Sunday, February 15, 2009

Recent Prisoner Free Excercise Cases

In Weinberger v. Grimes, (6th Cir., Feb. 10, 2009), the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of a civil suit by a former federal prisoner who claimed that his free exercise rights and his rights under RFRA were violated by inadequate accommodation of his Jewish religious dietary needs and by various other actions that favored Christian prisoners and interfered with his religious worship. The court also rejected staste law and privacy claims.

In Shelton v. Chapman, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 8728 (SD IL, Feb. 6, 2009), an Illinois federal district court dismissed an inmate's claim that his free exercise rights were violated when one book, the Holy Zumar, was removed from prison chapel library shelves for seven months.

In Cirisan v. Burnett, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 8739 (WD MI, Jan. 5, 2009), a Michigan federal magistrate judge recommended dismissal of a challenge under the free exercise clause and RLUIPA by a Jewish inmate who was not permitted to wear a yarmulke with "I.D.F. Israeli Army" written on the side. Prison rules prohibit inmates from wearing military apparel.

In Cano v. Taylor, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 9164 (D AZ, Feb. 5, 2009), an Arizona federal district court permitted an inmate to proceed with a claim against the head of the Arizona Department of Corrections alleging improper denial of his grievance alleging free exercise violations.

In Jackson v. Sullivan, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 8906 (ED CA, Jan. 29, 2009), a California federal magistrate judge permitted a Rastafarian prisoner to proceed with his claim that RLUIPA was violated when prison officials denied him access to the law library because he refused to comply with haircut regulations.

In Terrell v. Montalbano, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 9016 (WD VA, Jan. 23, 2009), a Virginia federal district court dismissed a Muslim prisoner's claim under RLUIPA challenging a 6-month delay in placing him on the Common Fare diet. The court found a compelling governmental interest in using the period to observe plaintiff's religious participation to assess the sincerity of his beliefs.

In Agrawal v. Keim, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 9307 (SD IL, Feb. 9, 2009), an Illinois federal district court dismissed claims against prison officials who had misunderstood the religious dietary restrictions of a Hindu prisoner. Plaintiff was permitted by his beliefs to consume dairy products, but he was placed on the vegan diet and then removed from it as a sanction when he consumed food containing dairy.

In McElroy v. Department of Corrections, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 9577 (ED CA, Jan. 30, 2009), a California federal magistrate judge permitted an inmate to move ahead with a claim that correctional officers physically attacked him because of his religious beliefs. His allegations of attempted culture theft were found too vague to support a claim.

In Nelson v. Runnels, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 9298 (ED CA, Jan. 28, 2009), a federal magistrate judge recommended dismissal of an inmate's free exercise and RLUIPA challenge to the state Department of Corrections hair-length regulations.

In Kay v. Bemis, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 10360 (D UT, Feb. 10, 2009), a Utah federal district court, in a long-running case, dismissed plaintiff's free exercise and RLUIPA claims that his right to practice Wicca were improperly infringed in two different detention facilities. (See prior related posting.)

In Finley v. Gonzales, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 10765 (ED CA, Feb. 4, 2009), a California federal magistrate judge dismissed a prisoner's claim that his free exercise rights were violated when he was not permitted to attend a religious seminar and receive a certificate or a blessing from God.