Society of Separationists, Inc. v. Herman

939 F.2d 1207, 959 F.2d 1283, 506 U.S. 866, 113 S.Ct. 191, 121 L.Ed.2d 135 (1992)

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Society of Separationists, Inc. v. Herman

United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
939 F.2d 1207, 959 F.2d 1283, 506 U.S. 866, 113 S.Ct. 191, 121 L.Ed.2d 135 (1992)

RW

Facts

This case is the second of two related actions involving Robin Murray-O'Hair (co-plaintiff), an atheist who refused to swear a state-mandated juror's oath that referred to God. Texas law allowed Murray-O'Hair to make an alternative affirmation containing no religious references, but she refused to do so because she believed it, too, had religious connotations. Judge Guy Herman (defendant) sanctioned Murray-O'Hair for her refusal, and barred her from sitting on the jury. In the first action, Murray-O'Hair sued the Texas attorney general and Herman's court, but not Herman personally. A federal judge dismissed the action, ruling that Murray-O'Hair had no constitutional right to sit on a jury. The judge also opined that Texas did not violate the First Amendment's Establishment Clause, because a juror could either swear an oath or make a nonreligious affirmation. On appeal, the United States Court of the Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court. Then, Murray-O'Hair and the Society of Separationists, Inc. (co-plaintiff) brought this second action, accusing Herman (defendant) of violating the First Amendment's Free Exercise Clause. The district judge entered judgment in favor of Herman. Murray-O'Hair and the Society appealed to the Fifth Circuit. As a threshold issue, the Fifth Circuit considered whether the doctrine of stare decisis meant that the dismissal of the first action required dismissal of the second action.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Goldberg, J.)

Dissent (Garwood, J.)

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