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LOS ANGELES � A federal judge has dismissed religious claims brought by a Muslim woman over her right to wear a hijab, the traditional head scarf of the Islamic faith, while in a courthouse holding facility. In a March 26 order, U.S. District Court Judge David Carter, for the Central District of California, ruled that a courthouse holding facility, unlike a jail or prison, is not a protected institution under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000. At the same time, he declined to dismiss First Amendment and emotional distress claims. A handful of other cases have been filed in the past year involving a woman’s right to wear a hijab while in a courthouse. Most recently, a woman sued San Bernardino County in December claiming she was forced to remove her hijab at a detention center where she was taken after being caught for carrying an invalid ticket on a train. Jameelah Medina v. County of San Bernardino, No. 5:07-cv-01600 (C.D. Calif.). The recent ruling address another lawsuit in which a woman, Souhair Khatib, claims three officers at the “booking counter” of the Orange County Superior Court demanded that she remove her hijab. Later, she was not allowed to wear the hijab while in a holding facility. Khatib v. County of Orange, No. 8:07-cv-01012 (C.D. Calif.). In a case of first impression, Carter wrote that “constant movement within holding facilities makes unlimited exercise of religious and expressive freedoms impractical.” Jennifer Mathis, a partner at Irvine, Calif.-based Ross, Dixon & Bell, who brought the case along with the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, disagreed. “It was somewhat of a surprising ruling,” Mathis said. “We think the claim should have stayed in the lawsuit and that the detention that she was kept in when her headscarf was removed does qualify as a place that is protected.” Mathis said she is considering whether to appeal. In the suit, Khatib said she wore a hijab that covered her hair and neck while in the presence of men who are not family members. To appear without the hijab would be “a serious breach of faith and a deeply humiliating and defiling experience,” according to court papers. In November 2006, she arrived at the Orange County Superior Court to seek an extension to complete her community service that was ordered after she and her husband pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor violation of state welfare law. Their probation was revoked, and she was taken into custody. The officers at the “booking counter” demanded that she remove her hijab. While in the holding cell, and in the courtroom, she attempted to cover her head and neck with a vest she was wearing. In his decision, the judge noted that staff people at courthouse holding facilities, unlike at prisons and jails, deal with a revolving door of inmates, which enhances the chance of violent behavior. David D. Lawrence, a member at Franscell, Strickland, Roberts & Lawrence, in Santa Ana, Calif., who represents the defendants � Orange County, former Orange County Sheriff Mike Carona and Brian Cossairt, an officer who oversees the courts � did not return a call for comment.

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