Ninth Circuit Holds that RLUIPA Does Not Abrogate Eleventh Amendment Immunity

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has joined every Federal Courts of Appeals (excluding the Eleventh Circuit) by concluding that the state may not be sued for money damages under RLUIPA:

State prisoner Patrick Ronald Holley, Sr., appeals from the district court’s summary judgment in favor of defendant prison officials. Holley alleges in his 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action that California Department of Corrections grooming regula-tions requiring short hair imposed a substantial burden on his exercise of religion in violation of section 3 of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-1. He seeks damages from defendants in their official capacities. 
We must decide whether the acceptance of federal prison funding by the state of California effected a waiver of the state’s sovereign immunity that would allow the RLUIPA claim for damages against state officials in their official capacities to proceed in federalcourt. We conclude that California did not waive its Eleventh Amendment immunity under either RLUIPA or the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1986, and we therefore affirm the judgment of the district court.
Holley v. California Department of Corrections (CA9) (here).  Our prior coverage of RLUIPA and abrogation/waiver is available here.

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