Firm Files Amicus Brief on Behalf of Interfaith Coalition in Support of Recognizing Money Damages under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act
On October 26, Patterson Belknap filed a motion seeking leave to file an amicus curiae brief in Walker v. Baldwin, on behalf of an interfaith coalition comprising of 27 religious organizations across the country. Amici urged the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit to recognize that the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) permits prisoners and other incarcerated persons to pursue money damages against officers who violate their right to freely exercise their religious liberties. Amici noted that prisoners from different faiths and communities have had their religious freedoms violated by state prison personnel without any recourse. For example, state prison officials have forcibly shaved the beards and dreadlocks of Muslim and Rastafarian detainees; refused to provide kosher, halal and other religiously prescribed food; and refused to permit inmates to wear hijabs and yarmulkes, etc. Under current law, prison officials can strategically moot an injunctive claim and evade accountability. Amici therefore urged the court to end this unjust status quo by recognizing a remedy for money damages against delinquent state officials in their individual capacity. Amici contended that money damages would serve the dual purpose of deterring such misconduct by prison officials and compensating prisoners for having suffered violations of their religious rights.