Sunday, July 01, 2012

Recent Prisoner Free Exercise Cases

In Walker v. Cate, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 86987 (ED CA, June 21, 2012), a California federal magistrate judge recommended dismissing claims by a white Christian/Odinist inmate that his rights under the free exercise clause and RLUIPA were violated when he was classified as eligible for double celling with inmates of other races. Plaintiff claimed that his religious beliefs forbid him from sharing a cell with someone of another race.

In Vann v. Fischer, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 87620 (SD NY, June 20, 2012), a New York federal district court permitted an inmate who was a practitioner of Santeria to move forward on free exercise, RLUIPA and equal protection claims. Plaintiff alleged that he was not allowed to wear Santeria beads.

In Davis v. Armenta, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 88381 (ED CA, June 25, 2012), a California federal magistrate judge dismissed as frivolous an inmate's claim for $999 trillion in damages after the sheriff tore down a picture of a Thompson sub-machine that hung on plaintiff's bunk bed. Plaintiff claimed that the image of the sub-machine gun was his god/goddess.

In La Vell Harris v. Lake County Jail, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 89306 (ND CA, June 27, 2012), a California federal magistrate judge dismissed with leave to amend an inmate's free exercise claim against a jail nurse. Plaintiff claimed his religion prevents him from taking pain medication (other than marijuana), that he cannot stand or walk without pain, and that he was denied a wheel chair. His claim of religious and racial discrimination was dismissed with prejudice.

In Blum v. Clements, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 89813 (D CO, June 28, 2012), a Colorado federal magistrate judge, while dismissing many of plaintiff inmate's claims, permitted plaintiff to move ahead on a free exercise and RLUIPA complaint that he was required to surrender various art works, including religious art, and was terminated from the sex offender treatment program for refusing to write essays on how images of minors were high risk and how he used "religiosity" as a tactic to avoid treatment.

In Villanueva v. River, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 89399 (D SC, June 28, 2012), a South Carolina federal district court held that an inmate's free exercise claims are not cognizable in a habeas corpus proceeding. Plaintiff complained that federal prison officials refused to accommodate his "Kingism" religious beliefs by not allowing him to wear his religion's colors. He sought prison recognition of his religion.

In Quinn v. Knab, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 89479 (SD OH, June 27, 2012), an Ohio federal magistrate judge recommended that an inmate, a white separatist "Christian Identity" adherent, be allowed to proceed with his free exercise and RLUIPA challenges to prison officials' refusal to permit him to take the Nazarite vow which entails restrictions on cutting hair, foods consumed, and working on the Sabbath. The court rejected plaintiff's equal protection and retaliation claims.

In Sousa v. Wegman, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 90023 (ED CA, June 27, 2012), a California federal magistrate judge dismissed with leave to amend an inmate's complaint that prison officials refused to accommodate his Mexican Indian (Aztec/Mayan/Toltec) religion and instead required him to use an existing Native American religious services program.

In Crosby v. Lee, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 90090 (WD VA, June 28. 2012), a Virginia federal district court dismissed without prejudice a Muslim inmate's suit against a jail superintendent complaining that he was deprived of the opportunity to attend Friday Jumm'ah services, he was denied his prayer rug, and he was not alerted when meals contained pork.

In Johns v. Lemmon, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 89901 (ND IN, June 26, 2012), an Indiana federal district court permitted plaintiff, who claimed to be an "observant Jewish prisoner," to proceed with his suit alleging that a fundamental tenet of his religious beliefs is that he cannot eat food cooked on Saturday, and that prison officials have stopped their previous practice of providing him his food for Saturday on Friday night.