• U.S. District Court
  • 3:10cv1734
  • Sep 30 2013 (Date Decided)
  • Underhill, J.

The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, 42 United States Code §2000cc-1, does not create a private cause of action against state officers in their individual capacities. A jury convicted the plaintiff, Jason Goode, of murder in 1994, and he was sentenced to 35 years. Prison officials found Goode guilty of assault of another inmate and transferred Goode to administrative segregation at Northern Correctional Institution. Goode requested permission to burn incense and herbs, and to use Magical Tattwa cards, crystals, gemstones and precious metals, as a Wiccan practitioner. In April 2009, Reverend Anthony Bruno, director of religious services, informed Goode that although there were no congregate services for Wiccans, Goode could request a visit from another member of his religion and use books, tapes and Tarot cards to practice his religion in his cell. Goode's request for a pen and dagger were denied, because of security concerns. Goode filed a pro se, civil-rights suit against Bruno. The court granted summary judgment to Bruno, to the extent that Goode seeks monetary damages against Bruno in his individual capacity, for violation of RLUIPA. Bruno also requested qualified immunity on Goode's First Amendment, "right to exercise" religious beliefs count. A prison regulation that infringes on an inmate's right to exercise his religion is valid, "if it is reasonably related to legitimate penological interests," pursuant to O'Lone v. Estate of Shabazz, a 1987 decision of the U.S. Supreme Court. To allege a "free exercise" First Amendment claim, an inmate must establish a threshold showing that "the disputed conduct substantially burden[ed] his sincerely held religious beliefs," pursuant to Saluddin v. Goord, a 2006 decision of the 2nd Circuit. Bruno claimed that Goode's First Amendment rights were not clearly established. Bruno did not address all of Goode's requests for religious items and services, particularly those that were denied for reasons other than security. Because Bruno did not identify and apply all of the factors to be considered when ruling whether an official's conduct violated an inmate's First Amendment, "free exercise" rights, the District Court denied Bruno's motion for summary judgment on the "free exercise" claim.