Sunday, May 29, 2011

Recent Prisoner Free Exercise Cases

In Lawson v. Secretary, Florida Department of Corrections, (11th Cir., May 25, 2011), the 11th Circuit upheld a district court's dismissal of a claim by a prisoner that he was denied access to kosher meals and to Jewish religious services and observance of Jewish holidays. The district court concluded that plaintiff's beliefs were not sincere.

In McGeachy v. Aviles, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 53647 (D NJ, May 18, 2011), a New Jersey federal district court dismissed without prejudice complaints by 29 pre-trial detainees that the Hudson County Correctional Center that there are no Muslim worship services or classes, Protestant services are only conducted in Spanish, and there is no access to Jewish or Catholic services in one cell block. The dismissal was based on failure to pay the required filing fee.

In Polk v. Patterson, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 53868 (D UT, May 17, 2011), a Utah federal district court rejected constitutional challenges by an inmate who was an adherent of Odinism. He claimed that he was denied various items needed for the practice of his religion, including a copy of the Edda, a Thorshammer Medallion, wood runes, bowl, meditation drum and oath ring.

In Hunter v. Director of Corrections, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 53943 (ED CA, May 18, 2011), a California federal magistrate judge dismissed with leave to amend an inmate's claim that correctional officers denied him access to religious services in retaliation for his filing an unrelated administrative complaint. The handwritten complaint was largely illegible, and also reflects mainly opinion instead of factual allegations.

In Williams v. Montileon, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 54768 (D NJ, May 20, 2011), a New Jersey federal district court dismissed with leave to amend an inmate's claim that he was denied religious services and a religious diet.

In Patterson v. Bradford, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 54412 (D NJ, May 19, 2011), a New Jersey federal district court dismissed, without prejudice, an inmate's claims that his rights under the 1st, 14th and 8th amendments as well as RLUIPA were violated when the coordinator of the prison's NuWay Program made mocking remarks about Islam and mimicked an Arabic prayer. It also dismissed claims that supervisors failed to supervise the program coordinator.

In Emmingham v. Seltzer, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 54448 (D OR, May 19, 2011), an Oregon federal district court adopted a magistrate's recommendations (2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 54438, Jan. 18, 2011) and dismissed an inmate's claim that prison authorities and a former roommate to whom the inmate sent threatening mail violated plaintiff's rights when a prison official restricted his outgoing mail. He claimed in part that the restriction was imposed because he is a practitioner of Buddhism.

In Clark v. Small, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 54931 (SD CA, May 23, 2011), a California federal district court rejected a Muslim inmate's challenge to a lock down that occurred during two weeks of Ramadan in 2008 after a large scale disturbance and a riot among inmates. The lock down prevented plaintiff from assembling with others in the chapel to pray, study and break the fast as a group.

In McReaken v. Schriro, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 55560 (D AZ, May 23, 2011), an Arizona federal district court rejected a complaint by a Wiccan inmate that a prison order treats Native American Sweat Lodge ceremonies more favorably than outdoor ceremonies by other religious groups by barring interruption of Sweat Lodge ceremonies except for security concerns.