Sunday, February 14, 2010

Recent Prisoner Free Exercise Cases

In Iron Thunderhorse v. Pierce, (5th Cir., Feb. 9, 2010), the 5th Circuit rejected a RLUIPA claim by a Native American inmate. The court upheld prison restrictions denying plaintiff permission to grow his hair, prohibiting him from performing pipe ceremonies in his cell, and limiting vendors from whom he could buy a headband.

In Jones v. Burk, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 9674 (ED CA, Feb. 4, 2010) , a federal magistrate judge found that plaintiff had exhausted his available administrative remedies, so he could file suit challenging the temporary or permanent denial of various Muslim religious items and access to Muslim clergy. In so finding, the court held that a remedy is not "available" if a prisoner has no reasonable way of knowing about its existence.

In Marchant v. Murphy, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 10971 (D MA, Feb. 9, 2010), a Massachusetts federal district court rejected a claim by a civilly committed sex offender that his free exercise rights and his rights under RLUIPA were violated by the correctional institution's refusal to create a second competing Native American religious group.

In Blake v. Murphy, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 10963 (D MA, Feb. 9, 2010), a Massachusetts federal district court denied a 1st Amendment free exercise challenge by a civilly-committed sex offender who sought construction of a sweat lodge so he could practice his Native American religion. The court held that plaintiff was collaterally estopped by a prior state court decision rejecting the same request under RLUIPA.

In Mangus v. Dauphin County Prison, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11205 (MD PA, Jan. 8, 2010), a Pennsylvania federal magistrate judge recommended dismissing an inmate's complaint regarding a religious diet for adherents of Islam and alleged restrictions on prayer and religious attire. The court found that plaintiff failed to connect the warden who she sued to any of the alleged acts and had failed to exhaust her administrative remedies.

In Courtney v. Burnett, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11521 (WD MI, Feb. 10, 2010), a Michigan federal district court adopted a magistrate's recommendations (2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 124853, Oct. 5, 2009) and dismissed an inmate's 1st Amendment and RLUIPA claims objecting to the removal of his right to eat in the kosher diet line in the former institution in which he was housed.

In Jaspar v. Moors, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 12049 (ED CA, Feb. 10, 2010), a California federal magistrate judge recommended dismissing a Jewish inmate's complaint that defendant interfered with his seeing the prison rabbi, after a series of confrontations between plaintiff and defendant over activities in the Protestant chapel.