Landor v. Louisiana Dept of Corrections, No. 22-30686 (5th Cir. 2023)Annotate this Case
Plaintiff is a devout Rastafarian who vowed to “let the locks of the hair of his head grow,” a promise known as the Nazarite Vow. During his brief stint in prison, Plaintiff was primarily housed at two facilities, and each facility respected Plaintiff’s vow. With only three weeks left in his sentence—Plaintiff was transferred to RLCC. Plaintiff explained that he was a practicing Rastafarian and provided proof of past religious accommodations. And Plaintiff also handed the guard a copy of the Fifth Circuit’s decision in Ware v. Louisiana Department of Corrections. The guard threw Plaintiff’s papers in the trash and summoned RLCC’s warden. When the Warden arrived, he demanded Plaintiff hand over documentation from his sentencing judge that corroborated his religious beliefs. Guards then carried him into another room, handcuffed him to a chair, held him down, and shaved his head. Plaintiff brought claims under RLUIPA and Section 1983. He also pleaded state law claims for negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and violations of the Louisiana constitution. The district court agreed with Defendants and held that those claims were moot. Plaintiff appealed.
The Fifth Circuit affirmed. The court concluded that while Sossamon I RLUIPA’s text suggests a damages remedy, recognizing as much would run afoul of the Spending Clause. Tanzin doesn’t change that—it addresses a different law that was enacted under a separate Congressional power with “concerns not relevant to [RLUIPA].” Accordingly, the court held because Sossamon I remains the law, Plaintiff cannot recover monetary damages against the defendant-officials in their individual capacities under RLUIPA.