Sunday, December 19, 2010

Recent Prisoner Free Exercise Cases

In Tapp v. Proto, (3d Cir., Dec. 13, 2010), the 3rd Circuit held that a two-week delay in providing plaintiff kosher meals and plaintiff's complaint that the meals lacked variety and were often cold did not amount to a violation of plaintiff's free exercise rights.

In Nichols v. Federal Bureau of Prisons, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 130879 (D CO, Nov. 30, 2010), a Colorado federal district court rejected a motion by convicted Oklahoma City bomber Terry Nichols to amend an earlier decision rejecting Nichols' free exercise and RFRA challenges to the diet he receives in prison. Nichols claimed that as a Christian, he must adhere to a high fiber diet of whole foods.

In Mauwee v. Palmer, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 131704 (D NV, Nov. 29, 2010), a Nevada federal district court dismissed a free exercise claim by a Native American spiritual leader who alleged that an eagle talon he possessed was confiscated by a prison officer.

In Wing v. Braye, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 131906 (SD IL, Dec. 14, 2010), and Illinois federal district court rejected as a de minimis burden on free exercise an officer's order to a Catholic inmate to either leave the prison chapel where no services were in progress or stay in a classroom where a Muslim class was under way.

In Howard v. Skolnik, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 132323 (D NV, Dec. 1, 2010), a Nevada federal magistrate judge concluded that plaintiff had not alleged sufficient irreparable harm to justify a preliminary injunction in his suit seeking reinstatement of Nation of Islam services in English at his former housing facility and an Order preventing his new housing facility from cancelling the Nation of Islam services.

In Lebaron v. Clarke, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 133156 (D MA, Dec. 3, 2010), a Massachusetts federal district court denied without prejudice ex parte injunctive relief requested by a Messianic Jewish prisoner who claimed that he was being retaliated against for requesting kosher meals, and that the kosher meals he receives are too small. He also claimed his request for religious materials and a place to study were denied.

In Riley v. Jones, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 132866 (D OK, Dec. 15, 2010), an Oklahoma federal district court adopted the recommendations of a federal magistrate judge (2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 133064, Nov. 19, 2010) and dismissed plaintiff's free exercise and RLUIPA challenges to the prison's vegetarian diet and plaintiff's claim that his rights were violated when he was switched from a religious vegetarian diet to a health diet ordered by doctors.