in front of Judge Ramos. On March 5, 2018, the Court appointed pro-bono counsel from a private firm to represent each of the plaintiffs in the consolidated action. The plaintiffs had previously attempted to get counsel appointed four times, but each time were denied.

In July 2018, trial was set for August 29, 2018. Additionally, during this time, the plaintiffs filed a consolidated amended complaint, setting forth their RLUIPA grooming policy claim agains the TDCJ Director together.

A bench trial was held before Judge Ramos from August 29, 2018 to August 31, 2018. Judge Ramos issued the Court’s findings of fact and conclusion of law on January 24, 2019. He granted the plaintiffs’ request for injunctive relief permitting them to grow their hair long, consistent with their Native American religious beliefs. The Court noted that the differences between male and female grooming policies was unrelated to any differences in violence, contraband, or hygiene. The Court highlighted how most jails, most state Department of Corrections, and the federal prison system allow male prisoners to have long hair. Furthermore, TDCJ’s employees testified they had never found contraband in long, loose hair and only nuisance contraband in braided hair, casting doubt on their alleged security interests. Finally, the defendant was unable to show that searches would take longer or that the plaintiffs, whom all had little or no history of disciplinary violations, posed any particular danger or threat to prison security.

Judge Ramos entered a final judgement in the plaintiffs’ favor on February 26, 2019 and enjoined the defendant from enforcing its male grooming policy against the plaintiffs with respect to the rules preventing the plaintiffs from growing their hair without restriction and wearing it loose. The plaintiffs were also awarded reasonable attorney’s fees and costs. Costs were later determined to be $9,803.19.

On March 27, 2019, the defendant appealed the Judge Ramos’ findings and final judgment to the Fifth Circuit and the docket number 19-40279 was assigned. Shortly after, the defendant moved to dismiss its own appeal, and the Fifth Circuit granted the motion to dismiss the appeal on July 9, 2019.

As of July 22, 2019, the attorney’s fees had yet to be determined and awarded to the plaintiffs. This case is ongoing.

Emily Kempa - 07/21/2019


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Affected Gender
Male
Constitutional Clause
Free Exercise Clause
Defendant-type
Corrections
General
Religious programs / policies
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) Correctional Institutions Division Director
Program Analyst
Plaintiff Description Four Native American prisoners incarcerated at the McConnell Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se Yes
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Attorneys fees
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Order Duration 2019 - n/a
Filing Year 2012
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 ]

