Monday, March 03, 2014

Supreme Court Grants Review In Muslim Prisoner's Challenge To Grooming Rules Barring Beards

The U.S. Supreme Court today granted certiorari in Holt v. Hobbs, (Docket No. 13-6827, cert. granted 3/3/2014). It also granted petitioner's motion to proceed in forma pauperis. (Order List.) In the case, the 8th Circuit affirmed the district court's decision upholding the grooming policy of the Arkansas Department of Corrections that allows inmates to wear trimmed mustaches but otherwise no facial hair, with quarter-inch beards permitted only for a diagnosed dermatological problem. Inmate Gregory Holt is a Muslim whose religious beliefs require him to grow a beard.  He proposed that he be allowed to maintain a half-inch beard as a compromise position, to balance his religious beliefs with the prison's security needs. In its per curiam opinion, the 8th Circuit held that "defendants met their burden under RLUIPA of establishing that ADC's grooming policy was the least restrictive means of furthering a compelling penological interest." Last November, the Supreme Court took the unusual step of granting Holt (who also goes by the name Abdul Maalik Muhammad) an injunction barring Arkansas from enforcing its grooming policy against him pending disposition of Holt's cert petition and of the appeal now that review has been granted. According to SCOTUS Blog, arguments in this case will not be heard until next Fall.

UPDATE: Later in the day on March 3, the Supreme Court issued an order (full text) modifying its grant of certiorari, clarifying that the it is limited to the question of whether Arkansas' grooming policy violates RLUIPA "to the extent that it
 prohibits petitioner from growing a one-half-inch beard in accordance with his religious beliefs."