Sunday, October 14, 2012

Recent Prisoner Free Exercise Cases

In Davis v. Powell, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 144067 (SD CA, Oct. 4, 2012), a California federal district court adopted a magistrate's recommendations (2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 144072, July 25, 2012), and permitted a Muslim inmate to proceed with his free exercise and RLUIPA claims growing out of a temporary total ban on Islamic prayer oil, and his equal protection claim against one defendant for instituting a policy restricting religious items to quarterly packages.

In Santos v. Caudle, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 144628 (MD PA, Oct. 5, 2012), a Pennsylvania federal district court dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative remedies an inmate's claim that his kosher diet was wrongly suspended for 90 days.

In Washington v. Brown, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 145550 (ED CA, Oct. 5, 2012), a California federal district court, in an inmate's suit for monetary damages under RLUIPA, held that "based on ... the lack of any allegations ... suggesting that the denial of his religious diet would lead in the aggregate to a substantial effect on interstate commerce, the court concludes that plaintiff's claims do not come within the Commerce Clause underpinnings of RLUIPA." The magistrate's recommendations in the case are at 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 120950, Aug. 24, 2012).

In Rowe v. Lemon, (IN App., Oct. 9, 2012), and Indiana appellate court held that the state had not shown as a matter of law that an inmate who adhered to Identity Christianity lacked sincere religious reasons for requesting a kosher diet, though the court described his claim as "arguably ... eyebrow-raising." It denied summary judgment to either side, concluding that issues of fact remain.

In Elfand v. County of Sonoma, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 146179 (ND CA, Oct. 9, 2012), a California federal district court dismissed on qualified immunity grounds a Jewish inmate's complaints over delays in responding to his requests for religious accommodation, including his request for kosher meals.

In Miles v. Moore, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 147451 (ED VA, Oct. 10, 2012), a Virginia federal district court dismissed plaintiff's complaint that (before recent amendments to prison rules) inmates were only allowed to sign up for religious programs during an open enrollment period once a quarter, which he missed because he was in isolation. The court held his request for injunctive relief is moot and damages are not recoverable under RLUIPA.

In Pittman-Bey v. Clay, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 146994 (SD TX, Sept. 19, 2012), a Texas federal magistrate judge recommended permitting an Hanafi Muslim inmate to move ahead with his 1st Amendment damage claim (other than for emotional damges) for denying him Ramadan meals. Under now-amended rules, Ramadan meals were not allowed to inmates who did not also attend Jumah services. Hanafi teachings barred plaintiff from attending Jumah services while in prison.

In Payne v. Lucas, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 146982 (D SC, Oct. 12, 2012), a South Carolina federal district court adopted a magistrate's recommendation (2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 147364, July 19, 2012) and dismissed a pre-trial detainee's request for a vegan diet and for a specific Catholic priest to be added to his visitor list.