Sunday, February 13, 2011

Recent Prisoner Free Exercise Cases

In Orso v. Shumate, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 10706 (D LA, Feb. 3, 2011), a Louisiana federal district court held that a Native American inmate adequately alleged a substantial burden on his religious beliefs in being prevented from attending a Pow Wow and performing a mourning ceremony. However the claim for injunctive relief was dismissed as moot and damage claims were dismissed on other grounds. Equal protection claims were also rejected. The magistrate's recommendations in the case are at 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 140978 (Oct. 13, 2010).

In Harris v. Skolnik, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 10777 (D NV, Jan. 25, 2011), a Nevada federal district court dismissed several claims challenging a prison's policy of requiring verification from the Aleph Institute that an inmate is Jewish before the inmate will be provided with a kosher diet. However the court allowed plaintiff to proceed with his claim that the policy amounts to religious discriminations under the Equal Protection clause because it only applies to Jewish inmates.

In Kendrick v. Faust, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 10091 (ED AR, Feb. 1, 2011), an Arkansas federal district court adopted a magistrate's recommendations (2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 10690, Jan. 18, 2011) and dismissed without prejudice for lack of exhaustion of administrative remedies an inmate's complaint that her Catholic Bible was confiscated. The court dismissed on the merits plaintiff's complaint that her rosary beads and religious self-help books were confiscated while she was in punitive segregation.

In Hall v. Taylor, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11006 (SD IL, Feb. 5, 2011), an Illinois federal district court rejected an inmate's claim that his free exercise rights were violated when, during a shake down search of his cell, a religious book was confiscated.

In Muhammad v. Johnson, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11651 (WD VA, Feb. 4, 2011), a Virginia federal district court adopted a magistrate's recommendations (2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11240, Jan. 13, 2011) and refused to issue a preliminary injunction. Plaintiff had complained that prison authorities refused to allow him to attend Nation of Islam services and receive The Final Call newspaper.

In Cooper v. Horning, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11921 (D MD, Feb. 8, 2011), a Maryland federal district court rejected an inmate's complaint that there is no chaplain at his correctional institution for Islamic and Moorish Science Temple of America inmates.

In Hooper v. Juneau County Jail, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 12299 (WD WI, Feb. 7, 2011), a Wisconsin federal district court dismissed for lack of specificity an inmates broad claim that he was deprived of his religious preference.

In Tucker v. Royce, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 12680 (D MS, Feb. 8, 2011), a Mississippi federal district court upheld a prison's policy of barring sex offenders in protective custody from attending Sunday church services in the jail library because the library is not equipped to separate inmates into groups.

In Davenport v. Artus, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 12497 (ND NY, Feb. 9, 2011), a New York federal district court adopted a magistrate's recommendations (2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 12505, Jan. 10, 2011) and dismissed an inmate's complaint that he was not permitted to attend a religious festival and receive the religious feast that night for his evening meal (the identity of the specific festival is unclear).

In Canada v. Ray, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 12927 (WD VA, Feb. 9, 2011), a Virginia federal district court rejected a Muslim inmate's claim that requiring him to undergo tuberculosis testing violates his free exercise rights. Plaintiff claimed the injection contains alcohol, but defendants refuted that claim indicating that instead it contains phenol.

In McFaul v. Valenzuela, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 13108 (ND TX, Feb.10, 2011), a Texas federal district court adopted a magistrate's recommendations (2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 141209, Sept. 14, 2010) and dismissed a claim by a Neo-Pagan inmate that his constitutional and statutory free exercise rights were violated when authorities refused to permit him to obtain a bone skull necklace and two pendants.