Sunday, July 18, 2010

Recent Prisoner Free Exercise Cases

In Farrow v. Wrenn, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 70813 (D NH, July 14, 2010), a New Hampshre federal district court adopted a magistrate's recommendations (2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 68507, June 9, 2010), and allowed a Native American inmate to proceed with official capacity claims asserting 1st Amendment and RLUIPA violations. Plaintiff was not able to fully practice his Lakota religion because he needed weekly access to smudging herbs, the pipe, knicknick, and tobacco, and an opportunity to practice drumming.

In Swetokos v. Allen, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 68429 (SD FL, July 8, 2010), a federal district court adopted a magistrate's recommendation (2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 68450, June 7, 2010), and dismissed a complaint by a Buddhist (who was now out of jail) that he was denied a vegan diet. Authorities refused to provide the religious diet until the inmate documented his religious affiliation.

In Hamlin v. Smith, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 69205 (D CO, July 12, 2010) a Colorado federal magistrate judge dismissed 1st Amendment and RLUIPA claims by a Wiccan inmate. Plaintiff claimed that the prison failed to post notices of Wiccan services, that he was denied ritual tools and supplies, that the Wiccan group was forced to meet outside in cold weather, and that he feared retaliation for practicing his religion.

In Washington v. Brown, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 68986 (ED CA, July 10, 2010), a California federal magistrate judge recommended that a Muslim inmate be permitted to go to trial on his claim that his rights under the 1st Amendment and RLUIPA were violated when he was prevented for over two weeks in 2004 from participating in the Ramadan fast.

In Kindred v. Department of Mental Health, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 68851 (ED CA, June 17, 2010), a California federal magistrate judge ruled that a civil detainee may move ahead with his free exercise and RLUIPA claims that he did not have access to a Protestant chaplain, that a spiritual book of his was destroyed and that he was denied a prayer rug.

In Cain v. Caruso, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 70136 (ED MI, July 13, 2010), a Michigan federal district court adopted the recommendations of a federal magistrate (2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 69873, May 24, 2010) and dismissed a parolee's complaint that he was required to attend a religious-based substance abuse program as a condition of his parole. The court held that plaintiff's parole agent had absolute immunity for the testimony at plaintiff's parole proceeding. More broadly the court found no Establishment Clause violation because plaintiff was offered a secular alternative when authorities learned of his objections. Plaintiff refused it because of its distance from his home.

In Hunter v. Knapp, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 70328 (SD IL, July 13, 2010), an Illinois federal district court dismissed plaintiff's claims that while detained in jail, there were only Christian services and not Muslim ones, and that the jail did not allow inmates in segregation to worship with inmates from general population. The court held that plaintiff's religious beliefs were accommodated.

In Tucker v. Johnson, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 71249 (ND MS, July 15, 2010), a Mississippi federal district court rejected plaintiff's complaint that while in protective custody in jail, that plaintiff had requested, he was kept in his cell while other prisoners were at Sunday worship services.

In Sowemimo v. Bader, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 71181 (SD IL, July 15, 2010), an Illinois federal district court adopted a magistrate's recommendation (2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 71135, May 11, 2010) and dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative remedies plaintiff's claim that his prayer rug was confiscate, he was denied access to Islamic chapel services, and was not provided with post-fast meals during Ramadan.