Williams & Connolly Pro Bono Client Prevails in Ninth Circuit Free Speech & Religious Liberty Case

January 2022

On January 24, 2022, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled in favor of firm client, Edward Lee Jones, Jr., in an important case involving freedom of expression and religious liberty. The Arizona Department of Corrections prohibited Mr. Jones from possessing certain rap and R&B CDs and from accessing Nation of Islam religious texts during Ramadan. After the district court granted summary judgment in favor of prison officials, Williams & Connolly partnered with the MacArthur Justice Center to represent Mr. Jones before the Ninth Circuit. On appeal, a Ninth Circuit panel unanimously reversed the district court’s ruling and remanded for further proceedings. The Court recognized that the First Amendment requires the neutral application of prison regulations—ensuring that officials do not “justify a policy based on a legitimate interest applicable to the overall prison population, while applying the policy in an arbitrary or discriminatory manner.” And, with respect to the religious claims, the Court explained “that the timing of the adoption of a religious belief is ‘immaterial’ to the determination of whether a person’s religious exercise has been burdened.”
Associate Matt Rice argued before the Ninth Circuit and briefed the appeal with associate Ryan Giles. Partner Sarah Harris oversaw the pro bono matter.
Click here to read the opinion.

*All cases vary and none is predictive.

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