Supreme Court hears arguments on religious prison policy, jurisdiction
Supreme Court hears arguments on religious prison policy, jurisdiction

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] heard oral arguments in two cases Tuesday. In Holt v. Hobbs [transcript, PDF] the court is considering whether an Arkansas prison policy [inmate handbook] that prohibits Muslim prisoners from growing a half-inch beard violates the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) [42 USC § 2000cc et seq.]. Current prison policy only allows facial hair in the form of “a neatly trimmed moustache that does not extend beyond the corners of the mouth or over the lip.” The Arkansas Department of Correction [official website] argues that the grooming policy furthers the compelling government interests in prison safety and security. They also argue that prison administrators should be given deference, as the RLUIPA’s legislative history contemplates “due deference to the experience and expertise of prison and jail administrators.” Petitioner Gregory Holt, also known as Abdul Maalik, argues [cert. petition, PDF] that the policy substantially burdens his exercise of religion. Holt also argues that even if prison administrators should be given due deference, they still must meet the burden of showing a compelling government interest.

In Dart Cherokee Basin Operating Company, LLC v. Owens [SCOTUSblog backgrounder] the court is considering whether a defendant seeking removal to federal court is required to include evidence supporting federal jurisdiction in the notice of removal, or whether it is enough to allege the required “short and plain statement of the grounds for removal.” Under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA) [28 USC § 1332], defendants may remove class actions to federal courts if they involve at least one hundred putative class members and at least $5 million in controversy. Dart failed to attached evidence of the grounds for removal, which Owens contends means that the court cannot make the finding that the jurisdictional requirements have been met.