U.S. Appeals Court


Lyon v. Vande Krol, 270 F.3d 563 (8th Cir. 2001). A prisoner brought a ?? 1983 action against corrections officials alleging violation of his right to practice religion, and on remand the prisoner was awarded damages and injunctive relief by a district court jury. The officials appealed and the appeals court remanded the case with instructions. The appeals court held that remand was necessary to determine if the prisoner had exhausted available administrative remedies. A prison chaplain had observed that a large number of inmates who professed to be Jewish were abusing the special food privileges they were given for the Jewish holidays. The chaplain determined that all but four inmates would be excluded from the prison Jewish community. Two criteria were established for allowing inmates to participate in Jewish activities: (1) proof of their prior Participation/background of Judaism; or (2) being grandfathered because they had continuously and consistently attended Jewish Sabbath services for three years. The prisoner was excluded from designation as a member of the prison Jewish community and he brought a civil rights action. The district court upheld the jury's nominal damages award, reversed the jury's punitive damages award against the former and present prison wardens, and reduced the punitive damage award against the chaplain from $100,000 to $30,000. The district court also directed prison officials to allow the prisoner access to Jewish artifacts, services and kosher food. (Iowa State Penitentiary)

U.S. District Court


Tart v. Young, 168 F.Supp.2d 590 (W.D.Va. 2001). An inmate brought (sections) 1983 claims against a warden and commissioner of corrections alleging they violated his free exercise rights. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants. The court held that a prison policy that prohibited inmates from "smudging" with herbs did not violate the First Amendment. The court also found no free exercise violations in the prison policy that denied the inmate access to a sweat lodge and by failing to establish Native American group meetings. The court noted that the prison policy required all religious groups to have more than one inmate from a housing unit. According to the court, the inmate's transfer from a Connecticut prison to a Virginia prison did not violate the inmate's rights under the Equal...

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