Ropes & Gray Secures Fifth Circuit Ruling in Favor of Texas Inmate’s Challenge to a Ban on Religious Exercise
On Oct. 3, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit vacated a judgment issued by the Eastern District of Texas that categorically banned Ropes & Gray’s pro bono client and plaintiff George Lee Tucker, II, a Texas inmate, from exercising his religious beliefs.
The case was originally filed pro se by Mr. Tucker against Texas prison officials for their refusal to allow congregation by adherents of the Nation of Gods and Earths, a group that broke off from the Nation of Islam in the 1960s. The district court ultimately granted the State’s motion for summary judgment based upon the State’s assertions that the group is associated with black supremacy, a decision from which Mr. Tucker appealed. On appeal, the Fifth Circuit appointed Ropes & Gray as pro bono counsel.
On Sept. 5, a Ropes & Gray pro bono team presented oral argument before the Fifth Circuit on behalf of Mr. Tucker. In a published opinion, the Fifth Circuit accepted Mr. Tucker’s argument that the State had failed to demonstrate under both prongs of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA)’s strict scrutiny test that it could curtail Mr. Tucker’s right to exercise his beliefs. As a result, the Fifth Circuit vacated the district court’s grant of summary judgment and remanded Mr. Tucker’s case for further proceedings.