W&M Appellate Clinic wins Fourth Circuit case

On Feb. 3, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit issued an opinion in Wall v. Wade in favor of the appellant, represented by the William & Mary Appellate and Supreme Court Clinic.

The Fourth Circuit held that a policy implemented at Red Onion State Prison in Wise County, Va., in 2010, which required Muslim inmates to possess specific, physical items of Islamic faith as proof of belief in order to participate in Ramadan, was unconstitutional as applied to Wall.

This decision could be a significant precedent on the voluntary cessation exception to mootness and on qualified immunity.

The opinion, authored by Judge Roger Gregory and joined by Judges Andre Davis and James Wynn, vacated the district court's summary judgment order ruling that the defendants were entitled to qualified immunity, and Wall's claims for equitable relief were moot because the prison had abandoned the unconstitutional policy.

The panel reiterated an earlier Fourth Circuit holding that a prisoner has a right to a diet consistent with his religious beliefs and held that Red Onion's application of the policy to Wall was unnecessarily strict, in violation of his First Amendment rights. The court further ruled that Wall's equitable claims were not moot because the prison had offered no evidence that the unconstitutional policy would not be reinstated.

Elizabeth Turner '14 presented oral argument before the panel on Dec. 11, 2013, with Skyler Peacock '14 providing oral argument support.

The briefs were drafted by Alexa Roggenkamp '13 and Kelci Block '13 with the support of Robert Luck at Reed Smith LLP. The law students practice under the supervision of Adjunct Professor Tillman J. Breckenridge, an attorney at Reed Smith LLP and the director of the William & Mary Appellate and Supreme Court Clinic.