Sunday, March 04, 2007

Michigan Limit On Prisoner Suits Held Unconstitutional

Yesterday's Lansing State Journal calls attention to a January federal court decision that restores Michigan prisoners' rights to litigate free exercise claims. In Mason v. Granholm, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 4579 (ED MI, Jan. 23, 2007), the court struck down a provision that excludes prisoners from coverage under the Michigan Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act. The Act protects against religious (as well as other types) of discrimination in furnishing of public services. However in 2000, the Michigan legislature amended the law to provide that "public service does not include a state or county correctional facility with respect to actions and decisions regarding an individual serving a sentence of imprisonment". The court held that the amendment violates prisoners' right to equal protection of the laws. It concluded that "the state legislature has not attempted to deter frivolous lawsuits, but rather preclude meritorious ones."