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On October 6 and 7, 2014, the Bar Association of the Fifth Federal Circuit will host our Annual Appellate Advocacy Seminar in New Orleans.  Cost is $100 for 9.25 hours of Continuing Legal Education, including both an hour for Professionalism and an hour for Ethics.  Attend a two hour writing workshop to hone your brief writing skills, observe oral arguments and get practice tips from seasoned attorneys and sitting judges.  This seminar is an ideal introduction into federal appellate practice, with specifics about Fifth Circuit procedures.  Register Now

The AJEI Summit is an annual CLE conference for appellate judges, lawyers, and staff attorneys from across the nation. It features dynamic, cutting-edge, and practical programming together with unique and entertaining networking events. This year's Summit is in Dallas, November 13-16, 2014 at the Marriott City Center, just steps away from the exciting Dallas Arts District

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The Daily Commentary (sample)

Sample case reviewed on November 26, 2013.
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Tagore v. United States of America No. 12-20214

Before JONES, DENNIS, and HIGGINSON, Circuit Judges.

AFFIRMED in part; REVERSED and REMANDED in part. (November 13, 2013).

Posted in Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Title VII

Kawaljeet Tagore was refused permission to wear a kirpan (a Sikh ceremonial sword) with a blade long enough to be considered a “dangerous weapon” under Federal law inside the Federal building where she worked for the Internal Revenue Service. After Tagore ultimately lost her job by failing to comply with the applicable regulations or receive an appropriate waiver, she sued the United States and various Federal agencies and employees, alleging violations of her religious rights protected by Title VII and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. 18 U.S.C. § 930(a) proscribes the knowing possession of “a firearm or other dangerous weapon in a Federal facility,” and that the term “dangerous weapon” is defined by § 930(g)(2) as “a weapon, device, instrument, material, or substance, animate or inanimate, that is used for, or is readily capable of, causing death or serious bodily injury, except that such term does not include a pocket knife with a blade of less than 2 ½ inches in length.” The District Court granted summary judgment in favor of defendants, and against Tagore, on both her claims. She appealed.

The Fifth Circuit affirmed the District Court’s grant of summary judgment on Tagore’s Title VII claim, finding that the IRS’s failure to accommodate her did not violate Title VII as a matter of law. The Court found there to be a genuine issue of material fact as to her sincere belief in wearing a 3-inch bladed kirpan. Assuming Tagore could succeed in establishing a sincerely held religious belief that mandates her wearing a 3-inch kirpan blade, the Court resolved that defendants amply demonstrated that the accommodations that Tagore proposed to allow her to continue to wear her kirpan amounted to more than “de minimis” costs on the employer, and Title VII does not require religious accommodations that impose more than “de minimis” costs on an employer. Conversely, the Court reversed and remanded Tagore’s RFRA claim for further development of evidence concerning the Government’s compelling interest in enforcing against Tagore the statutory ban on weapons with blades exceeding 2.5 inches. The Court again assumed Tagore could succeed in establishing a sincerely held religious belief that mandates her wearing a 3-inch kirpan blade in analyzing whether enforcement of § 930(a) substantially burdened her religious practice. The Court conceded that the Government has a compelling interest in protecting Federal buildings and the people in and around them, and Congress’s choice in defining “dangerous weapons” that cannot be introduced into the buildings to include bladed instruments exceeding 2.5 inches must be given significant deference. Yet, the Court focused its attention on the fact the Supreme Court emphasized in Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniao do Vegetal, 546 U.S. 418, 428, 126 S.Ct. 1211 (2006), that RFRA requires the Government to explain how applying the statutory burden “to the person” whose sincere exercise of religion is being seriously impaired furthers the compelling Governmental interest. Hence, the Court remanded Tagore’s RFRA claim for further proceedings to determine as a matter of fact whether Tagore holds a sincere religious belief in wearing a kirpan with a blade exceeding the federally prescribed maximum and, if so, whether the Government has proven that application of Section 930(a) to Tagore furthers a compelling Government interest with the least restrictive means.

On Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas (Sim T. Lake, III).
Attorney for Appellant – Scott Daniel Nevar, Houston, TX
Attorney for Appellee – Lowell V. Sturgill, Jr., Washington, DC

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