University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Gartrell v. Ashcroft PC-DC-0012
Docket / Court 01-1895 ( D.D.C. )
State/Territory District of Columbia
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Case Summary
Rastafarian and Muslim inmates from the District of Columbia who were housed at Virginia correctional facilities filed a class action lawsuit challenging Virginia Department of Corrections' policies prohibiting long hair or beards on inmates. The inmates were represented by Hogan and Hartson and ... read more >
Rastafarian and Muslim inmates from the District of Columbia who were housed at Virginia correctional facilities filed a class action lawsuit challenging Virginia Department of Corrections' policies prohibiting long hair or beards on inmates. The inmates were represented by Hogan and Hartson and the American Civil Liberties Union. The inmates, who sued the District of Columbia, the U.S. Attorney General, and the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), alleged that the BOP's decision to house them at Virginia facilities rather than federal facilities violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and their Free Exercise of Religion because Virginia's grooming policy infringed on their religious beliefs forbidding them from cutting their hair and shaving their beards.This case was filed on September 7, 2001, but is a continuation of litigation brought against the District of Columbia in 1999, in which the BOP intervened as a defendant. The court resolved the earlier case by entering a judgment in favor of the defendants, finding that the inmates had failed to exhaust their administrative remedies as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act. Jackson v. District of Columbia, 89 F.Supp.2d 48 (D.D.C. 2000). The court also rejected the plaintiffs' claims that the grooming policy violated RFRA or the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. On appeal, the DC Circuit affirmed the judgment, agreeing that the inmates had not exhausted their administrative appeals, but vacated the portion regarding the merits of the religious claims. Jackson v. District of Columbia, 254 F.3d 262 (D.C. Cir. 2001). The inmates exhausted their administrative remedies and refiled the case in 2001.

Following a three-day bench trial, the District Court (Judge Henry H. Kennedy, Jr.) held that the inmates' sincerely held religious beliefs were burdened by the policy, that the BOP's decision to house inmates at Virginia facilities was subject to review under RFRA, and that the BOP failed to show that housing inmates at Virginia facilities was narrowly tailored to meet a compelling state interest. Gartrell v. Ashcroft, 191 F.Supp.2d 23 (D.D.C. 2002)

On February 19, 2002, Judge Kennedy issued an order granting injunctive relief to the inmates and ordering the BOP to consider each inmates' religious beliefs and practices before designating them to a Virginia prison. If an inmate's religious belief would be burdened due to their policies, that should mitigate against housing the inmate there. The court also ordered the BOP to evaluate whether the Virginia grooming policy burdened its existing inmates housed in Virginia facilities, and transfer inmates whose beliefs were so affected. The order also gave the court ongoing jurisdiction to monitor the case and ensure that the terms of the injunction were followed. The BOP appealed.

In 2003, the parties entered into a settlement on attorneys fees, which acknowledged that the BOP had been in compliance with the court's order. The BOP agreed to dismiss its appeal as part of this agreement. This agreement was approved by Judge Kennedy on February 27, 2003. On April 11, 2003, the court issued an order dismissing the case.

Denise Lieberman - 10/23/2005

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Affected Gender
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 Bureau of Prisons
Plaintiff Description Inmates whose avowed religious beliefs forbid them from cutting their hair or shaving their beards alleging that BOP’s housing of inmates from D.C. in Virginia DOC facilities with policy prohibiting long hair and beards burdened their religious beliefs
Class action status sought Unknown
Class action status granted Unknown
Filed Pro Se Unknown
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Order Duration 2002 - 2003
Filing Year 2001
Case Closing Year 2003
Case Ongoing No
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
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 ]

01-1895 (D.D.C.)
PC-DC-0012-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/16/2003
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Memorandum of Decision (89 F.Supp.2d 48) (D.D.C.)
PC-DC-0012-0002.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 03/21/2000
Source: Google Scholar
Opinion (254 F.3d 262)
PC-DC-0012-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 07/10/2001
Source: Google Scholar
Memorandum (191 F.Supp.2d 23) (D.D.C.)
PC-DC-0012-0001.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 02/19/2002
Source: Google Scholar
Order (2003 WL 1873847)
PC-DC-0012-0004.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 04/11/2003
Judges Henderson, Karen LeCraft (D.S.C., D.C. Circuit)
Kennedy, Henry Harold Jr. (D.D.C.)
PC-DC-0012-0001 | PC-DC-0012-0002 | PC-DC-0012-9000
Rogers, John M. (Sixth Circuit)
Tatel, David S. (D.C. Circuit)
Plaintiff's Lawyers Abram, Jonathan L. (District of Columbia)
PC-DC-0012-0002 | PC-DC-0012-0003
Haft, William S. (District of Columbia)
Hogan, E. Desmond (District of Columbia)
PC-DC-0012-0001 | PC-DC-0012-0002 | PC-DC-0012-0003 | PC-DC-0012-9000
Murphy, Christopher K. (District of Columbia)
Spitzer, Arthur (District of Columbia)
Defendant's Lawyers Humphreys, Michael A. (District of Columbia)
PC-DC-0012-0001 | PC-DC-0012-0002 | PC-DC-0012-0003 | PC-DC-0012-9000
Jackson, Gregory (District of Columbia)
Lawrence, R. Craig (District of Columbia)
Lerner, Jacques Phillip (District of Columbia)
Lewis, Wilma A. (District of Columbia)
Prager, Lutz Alexander (District of Columbia)
Reischel, Charles L. (District of Columbia)
Rigsby, Robert (District of Columbia)
Schwab, Edward E. (District of Columbia)
Zane, Daria Jean (District of Columbia)
PC-DC-0012-0001 | PC-DC-0012-9000

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