Alvarez v. Hill

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Civil Procedure
  • Date Filed: 01-20-2012
  • Case #: 10-35865
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Ebel for the Court; Circuit Judges Berzon and N. Randy Smith
  • Full Text Opinion

The United States v. Howard exception to the mootness doctrine, which allows an otherwise moot claim to proceed on the premise that it challenges an ongoing policy which would evade review, does not apply to claims against prison policies that deal with post-conviction incarceration conditions.

Blackie Alvarez brought suit against Oregon Department of Corrections (ODOC) officers , alleging that they violated his rights under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA). The district court awarded summary judgment in favor of the defendants. Alvarez was subsequently released from prison. On remand, the district court again awarded summary judgment in favor of defendants for two reasons: (1) money damages were not available under RLUIPA against state officials sued in their official capacity, and (2) Alvarez's claims for declaratory and injunctive relief were moot due to his release from prison. The Ninth Circuit discussed whether the exception to the mootness doctrine recognized in United States v. Howard would apply. In Howard, the Court ruled that defendants' claims - regarding a federal policy requiring all criminal defendants making their initial appearance to be shackled - were not moot even though it could not be assumed that the the particular defendants bringing the claims would be subjected to the policy again. The Court relied on the assumption that the federal policy in Howard was almost certain to apply to other defendants in the future and that the policy would again evade review. The Court declined to extend this exception to Alvarez, which dealt specifically with claims "challenging prison policies affecting the conditions of his post-conviction incarceration." The Court reasoned that the policies challenged by Alvarez may well be ongoing, but there was no reason to assume that other inmates affected by the policies would not be able to bring their own RLUIPA claims and that the policies would again evade review. AFFIRMED.

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