§ 1981a." Defendants' Memorandum of Law at 29.
As to the request for leave to amend the complaint pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a), the grant or denial of leave to amend is a matter within the sound discretion of the Court, and is generally granted absent a showing of prejudice by the adverse party. See, Yellow Bus Lines v. Drivers, Chauffeurs & Helpers Local Union 639, 280 U.S. App. D.C. 60, 883 F.2d 132, 145 (D.C. Cir. 1989). Here, the defendants have not even addressed the issue, much less make any showing of prejudice. Accordingly, the court will grant the plaintiff's motion for leave to amend the complaint.
As to the plaintiff's motion, in effect, for summary judgment on the issue of liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1981a, the plaintiff's motion is denied. Given that such claim was not clearly raised in the complaint, that the record does not specifically address that particular issue, and that the defendants have not responded to the arguments of the plaintiff, the court finds that a determination as to summary judgment on this issue would be improper at this time. Accordingly, the plaintiff's motion is denied.
F. Claim Pursuant To RFRA
The plaintiff seeks summary judgment as to liability under the RFRA. It is the plaintiff's claim that the Act provides a private cause of action, and applies retroactively.
Aside from claiming summary judgment as to the RFRA on the basis of various immunities, which the court already has denied, and claiming that collateral estoppel should not apply, which the court disagrees with, the defendants have not addressed the merits of the plaintiff's substantive arguments with respect to the RFRA. Nevertheless, the court will examine the RFRA claim.
The First Amendment to the United States Constitution mandates that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...." U.S. Const. amend. I. The states are bound by this provision through the fourteenth amendment. Cantwell v. Connecticut, 310 U.S. 296, 303, 60 S. Ct. 900, 903, 84 L. Ed. 1213 (1940). The Free Exercise Clause precludes all "governmental regulation of beliefs as such." Sherbert v. Verner, 374 U.S. 398, 402, 83 S. Ct. 1790, 1793, 10 L. Ed. 2d 965 (1963). Government may, however, under certain circumstances, impinge on an individual's actions in accordance with those beliefs in exercising the power to prescribe or proscribe conduct. See, e.g., Employment Div., Dep't of Human Resources v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872, 890, 110 S. Ct. 1595, 1606, 108 L. Ed. 2d 876, (1990) (holding that Native American Indians who used peyote in religious ceremonies were not exempt from criminal statute prohibiting use).
The Smith Court departed from the generally accepted compelling interest standard. In response to Smith, Congress passed the RFRA
explicitly overruling Smith. The Act's stated purpose is "to restore the compelling interest test as set forth in Sherbert v. Verner, 374 U.S. 398, 83 S. Ct. 1790, 10 L. Ed. 2d 965 (1963) and Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205, 92 S. Ct. 1526, 32 L. Ed. 2d 15 (1972) and to guarantee its application in all cases where free exercise of religion is substantially burdened." 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb(b)(1). The Act provides that government "shall not substantially burden a person's exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability," unless the government demonstrates that burdening the person (1) furthers a compelling governmental interest, and (2) advances that interest in the least restrictive means possible. Id. § 2000bb-1(a),(b). In effect, the Act demands that all governmental action that substantially interferes with the free exercise of religion be justified under a traditional strict scrutiny analysis.
The fact that the Act was passed in November 1993, after at least some of the acts complained of in this case, does not prevent its application in this case. The Act states that it "applies to all Federal and State law, and the implementation of that law, whether statutory or otherwise, and whether adopted before or after the enactment of the Act." Id. § 2000bb-3(a). The statutory language evinces clear congressional intent that the law apply retroactively.
Moreover, the Act clearly creates a private cause of action. The Act states the "[a] person whose religious exercise has been burdened in violation of this section may assert that violation as a claim or defense in a judicial proceeding and obtain appropriate relief against a government." 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb-1(c). Thus, the court concludes that, given the clear intent of Congress as expressed in the statutory language, the RFRA creates a private cause of action and applies retroactively.
As to the merits of the plaintiff's claim under RFRA, and pursuant to the application of collateral estoppel to this case, the court first finds that the plaintiff holds a sincere religious belief. In addition, the court finds that the defendants have substantially burdened the exercise of that belief. Having made such a determination, the court must then scrutinize the nature of the state's interest and the means used to further that interest.
The state has the burden of proving its actions are the least restrictive means of advancing a compelling interest. 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000bb-1(b), 2000bb-2(3). However, the state court has already concluded that the state has no legitimate interest. Moreover, since the very language of Directive 3083 provides for an alternative to wearing hair beyond one inch below the collar for female corrections officers, it is clear that the least restrictive means for advancing whatever interest the state has is already provided for in Directive 3083. Accordingly, the court grants partial summary judgment in favor of the plaintiff as to the RFRA claim.
G. Continued Discovery
The remaining discovery issues are referred to the Magistrate Judge for resolution.
For the foregoing reasons, the Court GRANTS the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment as to liability pursuant to Title VII, DENIES the defendants' motions to dismiss the plaintiff's claims on the basis of eleventh amendment absolute immunity, DENIES the defendants' motions to dismiss the plaintiff's claims pursuant to qualified immunity, GRANTS the plaintiff leave to amend the complaint to clarify a claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1981a, DENIES the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment as to the alleged claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1981a, GRANTS the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment as to the claim brought pursuant to the RFRA, and refers the discovery issues to the Magistrate Judge for determination.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Dated at Binghamton, New York
Nov 25, 1995
Thomas J. McAvoy
Chief U.S. District Judge