Sunday, March 14, 2010

Recent Prisoner Free Exercise Cases

In Redd v. Wright, (2d Cir., March 9, 2010), the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the granting of qualified immunity to prison officials who placed a "TB hold" (cell lock down) on an inmate after he refused on religious grounds to submit to a TB test.

In Aldin v. Brink, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 20204 (SD IL, March 5, 2010), an Illinois federal district court permitted a Muslim prisoner to move ahead with his retaliation and free exercise claims. Plaintiff claimed he was not permitted to say his Friday prayers in the prison chapel and was threatened by other inmates when he attempted to pray elsewhere. He claims he was denied the opportunity to participate in Ramadan, and denied prayer rugs and a Qur'an. He also alleged retaliation for a prior complaint about religious accommodation.

In Candelaria v. Baker, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 19870 (WD NY, March 5, 2010), a New York federal district court accepted a magistrate's recommendations (2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 19981, Feb. 9, 2010), and rejected a free exercise claim by an inmate who, as a dialysis patient, was prescribed a special renal diet. The inmate insisted on fasting in fulfillment of a religious vow. Excessive fasting makes the diet ineffective, and officials insisted that he stop his fasting practices in order to receive the diet. The court also rejected a claim that a misbehavior report was a result of the inmate exercising his religious beliefs regard his hairstyle.

In Curry v. California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 20798 (ND CA, Feb. 10, 2010), a California federal district court held that an inmate who practices the Shetaut Neter faith (an Ancient African Religion) could proceed with his RLUIPA, Free Exercise, Establishment Clause and Equal Protection claims. He alleged that authorities denied him a religiously required vegan diet and incense oils for religious rituals.

In Indreland v. Bell, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 20618 (D MT, Jan. 12, 2010), a Montana federal magistrate judge recommended dismissal of an inmate's claims that he was denied his Satanist medallion, the detention center staff placed Christian greeting cards under his cell door, and he was held in maximum security due to his religious beliefs. The court reserved judgment pending further briefing on his claim that he was denied access to a Satanic Bible.

In Johnson v. DeRose, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 21337 (MD PA, March 9, 2010), a Pennsylvania federal district court allowed an inmate to proceed on a claim that his free exercise rights were violated by denial of a Bible and denial of access to Mass.

In Black v. Camon, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 21259 (MD GA, March 9, 2010), a Georgia federal district court adopted a federal magistrate's recommendation (2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 21258, Feb. 9, 2010) and dismissed an inmate's claim that he was forced to attend a Christmas ceremony that included Christian prayer and a religious sermon.

In Brown v. Vail, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 20997 (ED WA, Feb. 19, 2010), a Washington federal magistrate judge refused to order a state prison to supply a Passover Seder box for an indigent Jewish prisoner. The prison allowed inmates to purchase Seder boxes or to have them donated by religious organizations.

In Comundoiwilla v. Evans, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 21884 (ED CA, Feb. 22, 2010), a California federal magistrate judge permitted a Muslim inmate to proceed with a claim under RLUIPA challenging restrictions on his wearing a beard and long hair. Plaintiff was permitted to file an amended complaint alleging he was prevented from attending Jum'ah prayer services.

In Cranford v. Hammock, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 22554 (ND FL, March 11, 2010), a Florida federal district court dismissed claims by a Muslim inmate who alleged that Jum'ah services were cancelled on one occasion, that when he complained the chaplain cancelled Taleem study classes and stopped making the chapel available for day prayers. Defendants say the changes were instituted because of a lack of staffing.

In Moro v. Winsor, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 22611 (SD IL, March 10, 2010), an Illinois federal magistrate judge denied an inmate's motion for a new trial in a case that he lost challenging prison practices. Plaintiff, a practitioner of the Ordo Templi Orientis, claimed he was denied access to religious items and books, worship services and the ability to celebrate feasts. The court approved of jury instructions that required the jury to find plaintiff had a sincere religious belief and finding that defendants' wrongful conduct was the proximate cause of plaintiff's injury.

In Rogers v. United States, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 21918 (WD PA, March 10, 2010), a Pennsylvania federal district court accepted a magistrate's recommendations (2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 22474, Feb. 9, 2010) and refused to dismiss plaintiff's free exercise and equal protection claims growing out of the alleged denial of Halal meat in celebration of Eid-ul-Adha in January 2006. A number of other claims were dismissed.

In Foster v. Berry, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 22383 (CD CA, March 9, 2010), a California federal district court accepted the recommendations of a federal magistrate (2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 22388, Jan. 21, 2010), and dismissed an inmate's free exercise and RLUIPA claims when he merely alleged that defendants did not let him "go to his religion."