Sunday, December 02, 2007

Recently Available Prisoner Free Exercise Cases

In Nelis v. Kingston, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 86036 (ED WI, Nov. 20, 2007), a Wisconsin federal district court held that a prison rule making inmates on voluntary unassigned status ineligible for certain activities, including ancillary religious activities, violates neither the First Amendment nor RLUIPA. The suit was brought by a Native American inmate who was precluded from attending pipe and drum ceremonies under this rule, but could still practice his religion in other ways.

In Floody v. Wagner, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 86295 (D SD, Nov. 21, 2007), a South Dakota federal district judge permitted an inmate who was an candidate for conversion to Judaism to proceed on his claim for damages against prison officials who suspended his kosher diet after he bought a non-kosher item at the prison commissary. Subsequently the prison system changed it rules precluding removal from a religious diet as a sanction, making plaintiff's claims for declaratory and injunctive relief moot.

In Rogers v. Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 86607 (D AZ, Nov. 15, 2007), an Arizona federal district court dismissed (with leave to file an amended complaint) a series of allegations, including a free exercise claim, by a prisoner for violations while she was a pre-trial detainee. Plaintiff claimed that rules calling for discontinuation of her medication if she was not in her cell during medical call precluded her from attending religious services.

In Raper v. Adams, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 87048 (ED NC, March 28, 2007), a North Carolina federal district court dismissed an inmate's First Amendment claims challenging prison rules that banned inmates' reading tarot cards for other inmates. It also rejected an equal protection claim complaining that plaintiff was required to use a cell that doubled as a restroom, rather than the day room, to practice his religion.

In Joseph v. Ware, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 87459 (WD LA, Oct. 22, 2007), a Louisiana federal magistrate judge recommended dismissal of a Muslim inmate's First Amendment claim based on failure of prison employees on one occasion to provide him a pork-free meal.