Sunday, February 07, 2010

Recent Prisoner Free Exercise Cases

In Newingham v. Magness, (8th Cir., Feb. 4, 2010), the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals held that Muslim prisoner could proceed with his claim under RLUIPA for injunctive relief to obtain use of a prayer rug, but the court dismissed his claim for damages.

In Green v. Tudor, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 7414 (WD MI, Jan. 29, 2010), a Michigan federal district court accepted a magistrate's recommendations (2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 124246, Oct. 21, 2009) and dismissed various claims by an inmate over the lack of hot Ramadan meals and lack of notice of substitutions of items in Ramadan meals.

Rupe v. Cate, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 7817 (ED CA, Feb. 1, 2010), was a challenge to alleged discrimination and repression by prison officials of prisoner's attempts to practice their Druid and other Pagan religions. While dismissing a number of plaintiff's claims, the court allowed him to proceed on his claim under the free exercise clause, his claim for retaliation and his equal protection claim.

In Cobb v. Mendoza-Powers, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 8089 (CD CA, Jan. 25. 2010), a California federal district court adopted the findings of a magistrate (2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 124379 , Oct. 20, 2009) and dismissed without prejudice an inmate's claim that his free exercise rights were violated when he was not excused for religious reasons from complying with prison grooming standards. The court held that this claim is not cognizable in a habeas corpus action.

In Valentine v. Poff, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 8253 (WD VA, Feb. 1, 2010), a Virginia federal district court dismissed a frivolous an inmate's challenge to the type of food served to him in his religious diet.

In Blake v. Howland, 2009 Mass. Super. LEXIS 363 (MA Super. Ct., Dec. 2, 2009), a Massachusetts trial court rejected state and federal free exercise claims, claims under RLUIPA and other challenges by a Native American man who is civilly committed as a sexually dangerous person. Plaintiff complained he is denied access to smudging and pipe ceremonies, a purification lodge, various other items needed for Native American worship ceremonies and is also not furnished a Native American volunteer to work with members of his religious group.

In Jamal v. Smith, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 5029 (CD IL, Jan. 22, 2010), an Illinois federal district court permitted a Muslim inmate to proceed with his claim that a pat down search of him was conducted by a female officer in violation of his religious objections, even though male officers were readily available. First Amendment Center reports on the case.

A release from the Rutherford Institute reports that it has filed suit in Virginia federal district court challenging a Virginia Department of Corrections directive that prohibits inmates from receiving CDs containing spoken words. The suit was filed on behalf of an inmate wishing to obtain a CD containing a Christian sermon. (Full text of complaint in Mabe v. Commonwealth of Virginia, (ED VA, filed Feb. 3, 2010).