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Sample v. Lappin

March 28, 2007

BRANDON SAMPLE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
HARLEY LAPPIN, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Paul L. Friedman United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION and ORDER

This matter is before the Court on the parties' respective motions for reconsideration and on defendants' motion to dismiss as moot or, alternatively, to transfer the case to the United States District Court for the Southern District of Georgia. The Court will deny all the pending motions.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, who describes himself as "an observant Jew," brings this action against the Federal Bureau of Prisons ("BOP") under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act ("RFRA"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb-1 et seq. Compl. ¶¶ 1, 8.*fn1 Generally, plaintiff alleges that BOP substantially burdens the free exercise of his religion by refusing to allow him to drink "at least 3.5 ounces of red wine (a reviit) while saying Kiddush, a prayer sanctifying the Sabbath," and "four cups containing at least 3.5 ounces of wine during the Passover seder." Id. ¶¶ 9,10.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Burden-Shifting Analysis Under RFRA

A plaintiff makes out a prima facie claim under RFRA "by proving the following elements: (1) a substantial burden imposed by the federal government on a (2) sincere (3) exercise of religion." Kikumura v. Hurley, 242 F.3d 950, 960 (10th Cir. 2001). If a plaintiff successfully makes out a prima facie case, the defendant then must show that the burden placed on the religious exercise is permissible. See Gartrell v. Ashcroft, 191 F. Supp. 2d 23, 37 (D.D.C. 2002) (applying burden-shifting analysis under RFRA). A substantial burden on a person's exercise of religion is permissible only if:

[the government] demonstrates that application of the burden to the person--

(1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and

(2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.

42 U.S.C. § 2000bb-1(b). For purposes of RFRA, the term "demonstrates" means "meets the burdens of going forward with the evidence and of persuasion." 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb-2(3).

In its March 31, 2006 Opinion and Order, the Court concluded that plaintiff had made out a prima facie case under RFRA, in that the application of BOP regulations barring his consumption of wine during the Sabbath and Passover rituals substantially burdens the exercise of his sincerely held religious beliefs. Sample v. Lappin, 424 F. Supp. 2d 187, 193-95 (D.D.C. 2006). The Court found that the government has a compelling interest in controlling alcohol consumption and intoxicants in BOP facilities, but that there remained a question of fact as to whether an outright ban on plaintiff's consumption of wine as part of a religious ritual is the least restrictive means of furthering that interest. Id. at 195-96. The Court therefore granted the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment in part and denied them in part. Id. at 196.

B. Defendants' Motion to Reconsider Grant of Partial Summary Judgment for Plaintiff and to ...


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