Sunday, September 01, 2013

Recent Prisoner Free Exercise Cases

In Green v. Beck, (4th Cir., Aug. 27, 2013), the 4th Circuit reversed a trial court's dismissal of an inmate's claim that his free exercise rights were violated when prison officials failed to recognize and issue him an ID card with his legal name which had been changed for religious reasons.

In Jehovah v. Clarke, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 119627 (ED VA, Aug. 20, 2013), a Virginia federal district court dismissed the RLUIPA and free exercise claims by an inmate challenging rules that bar him from taking communion using wine, and instead only allow juice. Plaintiff alleged that he is "Jewish, Israeli, Italian, Latino, Greek, and other things" and that his religion requires that he take communion with unleavened kosher bread, pure red grape wine and  pure  honey, olive oil, powdered sugar, white sugar, cinnamon, and water.

In Kramer v. Conway, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 119914 (ND GA, Aug. 23, 2013), a Georgia federal district court held that a Gwinnett County jail ban on hardback books in cells, limit on number of soft-cover books in cells and on the weight of packages received do not violate an Orthodox Jewish inmate's 1st Amendment free exercise rights. A number of accommodations had already been granted to plaintiff.  The court dismissed plaintiff's RUIPA challenge because he failed to provide evidence that the jail received federal funds.

In Hunter v. Zodwin, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 120361 (CD CA, Aug 22, 2013), a California federal district court dismissed as frivolous an inmate's habeas corpus petition claiming that he had received a pardon from the Supreme pardoning authority of the Moorish Science Temple of America.

In Barton v. Snaza, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 120422 (WD WA, Aug. 19, 2013), a Washington federal magistrate judge dismissed, with leave to amend, an inmate's complaint that two of his "personal religious (Asatru/Odinist) books" were confiscated by an unidentified person.

In Grigsby v. Gaetz, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 120529 (SD IL, Aug. 26, 2013), an Illinois federal district court permitted a Muslim inmate to proceed against two defendants on his complaint that his Ramadan tray was cancelled after 22 days of Ramadan in violation of his free exercise rights. Other claims were dismissed.

In Neri v. New Jersey State Parole Board, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 121444 (D NJ, Aug. 27, 2013), a New Jersey federal district court dismissed, with leave to amend, an inmate's complaint that he had no way to practice his religion or attend church services while at the Central Reception and Assignment Facility.

In Avery v. Virga, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 122121 (ED CA, Aug. 27, 2013), a California federal magistrate judge permitted a pagan inmate to proceed on various of his claims against prison authorities for failing to respond to his complaints that fellow inmates were repeatedly entering the secured designated-pagan area to destroy cultivated herbs and steal religious artifacts.

In Amaker v. Goord, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 122354 (WD NY, Aug. 27, 2013), a New York federal district court adopted a magistrate's recommendation (2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 122797, Aug. 8, 2013) and ordered expungement from a Nation of Islam inmate's record any of the disciplinary charges obtained in violation of his rights under RLUIPA and the First Amendment.

In White v. Smyers, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 122937 (ED CA, Aug. 27, 2013), a California federal magistrate judge held an inmate's complaint that authorities did not provide him a follow-up consultation with a second orthopedic surgeon who might perform surgery with a blood transfusion alternative (because of the inmate's religious beliefs) is a claim that should be pursued under the 8th Amendment and not as a free exercise claim.

In Antonetti v. Vegas, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 124601 (D NV, Aug. 30, 2013), a Nevada federal district court permitted an inmate to proceed with his complaint that he was denied kosher meals. Various other claims were dismissed.