Sunday, September 26, 2010

Recent Prisoner Free Exercise Cases

In Lee v. Johnson2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 97703 (WD VA, Sept. 17, 2010), a Virginia federal district court permitted an inmate to move ahead with several claims alleging that House of Yahweh inmates were not given the opportunity to meet together for religious services and practice their religion in other ways. However claims against the prison chaplain were dismissed because it was not shown that he was a state employee.

In Watson-El v. Wilson2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 97481 (ND IL, Sept. 15, 2010), an Illinois federal district court rejected an inmate's claim that prison rules that prevented transfer of funds between inmates violated his free exercise rights by preventing him from purchasing certain religious items.

In Rider v. Yates2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 97528 (ED CA, Sept. 3, 2010), a California federal magistrate judge dismissed, with leave to amend, an inmate's complaint that prison authorities had wrongfully seized religious artifacts sent as a donation to the prison's Left-Hand Path Pagan Group.

In East v. California Department of Corrections2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 97616 (ED CA, Sept. 1, 2010), a California federal magistrate judge dismissed, with leave to amend, an inmate's claim that his free exercise rights were infringed when a correctional officer failed to deliver him his personal property, which included a Bible.

In  Blanco v. Bralower, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 97436 (D NV, Aug. 24, 2010), a Nevada federal magistrate judge concluded that an inmate failed to state a free exercise claim when he complained that correctional officers interrupted his prayers by making noise when they passed his cell.

In Countryman v. Nevada, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 98033 (D NV, Aug. 26, 2010), a Nevada federal magistrate judge permitted an inmate to proceed with a claim that his rights under the 1st Amendment and RLUIPA were infringed when he was prevented from attending church services while in protective segregation.

In Pilgrim v. Artus2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 97971 (ND NY, Sept. 17, 2010), a New York federal district court adopted the recommendations of a magistrate judge (2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 97978, March 17, 2010) and allowed an inmate who was a member of Nation of Islam to proceed with his challenge to prison grooming rules that did not permit him to wear his hair in dreadlocks.  Plaintiff's desire to wear his hair in dreadlocks flowed from his personal religious faith and not from tenets of Nation of Islam. The court limited plaintiff to non-monetary remedies.