Monumental Victory for Hamilton Clarke LLP

Hamilton Clarke LLP has secured a monumental victory protecting the religious freedoms of New York State Corrections Officers.

On September 5, 2023, U.S. District Judge Ronnie Abrams ruled in favor of the officers represented by Hamilton Clarke, finding that they proved that the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) has maintained “an unconstitutional practice of denying requests for religious accommodations based on a determination that wearing a beard is not a tenet of a believer’s faith.” Judge Abrams issued a permanent injunction against the State of New York to stop this practice.

Joshua Moskovitz, Partner-in-Charge of Civil Litigation and Appeals at Hamilton Clarke, has served as lead counsel for the Plaintiffs throughout the case. He has represented officers whose requests to grow beards for religious reasons were wrongfully denied. After refusing to shave, several of the officers were suspended and threatened with losing their jobs, while others were forced to shave in violation of their religious beliefs.

“With this decision, New York State Corrections Officers who have fought hard to protect their religious freedoms, can rest assured that their constitutional rights will be protected,” Moskovitz said. “There is still much to do to finalize and enforce this victory, but it’s our hope that this decision will ensure state corrections officers can freely practice their religions without fear of losing their jobs.”

In addition to granting partial summary judgment, the Court certified the case as a class action on behalf of all officers who were denied an accommodation to wear a beard based on religious beliefs going back to August 2016. The State has until October 6, 2023 to tell the Court how it intends to comply with the decision.

You can read the full Opinion and Order here.

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