Sunday, August 14, 2011

Recent Prisoner Free Exercise Cases

In Creveling v. Johnson, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 86648 (D NJ, Aug. 4, 2011), a New Jersey federal district court held that plaintiff, who was involuntarily committed as a sexually violent predator, could move ahead with a free exercise claim. He claims he is entitled to weekly church services, bible study and confession, as well as rosaries every day, but has only been allowed to attend church once every two-three weeks.

In Rogers v. United States, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 83336 (WD PA, July 29, 2011), a Pennsylvania federal district court adopted a magistrate's recommendations (2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 86921, June 17, 2011), and dismissed an inmate's complaint that he was denied Halal meat for the Eid-ul-Adha celebration in 2006. The court found defendants had qualified immunity and rejected plaintiff's retaliation claim. It also rejected a retaliation claim regarding prayer oil pricing.

In Ellis v. United States, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 83833 (WD PA, Aug. 1, 2011), a Pennsylvania federal district court adopted a magistrate's recommendation (2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 86927, June 17, 2011) and permitted a former Sunni Muslim inmate to move ahead with his retaliation claim against certain defendants in which he claimed that his name was wrongfully omitted from call out lists for the 2006 Eid celebration and the Jumu'ah prayer services during 3 months. Various other claims, including one relating to Halal meat for the Eid celebration, were dismissed.

In Sykes v. Williams, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 87835 (D SC, Aug. 8, 2011), a South Carolina federal district court adopted a magistrate's recommendations (2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 87777, July 13, 2011) and dismissed a Muslim inmate's claims that his religious rights were infringed when he was served porkwhile in detention.

In Gailbreath v. Covert, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 88095 (WD PA, July 20, 2011), a Pennsylvania federal magistrate judge recommended dismissal of a Muslim inmate's claims that he was prevented from properly practicing his faith when he was denied a vegetarian diet.

In Mitchell v. Dauphin County Commissioners, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 87901 (MD PA, Aug. 9, 2011), a Pennsylvania federal district court adopted a magistrate's recommendations (2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 87903, July 18, 2011) and dismissed an inmate's free exercise claims without prejudice because plaintiff had failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. In the suit, plaintiff challenged the prison's policy prohibiting inmates from officially changing religions after being confined more than ten days, the prison's inadequate supply of common Mormon scriptures, and the prison chaplain's distribution of reading materials that promoted Christianity and allegedly defamed other religions.

In Lewis v. Skolnik, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 88950 (D NV, Aug. 10, 2011), a Nevada federal district court  permitted an inmate who is an African-American Hebrew Israelite to move ahead with his challenge to a prison policy that limits kosher meals to inmates who can prove through a recognized, outside organization that they are Orthodox or Conservative Jews. He alleged that the policy violated his free exercise and RLUIPA rights and that its implementation was discriminatory against African Americans.

In Sumpter-Bey v. Weatherford, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 88647 (MD TN, Aug. 9, 2011), a Tennessee federal magistrate judge recommended dismissing a Muslim inmate's complaint that a Seventh Day Adventist representative was preaching in the day room in his pod. The magistrate also recommended dismissal of plaintiff's claim that officials threatened to retaliate by moving him to administrative segregation after he filed a second grievance about the preaching.

In Montague v. Corrections Corporation of America, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 88362 (MD TN, Aug. 8, 2011), a Tennessee federal magistrate judge recommended dismissing an inmate's complaint that prison officials will not allow Muslim prisoners to order outside food and to pool their money to celebrate Eid ul-Fitr and Eid Adha.

In Burgie v. Golden, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 88895 (ED AR, Aug. 9, 2011), an Arkansas federal district court adopted a magistrate's recommendation (2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 88603, July 14, 2011), and dismissed  an inmate's complaint under RLUIPA that authorities confiscated his copy of "The Complete Book of Voodoo" and forwarded it to the prison's Publication Review Committee.

In Countryman v. Nevada, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 88583 (D NV, Aug. 8, 2011), a Nevada federal district court adopted a magistrate's recommendations (2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 88357, June 27, 2011) and dismissed without prejudice, for failure to exhaust administrative remedies, an inmate's complaint that his rights under the 1st Amendment and RLUIPA were infringed when he was precluded from attending church services while in protective segregation.

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