Muslim woman's suit over head-scarf removal at jail dismissed


By John Hausman

Both sides have agreed to dismiss without payment a Muslim woman's federal lawsuit claiming Oceana County (Mich.) Sheriff's Office deputies violated her constitutional rights by making her remove her head scarf when she was booked into the county jail.

Fatme Dakroub's lawsuit against the county, the sheriff's office, Sheriff Robert J. Farber and three jail officers was dismissed without any money changing hands, according to a filing Monday, April 18, at U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan.

The dismissal is final and by mutual agreement.

"The parties hereby agree and stipulate that all remaining claims against all parties are dismissed with prejudice and without cost to either party," the court filing states. "With prejudice" means the dismissal is permanent. The lawsuit cannot be refiled later.

This booking photo shows Fatme Dakroub still wearing a head covering, despite her claims.

This booking photo shows Fatme Dakroub still wearing a head covering, despite her claims.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Ellen S. Carmody issued an order Monday approving the dismissal. Attorneys for Dakroub and Oceana County approved the stipulation (mutual agreement) on Thursday, April 14.

The stipulation and order of dismissal does not state whether there was a settlement involving non-monetary issues.

Farber, the sheriff, could not comment on the dismissal before talking with the county's attorney.

Dakroub's attorney, Nabih H. Ayad of Detroit, could not immediately be reached for comment Monday.

Dakroub is a U.S. citizen who is a practicing Muslim and a resident of the United Arab Emirates.

In her complaint, she stated that as a religious duty she always wears a head scarf, called a hijab, when she is in public or in the presence of men who are not members of her immediate family.

She alleged that after she was brought to the Oceana County Jail May 17, 2015, for allegedly driving without a valid license, she was required to remove her hijab in front of three male officers despite her religious objections.

She stated that, after booking, she was placed in a holding cell for approximately three hours without a head scarf in front of the male officers and "multiple other male inmates."

The lawsuit alleged the deputies' actions violated Dakroub's constitutional rights to free exercise of religion and free expression guaranteed by the First and 14th Amendments. It also alleged that she suffered "severe humiliation, mental anguish and emotional distress" as a result of the experience.

The original complaints asked that she be awarded compensatory, punitive and economic damages and attorney fees and costs, and that a federal judge issue an injunction barring Oceana County from "engaging in the unlawful practices" described in the lawsuit.

According to a court summary of the sheriff's response to the lawsuit after a status conference Sept. 9, Dakroub was required to be bareheaded only long enough to have a booking photo taken of her face "in a manner consistent with the photograph on the identification card or driver's license issued to her by the United Arab Emirates, and in her possession at the time of her arrest."

After that, during "her very brief stay in the Oceana County Jail," Dakroub was allowed to wear her own clothing and to cover her head with a hood attached to her shirt, the lawsuit response stated.

In reality, as her booking photos show, she wasn't even bareheaded for those, contrary to the court summary - she was allowed to wear the hood attached to her shirt while being photographed.

"Allowing Plaintiff to retain possession of a lengthy scarf while she was in a jail holding cell presented significant security concerns for the Plaintiff, other inmates and corrections officers," the summary of the sheriff's position stated. The deputies "acted solely upon considerations of the good order and discipline of the Oceana Jail, and by applying sound principles of safety within a correctional facility," the sheriff stated.

The response stated that she was booked into the jail after she was "lawfully arrested by another agency," contrary to Dakroub's complaint she was arrested by sheriff's deputies allegedly for speeding in a parking lot while she was in Oceana County visiting her family.

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