Sunday, July 24, 2011

Recent Prisoner Free Exercise Cases

In Ali v. Quarterman, (5th Cir., July 18, 2011), the 5th Circuit allowed a Muslim prisoner to move ahead with his RLUIPA challenge to prison rules that required him to be clean shaven, and allowed him to wear a kufi only in his cell and at religious services. His 1st Amendment and equal protection challenges were dismissed.

In Gannaway v. Berks County Prison, (3d Cir., July 18, 2011), the 3rd Circuit found no support in the record for a former jail inmate's claim that the jail failed to acknowledge Ramadan and prevented him from practicing his Muslim religion.

In Knight v. Kelly, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 76684 (ED VA, July 14, 2011), a Virginia federal district court dismissed the claim by a Sunni Mulim inmate that he was denied the Eid-Al-Adha festival tray in November 2009.

In Glover v. Cate, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 77096 (ED CA, July 13, 2011), an inmate claimed that as a "Christian/Odinist/Aryan", it violated his religious beliefs to share a cell with someone who was not of the Aryan race. A California federal magistrate judge held that because plaintiff has only been deemed eligible to be housed with someone of a different race, but has not yet been placed in a cell with a non-Aryan, his religious claims are not ripe for review. The magistrate judge recommended that the religious claims be dismissed without prejudice. A similar claim by another inmate who refused a cell integration order was dismissed by a federal magistrate judge for failure to exhaust administrative remedies in Walker v. Cate, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 79067 (EC CA, July 19, 2011).

In Valteau v. Gusman, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 78158 (ED LA, July 19, 2011), a Louisiana federal district court adopted a magistrate's recommendations (2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 78160, June 30, 2011) and permitted an inmate to move ahead with a claim that jail officials have not supplied him with a Qur'an and other Islamic materials and he has not had a visit from an Imam, even though Christian prisoners receive Bibles and have visits from a minister.

In Lakhani v. Seneca County Sheriff's Office, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 78422 (ND OH, July 19, 2011). an Ohio federal district court adopted a magistrate's recommendations (2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 78424, June 30, 2011) and dismissed numerous complaints by a Muslim inmate (a Pakistani citizen) regarding conditions at a county jail at which he was held pending transfer to a federal facility. Among the dismissed claims were ones alleging that congregate Muslim services were only permitted on some Fridays and that Muslims were refused three additional religious services per week.

In Morales v. Beard, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 78303 (MD PA, July 19, 2011), a Pennsylvania federal district court adopted a magistrate's recommendations (2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 78308, June 22, 2011) and allowed a Native American inmate's free exercise and retaliation claims to proceed against some defendants, while dismissing others.  Plaintiff, a Taino Indian, claims that he was wrongly placed on an out of state transfer list that resulted in his transfer to a Virginia state prison where he was made to shave and get a hair cut even though he had religious exemption in Pennsylvania.

In Golosow v. Rubenstein, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 79225 (ND WV, July 20, 2011), a West Virginia federal district court adopted a magistrate's recommendation (2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 79201, June 27, 2011) and dismissed an inmate's claim that his 1st and 14th Amendment rights were violated when he was disciplined for fraudulently representing he was a Buddhist in order to obtain a vegetarian diet.

In McDaniels v. Fischer, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 79591 (WD WA, July 21, 2011), a Washington federal district court adopted a magistrate's recommendations (2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 79588, June 17, 2011) and dismissed a Nation of Islam inmate's claims that his rights under the 1st and 14th Amendments and RLUIPA were infringed by denying him access to the Eid-Ul-Fitr and Eid-Al-Adha feasts in 2009, denying him a Halal diet, not allowing him equal time for religious celebrations or equal access to prayer oils that other religious groups had.  Even though issues of material fact remained on the Halal diet claims, the court held that the state had changed its policy and defendants had qualified immunity.

In Thunderbird v. Oregon State Department of Corrections Employees, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 78935 (D OR, July 20, 2011), an Oregon federal district court adopted a magistrate's recommendations (2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 79336, June 28, 2011) as to a lengthy complaint by an inmate.  As part of its decision, the court dismissed without prejudice, for failure to exhaust administrative remedies, plaintiff's claim that a prayer feather attached to his medicine bag was confiscated.