Sunday, October 05, 2008

Recent Prisoner and Institutionalized Persons Free Exercise Cases

In Gillard v. Kuykendall, (8th Cir., Oct. 2, 2008), the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals held that prison authorities violated the free exercise rights of an inmate who, as a member of the New Testament House of Prayer, observed the Sabbath on Saturday. By requiring plaintiff to clean his cell on Saturday mornings, officials substantially burdened his religious beliefs which could have been accommodated by allowing him to clean his cell before or after his Sabbath. AP reported on the decision. (See prior related posting.)

In Lovelace v. Bassett, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 74190 (WD VA, Sept. 27, 2008), a Virginia federal district court allowed an inmate to proceed with his claim that he was served one-third fewer calories per day during the month of Ramadan. Plaintiff alleged that this violated his rights under the free exercise clause, RLUIPA, the due process clause and the equal protection clause.

In Barnes v. Fedele, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 74117 (WD NY, Sept. 26, 2008), a New York federal district court permitted a Hebrew Israelite inmate to proceed with his claim that his religious head gear was improperly taken from his cell. He was also permitted to proceed with his complaint that he was improperly denied kosher meals.

In El Badrawi v. Department of Homeland Security, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 74499 (D CT, Sept. 22, 2008), a former inmate brought damage claims in part for officials' refusal to serve him meals consistent with his Ramadan observance. The court permitted him to proceed with his claim that this violated his 1st Amendment rights. It also granted him leave to amend his RLUIPA claim to sue the warden in his individual capacity. The court held that RLUIPA does not authorize a claim for damages in a suit against the warden in his official capacity.

In Richardson v. Zimmerman, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 74993 (CD IL, Sept. 29, 2008), an Illinois federal district court rejected complaints about food substitutions and meal quality brought as free exercise and equal protection claims by an African Hebrew Israelite inmate who was being served a vegan diet.

Strutton v. Meade, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 76608 (ED MO, Sept. 30, 2008), involved free exercise and RLUIPA claims by a Wiccan who had been civilly committed to the Missouri Sexual Offender Treatment Center. Plaintiff asserted a variety of infringements of his ability to practice his religious faith and possess religious items. While rejecting many of his claims, the court concluded that there was enough evidence for plaintiff to move ahead on his challenge to the limit on Wicca group worship to one hour per week. It also permitted him to proceed on his Establishment Clause challenge to a requirement that he participate in Christian prayer at addiction support group meetings.

In Pethe v. Henderson, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 75847 (ND MS, Sept. 29, 2008), a Mississippi federal district court held that plaintiff had failed to prove that he was not provided the proper diet during the Feast of Unleavened Bread that he observed as a member of the Judaian-Christian faith of the United Church of God.

In United States v. Amawi, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 76097 (ND OH, Aug. 28, 2008), an Ohio federal district court rejected a Muslim prisoner's objections on religious grounds to prison rules requiring him to be strip searched after contact visits with his counsel.

In Warren v. Peterson, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 76453 (ND IL, Sept. 25, 2008), an Illinois federal district court allowed an African Hebrew Israelite inmate to proceed with his claim against a prison chaplain (but not against other defendants) alleging that he failed to receive the vegan meals for which he had been approved because of the chaplain's failure to process required paper work .

In Robinson v. United States Government, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 76653 (ED NY, Sept. 18, 2008), a New York federal district court permitted an inmate to move ahead with his complaint against a corrections officer who allegedly broke up a Jewish high holiday service being held at a detention center and made anti-Semitic remarks to plaintiff. Claims against the Bureau of Prisons and the United States were dismissed.

In Tafari v. Annetts, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 77015 (SDNY, Oct. 2, 2008), a New York federal district court agreed with a magistrate judge's recommendation to grant summary judgment to defendants in a case in which a prisoner asserted violations of his rights when he was denied kosher meals on four occasions during his transfer between institutions.