  Prison Legal News Homepage
Prison Legal News
By: Prison Legal News
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
2:12−cv−00169 (S.D. Tex.)
PC-TX-0022-9001.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/21/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
2:14−cv−00013 (S.D. Tex.)
PC-TX-0022-9002.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/07/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
2:14−cv−00022 (S.D. Tex.)
PC-TX-0022-9003.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/12/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
2:12−cv−00166 (S.D. Tex.)
PC-TX-0022-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/09/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
PC-TX-0022-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/21/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Untitled
PC-TX-0022-0019.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/23/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Concerning Parties and Order on Pending Motions [ECF# 16] (S.D. Tex.)
PC-TX-0022-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/22/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion and Order Denying Motion for Appointment of Counsel [ECF# 17] (2012 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 86870) (S.D. Tex.)
PC-TX-0022-0003.pdf | LEXIS | Detail
Date: 06/22/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum and Recommendation to Deny Plaintiff Davis's Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 41] (2012 WL 4955289 / 2012 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 148592)
PC-TX-0022-0004.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 09/17/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion and Order Denying Motion for Appointment of Counsel [ECF# 47] (2012 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 142617) (S.D. Tex.)
PC-TX-0022-0005.pdf | LEXIS | Detail
Date: 10/02/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Adopting Memorandum and Recommendation to Deny Plaintiff Davis' Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 53] (2012 WL 4959409 / 2012 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 148593) (S.D. Tex.)
PC-TX-0022-0006.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 10/16/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion and Order Granting Defendant's Motion for Rule 7(a) Reply [ECF# 63] (2012 WL 5618371 / 2012 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 163182) (S.D. Tex.)
PC-TX-0022-0007.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 11/15/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum and Recommendation on Defendant Morris' Motion to Dismiss [ECF# 65]
PC-TX-0022-0008.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/16/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Adopting Memorandum and Recommendation on Defendant's Motion to Dismiss [ECF# 80] (S.D. Tex.)
PC-TX-0022-0009.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/07/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Complaint [ECF# 1]
PC-TX-0022-0020.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/10/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Complaint [ECF# 1]
PC-TX-0022-0021.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/21/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion and Order on Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment [ECF# 158] (2014 WL 798033) (S.D. Tex.)
PC-TX-0022-0010.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 02/27/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion and Order Denying Motion for Appointment of Counsel on Appeal [ECF# 179] (S.D. Tex.)
PC-TX-0022-0017.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/16/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion [USCA 5th Circuit] [Ct. of App. ECF# 00513579789 ] (826 F.3d 258)
PC-TX-0022-0011.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 06/14/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion and Order Denying Without Prejudice Motion for Appointment of Counsel [ECF# 197] (2016 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 97132) (S.D. Tex.)
PC-TX-0022-0018.pdf | LEXIS | Detail
Date: 07/26/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion and Order on Remand Denying Defendant's Motion to Strike, Denying Plaintiffs' Motion to Strike, Denying Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment on Plaintiffs' RLUIPA Grooming Policy Claim and Recommending Remand of the Appeal for Trial [ECF# 231] (2017 WL 896299 / 2017 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 31944) (S.D. Tex.)
PC-TX-0022-0012.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 03/07/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Consolidating Cases [ECF# 252] (S.D. Tex.)
PC-TX-0022-0013.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/02/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Plaintiffs' Consolidated Amended Complaint [ECF# 271]
PC-TX-0022-0014.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/24/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law [ECF# 322] (S.D. Tex.)
PC-TX-0022-0015.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/24/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Final Judgment [ECF# 325] (S.D. Tex.)
PC-TX-0022-0016.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/26/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Ellington, B. Janice (S.D. Tex.) [Magistrate] show/hide docs
PC-TX-0022-0002 | PC-TX-0022-0003 | PC-TX-0022-0004 | PC-TX-0022-0005 | PC-TX-0022-0007 | PC-TX-0022-0008 | PC-TX-0022-0010 | PC-TX-0022-0012 | PC-TX-0022-0017 | PC-TX-0022-0018 | PC-TX-0022-9000 | PC-TX-0022-9001 | PC-TX-0022-9002 | PC-TX-0022-9003
Ozerden, Halil Suleyman (S.D. Miss.) show/hide docs
PC-TX-0022-0011
Ramos, Nelva Gonzales (S.D. Tex.) show/hide docs
PC-TX-0022-0006 | PC-TX-0022-0009 | PC-TX-0022-0013 | PC-TX-0022-0015 | PC-TX-0022-0016 | PC-TX-0022-9000 | PC-TX-0022-9002 | PC-TX-0022-9003
Plaintiff's Lawyers Ellis, Robert K. (Texas) show/hide docs
PC-TX-0022-0014 | PC-TX-0022-9000
Messer, Steven Charles (Texas) show/hide docs
PC-TX-0022-0014 | PC-TX-0022-9000
Yetter, R. Paul (Texas) show/hide docs
PC-TX-0022-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Cunniff, Celamine (Texas) show/hide docs
PC-TX-0022-9000 | PC-TX-0022-9002
Dower, Benjamin Lindberg (Texas) show/hide docs
PC-TX-0022-9000
Huntpalmer, Richard Armstrong (Texas) show/hide docs
PC-TX-0022-9000 | PC-TX-0022-9002
Jacobs, Craig McCam (Texas) show/hide docs
PC-TX-0022-9000 | PC-TX-0022-9002 | PC-TX-0022-9003
Landon, Emily Marie (Texas) show/hide docs
PC-TX-0022-9000 | PC-TX-0022-9003

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