Sunday, September 18, 2016

Inmate Has Broader Damage Remedy Under RFRA Than Under RLUIPA

In Crowder v. Lariva, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 122966 (SD IN, Sept. 12, 2016), an Indiana federal district court permitted a Hebrew Israelite inmate to move ahead against one of the prison chaplains on his complaint that he was denied a kosher diet. Because plaintiff was a federal inmate, he sued (in addition to his 1st Amendment claim) under RFRA instead of RLUIPA, and the court held that he had broader remedies as a result:
Jones [the chaplain] also argues that because the Seventh Circuit in Nelson v. Miller, 570 F.3d 868, 887 (7th Cir. 2009), held that the similarly-worded RLUIPA does not allow for the collection of money damages against individuals, the same reasoning should apply to RFRA. But there are at least two important differences between RLUIPA and RFRA that compel a different conclusion. First, ... the statutory language of RFRA defines "government" as, among other things, an "official (or other person acting under color of law)." ...Congress thus envisioned at least some individual-capacity suits under RFRA.... Second, RFRA, which applies to federal action, and RLUIPA, which is applicable to state action, arise from different principles.,,, [T]he portion of RFRA that authorizes lawsuits against the states was held unconstitutional because such an application exceeded Congress's power under the Enforcement Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment in City of Boerne v. Flores.... RLUIPA was enacted in response to City of Boerne ... as an exercise of Congress's spending power[.] ...[I]nterpreting that statute to allow damages actions against state officials in their individual capacities would 'raise serious questions regarding whether Congress had exceeded its [constitutional] authority.'" ... [S]uch considerations are not at issue when applying RFRA because RFRA's application to federal action is not based on the Spending Clause.... For these reasons, the Court concludes that RFRA does allow for the recovery of monetary damages against officers in their individual capacities