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Khatib v. County of Orange

May 3, 2010

SOUHAIR KHATIB, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
COUNTY OF ORANGE, A POLITICAL SUBDIVISION; MICHAEL S. CARONA, AN INDIVIDUAL; BRIAN COSSAIRT, AN INDIVIDUAL, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of California David O. Carter, District Judge, Presiding, D.C. No. 8:07-cv-01012-DOC-MLG.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Trott, Circuit Judge

FOR PUBLICATION

Argued and Submitted December 9, 2009 -- Pasadena, California

Before: Alex Kozinski, Chief Judge, Stephen S. Trott and Kim McLane Wardlaw, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Souhair Khatib sued the County of Orange, California and some of its officials, alleging a violation of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act ("RLUIPA"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-1 et seq. The gravamen of her complaint is that she was required against her Muslim religious beliefs and practice to remove her "hijab," or headscarf, in public while she was held on two occasions between 9:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. in an Orange County Superior Court holding cell pending the disposition by the court of her probation violation. The district court dismissed with prejudice her complaint pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), on the ground that a courthouse holding cell is not an "institution" as defined by RLUIPA. We have jurisdiction over this timely appeal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1291, and we affirm.

FACTS

On June 29, 2006, Mrs. Khatib and her husband pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor violation of California welfare law. The Khatibs were placed on probation on condition that they complete thirty (30) days of community service by a date certain. Two days before that date, they appeared in court seeking an extension. However, the court revoked their probation and ordered them held in custody in the courthouse pending disposition later that day of the violation.

When Mrs. Khatib was processed into the courthouse holding cell, officers required over her objection that she remove her headscarf for security reasons. To do so in this context violated her religious beliefs by forcing her with head uncovered to confront strangers, including men to whom she was not related. As the district court noted, "Appearing in the presence of male non-family members without a hijab is a serious breach of faith and a deeply humiliating and defiling experience." Later that day, the Superior Court Judge returned her to his courtroom, reinstated her probation, gave her additional time to complete her community service, and awarded her one day credit for time served in the "Orange County Jail." She was then returned to the holding area from which she was released later that afternoon.

DISCUSSION

I.

[1] Section 2000cc-1 of RLUIPA is entitled the "protection of religious exercise of institutionalized persons." Section 2000cc-1(a) prohibits any government from imposing "a substantial burden on the religious exercise of a person residing in or confined to an institution, as defined in section 1997 [of the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PRLA")." Section 1997 in turn describes in relevant part the term "institution" as follows:

(1) The term "institution" means any facility or institution -

(A) which is owned, operated, or managed by, or provides services on behalf of any State or political subdivision of a State; and

(B) which is -

(ii) a jail, prison, or other correctional facility; [or]

(iii) a pretrial detention facility . . . .

[2] We begin by noting that the facility under examination in this case - a courthouse holding cell - is not directly addressed in the statute. Thus, the question here is whether the courthouse holding cell into which Mrs. Khatib was placed qualifies as an institution as defined in ยง 1997, i.e., "a jail, prison or other correctional facility," or "a pretrial detention facility." We hold on the basis ...


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