Monday, May 10, 2010

Ninth Circuit: Prisoner's Suit Against Jewish Organization Incorporates State Agency That Delegated Duty

"Court Revives Prisoner's Suit Over Jewish Services"

By ELIZABETH BANICKI

"The 9th Circuit reinstated the constitutional claims of a Washington state prisoner who says he was denied Jewish material and services because he failed to prove that he's Jewish.

Dennis Florer claimed that Congregation Pidyon Shevuyim N.A., an organization hired to provide Jewish services to inmates, and its president, Gary Friedman, were the gatekeepers for all Jewish materials and services for the Washington Department of Corrections.

Their input allegedly determined whether inmates like Florer would receive proper kosher meals, Torahs, Jewish calendars, consultations with rabbis and other requested items or services.

Florer claims the congregation and Friedman only provided Jewish services to prisoners who had Jewish mothers or had been formally converted to Judaism.

Because Florer failed to prove that he was actually Jewish, he said his requests for Jewish items and services were denied.

He sued Congregation Shevuyim, Friedman and a Jewish outreach program called Jewish Prisoners Service International, alleging violations of the First Amendment and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.

U.S. District Judge Ricardo Martinez dismissed the complaint, saying Florer failed to name a "state actor," even though he offered evidence that the Department of Corrections deferred to Congregation in deciding which prisoners are Jewish and thus entitled to its services.

The Seattle-based appellate panel reversed, ruling that Congregation "acted under the color of state law" in making the judgment call on who was Jewish enough...

"[A]lthough Congregation's decision to limit Florer's access to religious materials may have had a religious component, that characteristic does not alter that Congregation's conduct was a direct delegation of the DOC's constitutional duty to provide appropriate access to religious materials."


The court revived Florer's claims and remanded."

Read the complete article: http://www.courthousenews.com/2010/05/06/27071.htm

Read the Opinion: http://www.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2010/05/05/07-35866.pdf

No comments: