Sunday, January 23, 2011

Recent Prisoner Free Exercise Cases

In Mauwee v. Donat, (9th Cir., Dec. 22, 2010), the 9th Circuit held that monetary damages are not available under RLUIPA against the Nevada Department of Corrections or officials acting in their official capacity. It also held that an inmate's free exercise claims are moot.

In Hatzfeld v. Eagen, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 3914 (ND NY, Jan. 14, 2010), a New York federal district court adopted a magistrate's recommendations (2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 139758, Dec. 10, 2010) and dismissed an atheist inmate's claim that he was denied treatment for hepatitis when he refused to participate in a religious-based substance abuse treatment program. The court found that a secular treatment program was available to plaintiff.

In Porter v. Beard, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 3966 (WD PA, Jan. 14, 2011), a Pennsylvania federal district court refused to grant a Native American inmate a preliminary injunction. Plaintiff claimed he has not been provided replacement materials for a religious medicine bag that was thrown away by a corrections officer. But the court concluded he had been but had refused it because it was being delivered by a chaplain who was not a Native American.  The magistrate's recommendations in the case are at 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 139770, Aug. 12, 2010.

In Davis v. Flores, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 4417 (ED CA, Jan. 14, 2011), a California federal district court dismissed free exercise and RLUIPA challenges by a Muslim inmate who objected to a prison rule that limited use of prayer oils to the chapel and did not permit possession of them in cells.

In Rincon v. Wells, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 5199 (SD GA, Jan. 20, 2011), a Muslim inmate filed a habeas petition challenging loss of good conduct time imposed because he participated in a group boycott of religious meals. A Georgia federal magistrate judge recommended dismissal of plaintiff's free exercise, equal protection and related claims because they cannot be raised by way of habeas corpus, for failure to exhaust administrative remedies and because of lack of support on the merits for his equal protection claim.

In Walton v. Hixson, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 4944 (ED CA, Jan. 19, 2011), a California federal magistrate judge recommended dismissing a Muslim inmate's complaint that his free exercise rights and rights under RLUIPA were violated when a corrections officer on one occasion interrupted his prayers and another time caused him to miss his morning prayers.

In Kalwasinski v. Maxymillian2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 5226  (ND NY, Jan. 20, 2011), a New York federal district court adopted a magistrate' recommendations (2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 140064, Dec. 22, 2010) relating to various claims of a Muslim inmate at a psychiatric center. The court dismissed plaintiff's objections to the bowls and utensils used and his objections to the serving of fish on Fridays. Plaintiff was allowed to proceed on claims regarding the lack of Al Jumu'ah services and a Halal menu; requirements that he attend classes on Fridays and denial of sacred foods on holidays.

In Criswell v. Salisbury, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 5031 (D RI, Jan. 18, 2011), a Rhode Island federal district court accepted a magistrate's recommendations (2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 140102, Dec. 14, 2010) and dismissed a Muslim inmate's claim that his mail was denied or delayed because of its religious content.

In Birdwell v. Martel, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 4932 (ED CA, Jan. 18, 2011), a California federal magistrate judge recommended rejecting an Asatru/Odinist inmate's habeas corpus petition, concluding that a state court had not acted unreasonably in rejecting his claim that his parole was denied because of his refusal to participate in a religious based 12-step program.