Published on: Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Colorado prison officials who banned Native American religious services and the use of tobacco in those services cannot use qualified immunity to shield themselves from a lawsuit brought by a prisoner alleging that they deprived him of his religious rights, the Tenth Circuit ruled Wednesday (article available here).

The court rejected the defendants’ argument that the alleged violation of a constitutional right had not been clearly established, holding that Williams showed that there was precedential authority existing in other courts that both of the bans could have violated a clearly established right. “Our case law clearly established the right of prisoners to use objects required by religious doctrine, and a 30-day prohibition could have violated this right,” the court wrote.

The case is Williams v. Borrego, No. 20-01146 (10th Cir. July 21, 2021).