Sunday, November 27, 2011

Recent Prisoner Free Exercise Cases

In Neal v. Campbell, (9th Cir., Nov. 23, 2011), the 9th Circuit upheld a California district court's finding of qualified immunity based on the failure to show a substantial burden on the practice of religion in a case brought by an inmate who complained that he was placed in administrative segregation for becoming an "ameer" (a Muslim leader) at the prison. (See prior posting.)

In Kailey v. Zavaras, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 133277 (D CO, Nov. 17, 2011), a Colorado federal district court dismissed various free exercise (as well as a number of other) claims, partly on statute of limitations grounds and partly on the merits. Plaintiff claimed certain of his magazines had been destroyed, that he was prevented from obtaining emergency outreach community relief for his daughter, was strip searched after attending a Jewish service, was prevented from participating in a "Kairas" four-day weekend event as an "inside team member," and was prevented from attending Passover services.

In  Whitehouse v. Johnson, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 133822 (ED VA, Nov. 18, 2011), a Virginia federal district court dismissed a claim by by an inmate that his rights under RLUIPA and the 1st Amendment were infringed when a correctional center to which he was transferred interfered with his ability to complete his correspondence coursework from a Protestant theological seminary in which he was enrolled.

In Abel v. Martel, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 133713 (ED CA, Nov. 18, 2011), a California federal magistrate judge allowed an inmate to proceed with claims that he was not allow to purchase for personal use certain items used for Wiccan religious worship, but instead was limited under prison policy to using these for group worship. Plaintiff was also permitted to move ahead with a claim that various religious items were confiscated from his cell in retaliation for his filing a complaint. Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies as to other claims.

In Ouahman v. Hillsborough County Department of Corrections, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 133751 (D NH, Nov. 16, 2011), a New Hampshire federal district court approved two separate magistrate's opinions (2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 133756, Aug. 29, 2011 and 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 134060, Oct. 25, 2011) and permitted an inmate to proceed on RLUIPA and First Amendment claims that correctional officers denied him a prayer rug and a Qur'an, denied accommodations for observing Ramadan, and discriminatorily placed him in unnecessarily restrictive housing conditions.

In Runnels v. Banks, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 133892 (D MS, Nov. 18, 2011), a Mississippi federal magistrate judge permitted a Rastafarian inmate to move ahead with his claim for nominal and punitive damages for burdening his practice his religion while incarcerated. His claims for injunctive relief were found to be moot.

In Chance v. TDCJ, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 132664 (ED TX, Nov. 17, 2011), a Texas federal district court adopted a magistrate's recommendations (2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 133972, Oct. 13, 2011) and denied a preliminary injunction to a Native American inmate who sought to have weekly religious ceremonies that include sacred pipe ceremonies and smudging and wished to carry a lock of his parents' hair in a pouch.

In Wakefield v. Indermill, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 134795 (ED CA, Nov. 21, 2011), a California federal magistrate judge recommended dismissing a Seventh Day Adventist inmate's complaints under the 1st Amendment and RLUIPA that the Protestant chaplain did not provide him with weekly Communion and foot washing.

In Groves v. Gusman, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 134869 (ED LA, Nov. 21, 2011), a Louisiana federal district court adopted a magistrate's recommendation (2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 134883, Oct. 17, 2011), and dismissed for failure to prosecute the case an inmate's claim that he was unable to practice his Santeria religion.