Sunday, June 23, 2013

Recent Prisoner Free Exercise Cases

In  Lowery v. Edmondson, (10th Cir., June 17, 2013), the 10th Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a complaint filed by an inmate who is a member of the Moorish Science Temple of America challenging an Oklahoma prison policy that prevents him from storing his fez in his cell.

In Holland v. Goord, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 85094 (D NY, June 17, 2013), a New York federal district court held that only a de minimis burden was placed on a Muslim inmate's free exercise rights when during the Ramadan fast he was required to drink some water in order to be able to produce urine for a drug test triggered by an informant's tip. The court dismissed plaintiff's due process, free exercise and RLUIPA claims. It also found qualified immunity as to damage claims against individual defendants.

In Morales v. Pallito, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 85870 (D VT, June 19, 2013), a Vermont federal district court dismissed an inmate's claim that the raising of American flags over Vermont's prisons is an establishment of religion and that it coerces inmates into worshiping the U.S. government as a deity.

In Tavares v. Amato, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 84930 (ND NY, June 18, 2013), a New York federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendation (2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 85436, May 14, 2013) and dismissed an inmate’s claim that his free exercise rights were violated when, as a result of being placed in involuntary protective custody, he was unable to engage in religious worship.

In Stergios v. United States, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 84462 (D ME, June 17, 2013), a Maine federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendation (2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 84779,  May 3, 2013), holding that petitioner could preserve for later when he was actually on supervised release his claim that restrictions on alcohol consumption during supervised release will infringe his religious freedom in connection with religions that use wine in their ceremonies.

In Jamison v. Atchison, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 86511 (SD IL, June 20, 2013), an Illinois federal district court held that an inmate could proceed with his free exercise and retaliation claims against a prison supervisor who refused to grant him a religious exemption from working on Saturday and instead moved him to non-worker housing.

In Hollins v. Curtin, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 85945 (WD MI, June 19, 2013), a Michigan federal district court denied a motion for reconsideration, rejecting the claim that his free exercise rights were infringed when he was not permitted to attend a Nation of Islam religious service because he was in segregation.

In Stepler v. Warden, Hocking Correctional Facility, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 86209 (SD OH, June 18, 2013) an Ohio federal magistrate judge recommended  permitting a Jewish inmate to proceed with his complaint regarding failure to provide a weekly prayer room and against one defendant for failure to provide kosher meals with sufficient calories. A number of other claims regarding kosher food and anti-Semitic verbal abuse were dismissed.