Monday, April 13, 2009

Recent Prisoner Free Excercise Cases

In Ortiz v. Downey, (7th Cir., April 1, 2009), the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals held that the district court should not have dismissed prior to discovery a Catholic inmate's claim that he was denied a rosary and prayer booklet in violation of his free exercise rights.

In Babcock v. Clarke, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 26896 (ED WA, March 31, 2009), a Washington federal district court rejected plaintiff's free exercise, RLUIPA and equal protection claims. Plaintiff objected to authorities' refusal to permit her to attend school programming using her religious name that she adopted in 1993 and that, she says, was mandated by God when she was studying both Wicca and Noahide. Plaintiff asserts that forcing her to use her committed name is "incongruous of her religious beliefs, and debilitating her by undoing years of psycho-therapy for transsexualism."

In Mitchell v. Wiley, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 26945 (D CO, March 31, 2009), a Colorado federal district court adopted a federal magistrate's recommendation and dismissed an inmate's objections to prison rules that grant access only to publications that come directly from the publisher or approved vendors, as well as policies that restrict inmate access to publications considered inmate-to-inmate correspondence, and an alleged ban on congregational prayer of two or more Muslim prisoners. Plaintiff had argued that the policies violated his free exercise rights and his rights under RLUIPA. Among the publications sought by plaintiff was a Muslim newspaper, "The Final Call."

In Jones v. South Carolina Department of Corrections, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 26736 (D SC, March 30, 2009), a South Carolina federal district court adopted a federal magistrate's recommendation and rejected defendant's objections to an inmate educational program, finding that plaintiff's amended complaint did not adequately allege Establishment Clause, RLUIPA or Sourth Carolina Religious Freedom Act claims.

In Sweeper v. Taylor, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 27318 (ND NY, March 27, 2009), a New York federal district court rejected an inmate's free exercise claim, finding that he was not disciplined for praying with 6 other inmates during Ramadan, but instead for refusing to obey an order.

In Gallagher v. Shelton, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 27778 (D KS, March 31, 2009), a Kansas federal district court rejected free exercise and equal treatment claims by a Jewish inmate who claimed his requests for accommodation and religious items for specific Jewish holidays were denied or honored after the fact, and that he was subjected to an antisemitic comment and prejudicial treatment because of his religion.

In Horacek v. Derrick, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 27605 (ED MI, March 30, 2009), a Michigan federal district court permitted plaintiff, who was a Jewish pre-trial detainee, to move ahead with a claim that he was not adquately provided with kosher food. However the court rejected plaintiff's objections to the requirement that he not wear a yarmulke outside of his cell.