Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Court Rejects Proposed Settlement In Challenge To Nevada's Prison Policy On Kosher Food

In Ackerman v. State of Nevada Department of Corrections, (D NV, May 3, 2013), a Nevada federal district court rejected a proposed settlement of a class action brought on behalf of 205 inmates who objected to the state prison system's provision of a common fare menu instead of kosher food. The court also dissolved the preliminary injunction it had previously issued to allow plaintiffs to continue to receive kosher meals, and decertified the plaintiff class, some of whom now apparently had diverging interests. This means that the state can move ahead with its original plans.  As reported by the Las Vegas Sun, under the proposed settlement, the state would have had an outside organization certify the prison kitchen preparing the common fare meals as kosher. However more than 20% of the inmates who were members of the plaintiff class, including the lead plaintiff, objected to the settlement. Complaining members of the class insisted that they were inadequately represented by counsel. The court said in part:
the Court continues to recognize that the likelihood of success on the merits is not strong. What has changed since the original injunction order is that the balance of equities no longer tips sharply in favor of Plaintiff or any of the class. Defendants, as representatives of the State of Nevada and its citizens, have borne the financial burden of delaying implementation of a cost-cutting menu, at a time when the state is experiencing budget emergencies.