Monday, April 09, 2012

Recent Prisoner Free Exercise Cases

In Bader v. Wrenn, (1st Cir., March 29, 2012), the 1st Circuit rejected a RLUIPA claim by a Jewish inmate who was transferred from a prison which offered Jewish religious activities to one that did not because of a lack of outside clergy, volunteers and co-religionists. The court said that the proximate cause of the lack of religious services was not the government's transfer of plaintiff.

In Dalrymple v. Dooley, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 42814 (D SD, March 28, 2012), a South Dakota federal district court dismissed, with leave to refile, a claim that prison officials refused to add him to the "2012 Passover meal list for the Jewish Holiday Meals."

In Cotton v. Cate, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 43884 (ND CA, March 26, 2012), a California federal district court rejected claims of an inmate who was a follower of the Shetaut Neter religion that his free exercise, equal protection and RLUIPA rights were violated when he was refused a Kemetic (raw vegan-organic) religioius diet.

In Little v. Jones, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 44420 (ED OK, March 29, 2012), a Seventh-day Adventist inmate sought a vegan religious diet. An Oklahoma federal district court in a case on remand from the 10th Circuit denied in part defendants' motion for summary judgment because there is a question of fact regarding the sincerity of plaintiff's religious beliefs. It also permitted plaintiff to proceed on his claim for compensatory damages, and to amend to add claims for nominal and punitive damages.

In Tafari v. Brown, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 45055 (ND NY, March 30, 2012), a New York federal district court adopted in part a magistrate's recommendations (2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 45054, March 6, 2012) and dismissed an inmate's claims that his rights were infringed when he was denied kosher meals during specific time periods, when he was not provided holiday food or a vegetarian kosher diet, and when authorities sanctioned him for not cutting his dreadlocks.

In Hysell v. Schwarzenegger, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 45452 (ED CA, March 39, 2012), a California federal magistrate judge has recommended dismissing a Wiccan inmate's claim that defendants used an underground regulation to confiscate his twenty-six Wicca religion books, oils, incense, and a multi-plug extension cord for candles.

In Harris v. Avant, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 44458 (D CO, March 29, 2012), a Colorado federal district court dismissed a Jewish inmate's claims that her free exercise and RLUIPA rights were infringed when she was required to "move to another room" on a Saturday and sign a form in connection with the move. On a separate occasion she was told to throw away a kosher meal.  The magistrate's recommendations are at 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 44465, Feb. 16, 2012.

In Scott v. Brown, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 44653 (ND GA, March 29, 2012) a Georgia federal district court adopted a magistrate's recommendations (2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 44669, Jan. 31, 2012) and, while dismissing a number of claims by a Muslim inmate, allowed him to proceed with 1st and 14th Amendment individual capacity damage claims alleging lack of a Muslim chaplain, not being allowed to wear a kufi, failure to provide secure places to pray, and not being allowed to celebrate an end-of-Ramadan meal.

In a lengthy opinion in Wood v. Yordy, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 46610 (D ID, March 30, 2012), an Idaho federal district court dismissed an inmate's complaint that he was temporarily removed from his work assignments in the prison chapel and Life Transitions Program and that his worship times in the prison chapel were limited. The court commented: "This case undoubtedly shows how a strong-willed inmate can exploit the human weaknesses of prison staff...."

In Munson v. Gaetz, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 46064 (SD IL, March 30, 2012), an Illinois federal district court permitted a Buddhist inmate who, for religious reasons, was on a lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet to move ahead with claims that his health is being injured by the high TVP/soy content in the diet. He is seeking a soy-free vegetarian diet.