Prisoner free exercise cases – September 10, 2012

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In Morris v. Morrison, (8th Cir., Aug. 31, 2012), the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed an Iowa district court’s dismissal on qualified immunity grounds of a prisoner’s lawsuit alleging damage to religious property during a prison cell search.

In Davilla v. National Inmate Appeals Coordinator2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 124451 (SD GA, Aug. 31, 2012), a Georgia federal district court, disagreeing in part with a magistrate’s recommendation, permitted an inmate to proceed with his 1st Amendment challenge to prison policies that bar him from receiving religious items (here Santeria beads and cowrie divination shells) through authorized vendors.  The court also allowed plaintiff to proceed with his claim for injunctive relief under RFRA, but held that damages are not recoverable as a remedy under RFRA.

In Oliverez v. Albitre2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 124553 (ED CA, Aug. 31, 2012), a California federal magistrate judge recommended that an inmate be permitted to proceed with his 1st Amendment claim against the chaplain’s office Native American spiritual leader, but not against the warden, for denying him access to his previously-purchased spiritual oil for worship.

In Mendez v. Trevino2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 124591 (ED CA, Aug. 30, 2012), a California federal magistrate judge dismissed, with leave to amend, a suit by a Native American “Yaqui” Indian whose religious practice involves both Native American and Christian elements. He was not allowed to attend Native American services because he was already attending Christian services and because of hearsay information of drug usage and beadwork sale.

In Jones v. Petty2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 124850 (MD GA, Sept. 4, 2012), a Georgia federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendations (2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 124849, Aug. 2, 2012) and dismissed a Muslim inmate’s complaint that he was prevented from practicing Ramadan, obtaining a prayer rug and religious books, obtaining his prayer towel, and obtaining a pork-free breakfast tray.

In Walters v. Santa Clara Department of Corrections Elmwood Facility Commander 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 125281 (ND CA, Sept. 4, 2012), a California federal district court permitted a Muslim inmate to proceed with his 1st Amendment, RLUIPA and equal protection complaints alleging failure to provide him an adequate religious diet.

In Countryman v. Palmer2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 125224 (D NV, Aug. 6, 2012), a Nevada federal magistrate judge recommended denial of a preliminary injunction in a suit by an Episcopalian inmate who objected to the prison’s cancellation of a planned 3-day event by the Kairos Prison Ministries.

In Malipurathu v. Jones2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 124988 (WD OK, Sept. 4, 2012), an Oklahoma federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendations (2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 124983, June 14, 2012) and rejected complaints of a Sikh inmate who had been dismissed from a drug treatment program in which he had been placed in lieu of incarceration. Plaintiff objected that the program included Christian-based prayers.

In Howard v. Wiglesworth2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 125617 (SD MI, Sept. 5, 2012), a Mississippi federal magistrate judge dismissed a lawsuit by a Rastafarian inmate complaining that no Rastafarian religious services were offered (no one was available to lead them), and claiming that he was not provided a religious diet or permitted to wear his dreadlocks.

In Jahad Ali #56036 v. Clements2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 125612 (D CO, Sept. 4, 2012), a Colorado federal magistrate judge ruled that an inmate’s complaint that prison authorities refused to honor a 1992 agreement to recognize his religious and legal name needed to be amended within 30 days to set forth appropriate allegations or it will be dismissed.

In Manson v. Sexton2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 125750 (ND AL, Sept. 5, 2012), an Alabama federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendations (2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 125733, Aug. 8. 2012) and dismissed without prejudice an inmate generalized claim that he was provided religious materials that were not “necessarily of [his] belief.”