Hughes Hubbard & Reed successfully represented a New York state prisoner before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. The April 4 ruling, which reversed the dismissal of the client’s action and remanded his case to the district court, means he can pursue his claims that a statewide ban on demonstrative prayer in recreation yards impermissibly infringes his religious rights.
In October 2007, the client, who is a Muslim, filed a pro se action in the Northern District of New York, alleging violations of his religious rights under various federal and state constitutional provisions, laws and regulations. The district court dismissed all of the client’s claims in September of 2010 and 2011.
In particular, the district court determined that the client’s claims for injunctive and declaratory relief were moot due to prison transfers despite finding that the client’s free exercise rights were substantially burdened. The district court also responded to the client’s unspecified request to withdraw his state law claims with a dismissal with prejudice.
In June 2012, the Second Circuit appointed Vilia Hayes, who is a member of the court’s pro bono panel, to represent the client on appeal. Jenny Stapleton took primary responsibility for the brief, which Hayes and Sarah Cave edited. On March 8, 2013, Stapleton argued the appeal.
In response to Hughes Hubbard’s opening brief, the prison official defendants conceded that the client’s federal claims for injunctive relief were not moot because he faces similar restrictions at the prison to which he was recently transferred, and the disputed policy is statewide. The Second Circuit agreed and further found dismissal of the state law claims with prejudice to be “problematic.”
The Second Circuit vacated the judgment insofar as it dismissed the client’s claims for declaratory and injunctive relief and to the extent it dismissed the client’s state law claims with prejudice. The Second Circuit remanded with instructions to permit the client to withdraw or renew his request to dismiss without prejudice.
Sara Echenique, Karen Goldberg and Trudy Dako also worked on the appellate briefs. Cave and Goldberg continue to represent the client on remand.