Horvitz & Levy, in conjunction with the Ninth Circuit clinic at the Pepperdine Caruso School of Law, helped obtain a victory for a prisoner in a pro bono civil rights case.
Steven Riley, an inmate in a California state prison, brought a lawsuit in federal district court challenging the prison’s drug testing procedures. Riley alleged that the prison’s drug testing methods, which require prisoners to strip naked and assemble in a large group to give urine samples in an open-air gymnasium, constituted an unreasonable invasion of the prisoners’ privacy rights. Riley also alleged that the prison violated his religious liberties by (1) compelling him to attend a Christian-based counseling program when he refused to submit to the prison’s drug testing procedure, (2) retaliating against him by repeatedly issuing falsified “rules violation reports,” and (3) and requiring him to submit to urine testing in violation of his religion (which prohibits giving away bodily fluids), without exploring the feasibility of alternative drug testing methods. The district court dismissed Riley’s complaint for failure to state any plausible claim for relief.
Riley appealed and the Ninth Circuit appointed Pepperdine’s Ninth Circuit Appellate Advocacy Clinic to represent him on a pro bono basis. The clinic’s students, working under the supervision of Horvitz & Levy attorneys, briefed and argued the case and persuaded the Ninth Circuit to reverse the district court’s ruling and reinstate Riley’s lawsuit. The Ninth Circuit panel affirmed the district court’s conclusion that Riley’s complaint did not allege a plausible claim for invasion of privacy, but the court held that Riley had alleged sufficient facts to state claims for retaliation and for violations of his religious freedoms as guaranteed by the First Amendment and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA).