Sunday, September 25, 2011

Recent Prisoner Free Exercise Cases

In Gardner v. Riska, (11th Cir., Sept. 22, 2011), the 11th Circuit held that  an inmate had failed to demonstrate that he sincerely believe a kosher diet was important to the free exercise of his religion, even though his claim for injunctive relief against the Florida Department of Corrections was not "frivolous."

In Williams v. Horel, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 105484 (ND CA, Sept. 19, 2011), a California federal district court permitted a Buddhist inmate to proceed against some of the named defendants on claims that they failed to provide him with an adequate religious vegetarian diet.

In Vinson v. Riley, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 105378 (WD MI, Sept. 16, 2011), a Michigan federal district court rejected qualified immunity for defendants who improperly relied on an inmate's objective knowledge of his religion to determine his religious sincerity.

In Ali v. Dewberry, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 105367 (ED TX, Sept. 16, 2011), a Texas federal district court adopted a magistrate's recommendations (2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 105349, July 27, 2011) and denied a Muslim inmate's motion for relief from judgement in a case in which plaintiff complained that his religious concerns about not helping others to eat pork were violated when he was assigned to work as a fork lift operator at a packing plant that slaughtered and processed pork.

In McKethan v. New York State Department of Correctional Services, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 105771 (SD NY, Sept. 16, 2011), a New York federal district court permitted an inmate to proceed with claims that his Nation of Gods and Earths (NGE) universal crown was wrongfully confiscated, and that his transfer to a different prison was in retaliation for his complaints regarding treatment of members of NGE. VArious other claims were dismissed.

In Damron v. Jackson, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 106360 (SD OH, Sept. 21, 2011), an Ohio federal district court dismissed claims by inmates who are members of the Christian Separatist Church that their rights were violated by the denial of work proscriptions on the Sabbath and holidays, denial of segregated worship and segregated cell assignments. It also denied a claim for unequal treatment. However the court permitted plaintiffs to proceed with complaints regarding withholding or confiscation of separatist and Nazi literature.

In Moussazadeh v. Texas Department of Criminal Justice, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 106451 (SD TX, Sept. 20, 2011), a Texas federal district court, in a case on remand from the 5th Circuit, dismissed plaintiff's claim for a kosher diet, finding he had failed to prove the sincerity of his religious dietary beliefs.

In Epps v. Grannis, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 106617 (SD CA, Sept. 20, 2011), a California federal district court denied a TRO and preliminary injunction to a Muslim inmate who sought to attend worship service, receive religious packages and a kosher diet.

In Ward v. Lee, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 106733 (WD LA, Sept. 20, 2011), a Louisiana federal district court adopted a magistrate's recommendations (2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 106801, Aug. 11, 2011) and rejected an inmate's claims that his religious rights were violated when he was barred from chapel privileges for 8 months for masturbating in the chapel.

In Native American Council of Tribes v. Weber, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 106979 (D SD, Sept. 20, 2011), a South Dakota federal district court denied defendants' summary judgment on plaintiff's complaint under RLUIPA and the 1st and 14th Amendments regarding a prison ban on tobacco for Native American religious ceremonies. However the court dismissed claims under the American Indian Religious Freedom Act and international law.