Monday, August 27, 2007

Recent Prisoner Free Exercise Cases

In Chambers v. Arpaio, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 60327 (D AZ, Aug. 16,2007), an Arizona federal district court dismissed an inmate's complaint that an Arizona jail permitted only 3 of its 70 inmates to attend church each week. The complaint lacked allegations that plaintiff was prevented without penological justification from engaging in conduct mandated by his faith.

In Said v. Donate, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 55007 (MD PA, July 30, 2007), a Pennsylvania federal judge rejected a Magistrate's recommendation (2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 60658 (June 29, 2007)) that an immigration detainee's free exercise claim be dismissed. Instead the court permitted plaintiff to amend his complaint to identify defendants who deprived him of his request for a Halal meat meals, to describe those meals and how failure to receive Halal meat places a substantial burden on his religious exercise.

In Dye v. Lennon, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 62123 (ED WI, Aug. 22, 2007), a federal district court held that an inmate stated colorable free exercise and RLUIPA claims. He alleged that defendants interfered with his right to practice his religion when they obtained a temporary guardianship over him based on his refusal to eat. He says that the guardianship interferes with his fasting for religious reasons.

In Hetsberger v. Department of Corrections, (N.J. Super. App. Div., Aug. 24, 2007), a New Jersey appellate court held that the trial court should have analyzed a plaintiff's claim under RLUIPA as well as under First Amendment standards. Plaintiff in the case, a member of the Nation of Gods and Earths, complained that the Department of Corrections' designation of the Nation as a security risk placed a substantial burden on its members' ability to participate in activities central to their religious beliefs.

In Searles v. Bruce, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 62451 (D KA, Aug. 23, 2007), a Kansas federal district court granted a directed verdict for defendants, finding that an inmate failed to prove his claim that he was denied apples and honey for the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah, and failed to show any personal participation by defendants in the alleged denial.