Monday, September 24, 2007

Recent Prisoner Free Exercise Cases

Randolph v. City of New York Department of Corrections, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 68104 (SDNY, Sept. 7, 2007), involves claims regarding the availability of Halal food for prisoners at New York's Rikers Island correctional facility. A federal magistrate judge recommended dismissal of a claim that the prison commissary violated plaintiff's free exercise rights by selling products containing pork without identify those contents to prisoners. However he recommended that plaintiff be allowed to proceed with claims for an injunction and declaratory relief regarding the prison's alleged practice of failing to follow proper practices in serving Halal meals, such as washing Halal and non-Halal trays together.

In Travillion v. Leon, 2007 U.S. App. LEXIS 22203 (3rd Cir., Sept. 14, 2007), the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals held that a Protestant plaintiff's Establishment Clause and Equal Protection rights were not violated when a state jail served all prisoners vegetarian meals during Lent, even though their religious beliefs did not require them to abstain from meat.

In Portune v. Ornoski, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 68534 (ND CA, Sept. 6, 2007), a California federal district court permitted a prisoner to proceed with a habeas corpus action alleging in part that his right to the free exercise of religion was infringed when his parole was denied because he refused to attend a religious-based Narcotics Anonymous program.

In Saif'ullah v. Sisto, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 68703 (ED CA, Sept. 5, 2007), a California federal district court permitted to proceed with their First Amendment and RLUIPA claims that they were offered only a vegetarian diet instead of a diet that included Halal meat. However the court found that they failed to state a claim when they alleged that they were prevented from offering their evening prayers in the prison's day room, and instead had to pray individually in their prison dorms.

In Dupree v. Laster, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 69288 (SD IL, Sept. 19, 2007), a federal district court adopted a Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation, rejecting prison officials' arguments that their actions dealing with Plaintiff's behavior during religious services while incarcerated were legitimate, and that RLUIPA does not authorize individual capacity claims for monetary damages

In Jackson v. Epps, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 69017 (ND MS, Sept. 18, 2007), a Mississippi federal district court dismissed a prisoner's complaint that he was not permitted to attend Muslim religious services, finding that plaintiff had not filled out the required prison form to designate his religion as Islam.