Thursday, May 03, 2018

2nd Circuit: Damages Available In Individual Capacity Suits Under RFRA

In Tanvir v. Tanzin, (2d Cir., May 2, 2018), the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals held that under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a plaintiff may sue federal officials in their individual capacities and may recover monetary damages from them. The holding comes in a lawsuit by three Muslims who claim that their names were placed on the "No Fly List" in retaliation for their refusal to serve as government informants.  The Court, reversing the district court and remanding, said in part:
We agree with the Third Circuit’s reasoning in Mack [v. Warden Loretto FCI] and adopt it here. In particular, we reject a strained reading of “appropriate relief” that would be less generous to plaintiffs under RFRA than under implied rights of action, and thus would undermine Congress’s intention to “provide broad religious liberty protections.” Id.  Further, as one district court has pointed out, “[i]t seems unlikely that Congress would restrict the kind of remedies available to plaintiffs who challenge free exercise violations in the same statute it passed to elevate the kind of scrutiny to which such challenges would be entitled.” Jama, 343 F. Supp.2d at 374‐75 (emphasis in original).
Courthouse News Service reports on the decision. [Thanks to Daniel Benson for the lead.]