Cases & Deals

Minister and putative class of inmates represented in religious discrimination case

Client(s) Putative class of adherents to a small religious sect

A Jones Day team led by Caroline Mitchell and David Kiernan in the San Francisco office, with support from Matthew Silveira and Michael Scott in the San Francisco office, and Nicole Massey and Dennis Murashko in the Chicago office, is litigating a case on behalf of a Wiccan minister and a putative class of Wiccan/Pagan inmates who are adherents of Wicca and other Pagan religions. Plaintiffs allege religious discrimination because the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation will only hire ministers from five faiths (Muslim, Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, and Native Americans), and has favored those faiths in the administration of prison programs and discriminated against the members of plaintiffs' sect. After plaintiffs had obtained extensive discovery supporting their claims, the district court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants. Plaintiffs appealed the numerous novel legal issues decided by the district court, including claims involving standing, the Establishment Clause, the Free Exercise Clause, the Equal Protection Clause, Title VII, and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. Plaintiffs' positions on appeal were supported by three amicus briefs from institutions as diverse as Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the Anti-Defamation League, the Florida Justice Institute, the American Correctional Chaplains' Association, and numerous interfaith organizations and faith groups. Following oral argument before the Ninth Circuit in the fall of 2010, plaintiffs anticipate a decision in the first half of 2011 and a remand to the district court for trial.