Sunday, February 27, 2011

Recent Prisoner Free Exercise Cases

In Crump v. Unknown Patrick, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 16807 (WD MI, Feb. 18, 2011), a Michigan federal district court dismissed a Muslim inmate's free exercise, RLUIPA and equal protection claims. Plaintiff claimed that on two occasions he was mistakenly given pork meals and on a third occasion a food worker's neglect in changing gloves cross contaminated his food with pork. Among other things, plaintiff alleged that his prayers to Allah were not answered for 40 days because of his eating the pork products.

In Smith v. Sisto, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 17133 (ED CA, Feb. 15, 2010), a California federal magistrate judge recommended rejecting an inmate's claim that his rights under the Free Exercise and Establishment clauses were infringed when he was denied parole in part for failure to attend faith-based Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous programs. The court found that the parole board, while mentioning the programs, did not indicate plaintiff was required to attend, and plaintiff never told the board that the programs conflicted with his religious beliefs.

In Koenig v. Maryland Division of Corrections, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 16992 (D MD, Feb. 22, 2011), a Maryland federal district court rejected a Mormon inmate's complaint that Mormons were not granted a full 90 minutes of religious services each week and that he was not permitted to retain more than four religious items.

In Newman v. Brandon, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 16976 (ED CA, Feb. 14, 2011), a California federal magistrate judge rejected plaintiff's claim that his free exercise and RLUIPA rights were violated when prison authorities spilled coffee on his Bible.

In Sanders v. Swarthout, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 17646 (ED CA, Feb. 22, 2011), a California federal magistrate judge recommended denying an inmate's habeas corpus application, finding that while the parole board discussed petitioner's participation in AA, it did not indicate he was required to participate in any faith-based substance abuse program to be eligible for parole. Also petitioner never told the parole board that his religious beliefs conflicted with participation in AA.

In Gordon v. County of Rockland, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 17305 (SD NY, Feb. 18, 2011), an inmate claimed that a jail chaplain distributed to the inmate population copies of two pamphlets defamatory to the Muslim faith. A New York federal district court dismissed the claim against the chaplain in her official capacity but allowed plaintiffs to proceed in their personal capacity free exercise claims and their claims of lack of administrative remedies in the jail.