Sunday, December 12, 2010

Recent Prisoner Free Exercise Cases

In Michael v. Frederick County Commissioners, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 127776 (D MD, Dec. 3, 2010), a Maryland federal district court rejected a complaint by a pre-trial detainee that his free exercise rights were violated when a cross he wore as a necklace was confiscated as a security risk.

In Shoucair v. Williams, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 127712 (ED MI, Dec. 3, 2010), a Michigan federal district court adopted a magistrate's recommendations (2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 127702, Oct. 27, 2010) reaffirming an earlier holding that a Muslim prisoner who was assaulted was improperly trying to force his 8th Amendment claims into Free Exercise and RLUIPA claims. (See prior related posting.)

In Oliverez v. Albitre, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 128243 (ED CA, Dec. 6, 2010), a California federal magistrate judge recommended that a Wiccan inmate be allowed to move ahead with his claim that the chaplain's office failed to respond to his request for the issuance to him of prayer oil.

In Greenwood v. Maketa, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 128464 (D CO, Nov. 22, 2010), a Colorado federal magistrate judge ordered a Muslim inmate to file an amended complaint giving clearer notice of his claims, or else his case will be dismissed. Plaintiff complained that the jail's postcard-only requirement prevents him from mailing religious study guides. He also complained that he is being denied a religious diet and is being forced to participate in the Ramadan fast.

In Glaze v. May, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 128653 (ED AR, Dec. 3, 2010), an Arkansas federal district court  adopted a magistrate's recommendations (2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 128703, Sept. 7, 2010) and dismissed a complaint by a Muslim inmate that he was denied adequate alternative meals to those that did not comply with his religious requirements. He claimed that he was often served only peanut butter sandwiches.

In Burriola v. Nevada, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 129678 (D NV, Nov. 17, 2010), a Nevada federal district court permitted an inmate to proceed with his complaint that prison authorities required him to serve on mail duty at a time that conflicted with his religious services.

In Briggs v. Hartley, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 130217 (ED CA, Nov. 24, 2010), a California federal magistrate judge dismissed with leave to amend  an inmate's broad allegations that he has been inhibited in some unspecified way from practicing his religion and that he is being persecuted because of his religious beliefs.

In Harris v. Chavez, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 130204 (D CO, Nov. 23, 2010), a Colorado federal district judge dismissed claims against two defendants but allowed a Jewish inmate to proceed with her claims against other defendants alleging interference with her possessing a kosher meal and forcing her to violate the Sabbath by requiring her to move and sign for a room key and a cell inspection on Saturday.

In Lee v. Gurney, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 130493 (ED VA, Dec. 8, 2010), a Virginia federal district court dismissed claims of a Sunni Muslim inmate who challenged the ban on group prayer in the prison's recreation yard.  Plaintiff's First Amendment claim was dismissed on the merits. His RLUIPA claims for injunctive relief were dismissed because he had been transfered to another prison. The court found that damages are unavailable under RLUIPA because plaintiff's inability to engage in group prayer does not affect interstate commerce.

In Torrez v. Corrections Corporation of America, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 130632 (D AZ, Nov. 22, 2010), an Arizona federal district court permitted a defendant to move ahead with claims that he was denied a religious diet during Lent , and was denied permission to use the chapel for Mass because there was no priest with security clearance. It allowed him to move ahead with a complaint that the prison did not make Catholic television programming available to inmates while making Protestant television programming available, and that he was not hired as a chapel porter because of his Catholic faith. Various other claims were rejected.