Ninth Circuit Rules for Our Pro Bono Client in Religious Freedom Case

April.08.2014

​A team in Seattle earned a victory in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of a client incarcerated in a Montana prison.

The case involves a prison policy that allowed only prisoners of certain preferred religions to keep their holy texts with them when being admitted to the prison. As a member of a non-preferred religion, the client was forced to give up his holy text when he was processed into prison and was unable to replace it. Indigent and without counsel, he proceeded on his own in pursuing his claims that the policy violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) as well as the First and Fourteenth Amendments. After he lost on summary judgment, Orrick was appointed pro bono counsel by the court of appeals.

A Seattle team of Jeffrey Cox, Marc Shapiro and David Keenan prepared for argument, and David argued the case before the Ninth Circuit in February of this year. The court of appeals held that the district court erred in granting summary judgment to the State of Montana on the client's RLUIPA and constitutional claims, and that it may have erred in dismissing several Montana state officials from the case. The court of appeals thus reversed most of the summary judgment order and remanded the case to the district court.