Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Monday, June 20, 2011


Page 7


Alston & Bird Receives ACLU Foundation’s Religious Freedom Award


From Staff and Wire Service Reports


Alston & Bird LLP has earned the 2011 Religious Freedom Award from the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California for its pro bono work on Basra v. Cate.

As part of the settlement of that case, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is required to amend its grooming policies to allow inmates to maintain beards in accordance with their faith. The award was presented during the organization’s 17th Annual ACLU Foundation Law Luncheon held Thursday at the Wilshire Grand Hotel in Los Angeles.

Jonathan Gordon, lead counsel on the case, said this firm “was pleased to assist the ACLU in this important case to protect religious freedom in the California prison system.”

He remarked that the settlement obtained “will protect not just the right of one individual to practice his faith while in prison, but the rights of those to follow.”

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of inmate Sukhjinder S. Basra, who was denied visitation rights and other privileges for not trimming his beard in accordance with the CDCR’s grooming regulation. Keeping unshorn hair is one of the central tenets of the Sikh faith.

Richard Hays, managing partner of Alston & Bird, said the firm “has a long and rich tradition of both using our skills as legal professionals to represent those who would not otherwise have access to the legal system and investing in our communities through service and volunteerism.”

He suggested “dedication to such causes befits the importance of providing quality pro bono legal and community service,” the firm is “proud to recognize those among us who engage in these efforts.”


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