Thursday, April 02, 2009

Recent Prisoner Free Exercise Cases

In Thompson v. Williams, (9th Cir., March 26, 2009), the 9th Circuit rejected a prisoner's free exercise, RLUIPA and equal protection challenges to authorities' refusal to provide him with a Halal, or in the alternative a kosher, diet.

In Daly v. Davis, 2009 U.S. App. LEXIS 6222 (7th Cir., March 25, 2009), the 7th Circuit held that a prisoner's religious exercise was not substantially burdened when he was suspended for a month from the kosher food program after he violated program rules by eating non-kosher food and bartering his kosher food tray for a non-kosher tray.

In Cromer v. Braman, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 23901 (WD MI, March 25, 2009), a Michigan federal district court rejected a challenge to various actions taken against an inmate because he was a member of "Nation of Gods and Earths" which is classified by prison authorities as a security threat group. Plaintiff claimed that these actions discriminated against him as a member of Nation of Islam.

In Logan v. Lockett, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 24328 (WD PA, March 25, 2009), a Pennsylvania federal district court rejected an inmate's claim that his rights were infringed when he was excluded from participation in the Ramadan fast and subsequent communal meal with other inmates. The court first held that monetary damages are unavailable under RLUIPA in suits against prison officials in either their official or personal capacities. It also rejected his RLUIPA and 1st Amendment claims, finding that his exclusion stemmed from his disagreement with the teachings of the Imam who led the Muslim congregation at the prison.

In Roby v. Stewart, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 24413 (ND CA, March 16, 2009), a California federal district court dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative remedies a complaint by a prisoner that his free exercise rights were infringed when authorities double-celled him with an Evangelical Christian who posed a threat and ultimately attacked him because he was a Satanist.

In Cary v. McNeil, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 23621 (ND FL, March 6, 2009), a Florida federal magistrate judge instructed a pro se plaintiff to file an amended complaint presenting more facts about his claims, including his claim regarding denial of a diet that complies with his religious needs.

In Portune v. Ornoski, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 24465 (ND CA, March 13, 2009), a California federal district court rejected a prisoner's complaint that he was denied parole because of his refusal to participate in a Narcotics Anonymous program that he said violated his religious beliefs. The court found that the parole board also considered whether he participated in an equivalent drug rehabilitation program.