Sunday, April 14, 2013

Recent Prisoner Free Exercise Cases

In Sanders v. Cain, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 47634 (MD LA, March 29, 2013), a Louisiana federal district court permitted an inmate to proceed with his complaint that Mormon inmates were not allowed to hold worship services on Sundays at the main prison complex interfaith chapel. However the court dismissed various other claims, including complaints of lack of office space and fund-raisers to purchase religious material for the Mormon community, as well as retaliation and defamation claims.

In Catanzaro v. Harry, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 46671 (WD MI, Feb. 19, 2013), a Michigan federal magistrate judge recommended dismissal of an inmate's claim that he was not allowed to attend church services while he was on parole to a Residential Sex Offender Program.

In Johnson v. Bailey, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 46473 (SD IL, March 30, 2013), an Illinois federal magistrate judge found no free exercise or RLUIPA violations at present in the time given a Buddhist inmate to eat his meals. The court said however that if, as was the case two yeas ago, the inmate had only 2 to 5 minutes to eat his religious diet, this would be a substantial burden on his religious practice.

In Rippy v. North Carolina, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 45666 (WD NC, March 29, 2013), an inmate claimed his free exercise rights were infringed when he was denied access to a yoga class and a 12-step program and was told to behave during an Islamic service. A North Carolina federal district court dismissed the in forma pauperis action pursuant to the Prisoner Litigation Reform Act because the inmate had previously filed 3 other suits dismissed as frivolous.

In Dickerson v. Gusman, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 47592 (ED LA, April 2, 2013), a Louisiana federal district court adopted a magistrate's recommendation (2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 47595, March 7, 2013) and dismissed for lack of prosecution an inmate's complaint that he is not allowed to attend Jumah and other Islamic services.

In Taylor v. Godinez, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 48596 (SD IL, April 3, 2013), an Illinois federal district court rejected the free exercise and RLUIPA claims by an inmate who was an ordained Baptist minister who attempted to satisfy his tithing obligations by giving away 10% of his commissary purchases to other inmates. He was disciplined for violating prison rules against trading and trafficking.

In Watkins v. Haynes, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 43881 (SD GA, March 27, 2013), a Georgia federal district court rejected in part a magistrate's recommendations (2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 187476, Aug. 23, 2012) and dismissed on qualified immunity grounds a claim by a Rastafarian inmate for a non-flesh food diet cooked and served with separate vessels and utensils from meat items.

In Prall v. Supreme Court, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 48788 (D NJ, April 4, 2013), a New Jersey federal district court dismissed complaints about disapproval and rejection in earlier state court proceedings of an inmate's conscientious objection (based on his Nation of Gods and Earth's beliefs) to participation in the criminal justice system.

In Gowers v. Haleen, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 49709 (D UT, April 4, 2013), a Utah federal district court rejected a Mormon inmate's complaints that his free exercise rights were infringed when he was denied participation in auxiliary religious activities such as choir, piano or organ practice; he was randomly excluded from worship services; and he was suspended from all activities including worship services for disciplinary reasons.

In Heim v. York County Prison, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 50074 (MD PA, April 8, 2013), a Jewish inmate complained about delays in responding to his kosher diet request and retaliation, including anti-Semitic caricatures, because of his insistence on a kosher diet. A Pennsylvania federal district court dismissed his suit against institutional and supervisory defendants, but permitted him to proceed against the chaplain, the complaint supervisor and the correctional officers that allegedly harassed him.

In People v. Osman, 2013 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 2487 (CA App., April 8, 2013), a California state appellate court rejected free exercise and equal protection challenges to a risk factor analysis for sex offenders used by the probation department which treated as added risk the fact that an individual had not lived with a lover for at least 2 years. Defendant argued that his Muslim religion bars cohabitation before marriage.

In Abpikar v. Martin, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 50433 (ED CA, April 6, 2013), a California federal magistrate judge permitted a federal inmate to proceed on his complaint that he was not permitted to participate in group worship with other Muslim inmates.