Sunday, August 17, 2014

Recent Prisoner Free Exercise Cases

In Haight v. Thompson, (6th Cir., Aug. 15, 2014), the 6th Circuit remanded, finding triable issues of fact, claims by Native American inmates that they should have access to a sweat lodge, and should have buffalo meat at their once a year powwow. The 6th Circuit held, however, that money damages are not recoverable under RLUIPA in suits against officials in their individual capaicites. (AP has more on the decision.)

In Williams v. King, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 110757 (SD NY, Aug. 11, 2014), a New York federal district court allowed a Shiite Muslim inmate to proceed with some of his free exercise and equal protection claims alleging that the penal facility's Muslim chaplain, a Sunni, discriminated agiast Shiites by allowing Muslim inmates to pray and fast only for the last two days of Muharram (the Sunni custom) rather than for the full ten days (the Sunni custom).

In Howard v. Webster, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 111301 (ED WI, Aug. 12, 2014), a Wisconsin federal magistrate judge permitted a Buddhist inmate to proceed with his complaint that Christianity was promoted in various ways in the prison: a painting of Jesus in the library, religious messages in hygiene bags, and Christian music piped through a TV channel. He also could move ahead with a complaint that he was not allowed to possess a necklace with an emblem of Buddha.

In Jones v. Nevin, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 111576 (D NV, Aug. 11, 2014), a Nevada federal district court dismissed a Jewish inmate's complaint that he did not have access to kosher meals and, instead, had only the common fare menu thast is so distasteful as to discourage inmates from practicing Judaism.

In Diaz v. Kessler, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 112357 (ND CA, Aug. 12, 2014), a California federal district court permitted an inmate to proceed with his claim that his Jewish religious service was terminated on one occassion in retaliation for his objections to the way other complaints were handled.

In Wortham v. Lantz, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 112487 (D CT, Aut. 13, 2014), a Connecticut federal district court dismissed a Hebrew Isrelite inmate's complaints that the common fare vegetarian diet did not satisfy his religious needs because it did not include kosher meat, as well as his complaints about not being able to purchase oils from outside vendors or purchase various other religious items.

In Harvey v. Segura, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 112877 (D CO, Aug. 14, 2014), a Colorado federal district court dismissed on qualified immunity grounds a Muslim inmate's religious objections to a strip search by a female officer, but permitted plaintiff to move ahead with his challenge to the confiscation of his kufi and his claim for punitive damages.

In Depaola v. Virginia Department of Corrections, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 112585 (WD VA, Aug. 12, 2014), a Virginia federal district court dismissed a Nation of Islam inmate's complaint that the prison's common fare diet does not meet his religious dietary needs.