SCOTUS GVRs Knight v. Thompson — A Native Prisoner Matter — in Light of Holt v. Hobbs

Here is the order.

BTW, a GVR stands for “grant vacate remand.” It usually means, as I believe it does here, that the Supreme Court has decided a matter that will affect the disposition of another matter pending before the Court at the time. Here, the Court granted cert to review Holt v. Hobbs. and decided that matter last week. Also pending was a cert petition in Knight v. Thompson involving a challenge by a Native prisoner to his warden’s order to cut his hair. the Court held the Native petition while it decided the other petition, which involved a Muslim man’s challenge to his warden’s order to shave his beard.

Now the Knight case will return to the Eleventh Circuit where the court will review the case in light of the decision in Holt.

Fifth Circuit Largely Rules Against American Indian Prisoner in RLUIPA Case

Here are the materials in Chance v. Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice:

Chance v. TDCJ Decision

Chance – Opening Brief (FILED)

Amicus Brief of Pan-American Indian Association

Texas– Appellee Brief

An excerpt:

Plaintiff-Appellant William Chance, Jr. (“Chance”) is a prisoner currently incarcerated by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (“TDCJ”). Chance filed suit under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”) alleging that TDCJ has failed to accommodate several tenets of his Native American religion, including: (1) personal participation in a pipe-smoking ceremony, (2) participation in a minimum number of various ceremonies, (3) indoor smoke-wafting, and (4) personal possession of a lock of a deceased relative’s hair. We agree with the district court that the summary judgment record demonstrated that the prison policies associated with Chance’s first three complaints are the least restrictive means of furthering TDCJ’s compelling interests. However, we disagree with the district court that summary judgment was appropriate on Chance’s claim that prohibiting the possession of a lock of a relative’s hair was not the least restrictive means of furthering TDCJ’s compelling interests. We therefore AFFIRM the district court’s judgment in part, and VACATE and REMAND it in part.