Sunday, August 19, 2007

Recent Prisoner Free Exercise Cases

In Quintana v. Edmond, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 58213 (D CO, Aug. 9, 2007), a Colorado federal district court permitted an inmate to move ahead with his claim that he was singled out for additional experimental urinalysis tests because he was permitted to smoke tobacco for religious reasons. The court said this could amount to a violation of plaintiff’s equal protection rights based either on his religion or his status as a Native American heritage. UPDATE: The Magistrate Judge's recommendations in the case are reported at 2007 U.S. Dist LEXIS 62203.

In Kay v. Friel, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 58205 , (D UT, Aug. 7, 2007), a Utah federal district court dismissed a prisoner’s complaint after he failed to amend it to adequately state a claim. Plaintiff’s allegation of interference with his free exercise rights was merely conclusive, and did not allege facts about the nature of his religious beliefs or about the items and rituals allegedly denied to him.

In Mustafa-Ali v. Irvin, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 58477, (SD MI, Aug. 9, 2007), a Mississippi federal Magistrate Judge rejected an inmate’s equal protection and free exercise claims. Plaintiff complained that the warden had denied him a hardback copy of the Quran, a prayer rug, special toiletry and shower facilities and a pork-free meal during Ramadan.

A case from several months ago, not previously discussed, is David v. Giurbino, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 19179 (SD CA, March 16, 2007), in which a federal judge accepted a Magistrate’s Report and Recommendation, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 59160,(SD CA, Jan. 22, 2007), that plaintiff’s complaint be dismissed. The case involved a Native American prisoner’s challenge to grooming regulations that did not permit him to wear his hair long enough to extend below his shirt collar. The complaint stems from action before changes in prison policy in response to a 2005 decision by the 9th Circuit. The Magistrate Judge found that prison officials were entitled to qualified immunity because before 2005 it would not have been apparent that the prison’s policies violated RLUIPA.

In Oram v. Hulin, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 60264 , (D ID, Aug. 16, 2007), an Idaho federal district court permitted a Seventh Day Adventist inmate to proceed with his claim that his First Amendment free exercise rights were violated when he was denied a religious diet. However, the court dismissed plaintiff’s equal protection claim.