U.S. Supreme Court

Inmate's right to a beard to be decided by SCOTUS; prisoner filed handwritten cert petition

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A Muslim inmate’s handwritten cert petition has gotten the attention of the U.S. Supreme Court.

The court agreed Monday to decide whether the Arkansas prisoner, Gregory Holt, has a religious right to keep his beard, report SCOTUSblog and Reuters. Holt’s cert petition (PDF), handwritten on a publicly available form, claimed the prison grooming policy violated his rights under the First Amendment and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, according to the Constitution Daily.

The Supreme Court filed an amended order midday on Monday that said it would consider only whether the prison policy was invalid under RLUIPA to the extent that it barred Holt from “growing a one-half-inch beard in accordance with his beliefs,” SCOTUSblog reports.

University of Virginia law professor Douglas Laycock filed a supplemental brief (PDF) in January that credits Holt with correctly identifying a circuit split over the proper interpretation of RLUIPA. Laycock is now representing Holt, whom the court allowed to keep his beard pending a decision on the cert petition.

Holt is serving a life sentence after he was convicted of burglary and domestic battery for cutting and stabbing his girlfriend, according to the Constitution Daily. He is also known as Abdul Maalik Muhammad.

The case is Holt v. Hobbs. Updated on Tuesday to include SCOTUSblog information.

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