Monday, June 30, 2008

Recently Available Prisoner Free Exercise Cases

In Bennett v. Goord, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 48925 (WD NY, Jan. 7, 2008), a New York federal magistrate judge recommended dismissal of sex offenders' unusual free exercise claim. Plaintiffs argued that the prison counseling program's requirement that they acknowledge their guilt to avoid losing good time credits violates their free exercise rights by "compelling them to recant the truthful testimony they proffered under oath at their trials, where in they placed their hands on the Bible and swore to tell the truth, will subject them to eternal damnation."

In Lombardo v. Holanchock, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 48753 (SD NY, June 25, 2008), a New York federal district court held that it was reasonable for the defendants to believe that their challenged action was related to a legitimate penological interest. They had restricted a civilly committed offender's participation in one co-ed religious service.

In Maier v. Maurinac, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 48273 (D MT, June 24, 2008), a Montana federal district court accepted a magistrate's recommendation that a prisoner be permitted to proceed with his free exercise and RLUIPA claims (as well as his ADA claim). However his harassment and due process claims were dismissed.

In Barnes v. Missoula County Detention Facility, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 48271 (D MT, June 24, 2008), a Montana federal district court accepted a magistrate's recommendation that a Muslim prisoner's free exercise claim be dismissed, with leave to amend. Plaintiff needed to name as defendants the officials who allegedly denied his requests for a no-pork diet, a prayer rug, a kufi and a Qur'an.

In Christiansen v. Adams, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 47766 (SD IL, June 20, 2008), an Illinois federal district court set aside a prior default judgment against defendant in a case in which a prisoner claimed that officials interfered with his free exercise of religion. Plaintiff claimed officials failed to provide him with a diet and hygiene items that are free of animal products, forced him to attend programs that promoted Christianity and denied him space and time for his prayer and fasting rituals. Defendant originally failed to respond because when served, he no longer was employed by the Department of Corrections and thought that the state Attorney General's office would handle his defense.