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Case Name Sisney v. State of South Dakota PC-SD-0006
Docket / Court 24684 ( State Court )
State/Territory South Dakota
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Special Collection Post-PLRA Jail and Prison Private Settlement Agreements
Prison Legal News
Case Summary
On October 15, 2007, an inmate in the South Dakota State Penitentiary filed this pro se lawsuit in the Circuit Court for the Second Judicial Circuit Minnehaha County, South Dakota,. The inmate sued the state of South Dakota and CBM Inc., the corporation contracted to provide inmate food. The inmate ... read more >
On October 15, 2007, an inmate in the South Dakota State Penitentiary filed this pro se lawsuit in the Circuit Court for the Second Judicial Circuit Minnehaha County, South Dakota,. The inmate sued the state of South Dakota and CBM Inc., the corporation contracted to provide inmate food. The inmate claimed that CBM breached a state contract under which CBM agreed to provide food services to the State at Department of Correction (DOC) facilities. The inmate claimed this discrimination violated his civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and § 1985 as a practitioner of Judaism to be adequately provided with kosher food. The plaintiff specifically claimed that in April of 2007, the Department of Corrections initiated a change in the meals they provided to inmates who ate kosher meals, such that the calorie count per meal dropped below the required minimum, and the food did not meet kosher standards.

On August 15, 2006, Judge Kathleen Caldwell for the Second Judicial Circuit dismissed the inmate's claim. The inmate appealed this decision and asked the court to review the dismissal of his claim and allow him an opportunity to amend his pleading.

On July 23, 2008, Justice Steven L. Zinter for the South Dakota Supreme Court held that the prisoner did not have standing to enforce the contract regarding meals, since he was not a third-party beneficiary to the contract. The Court further held that the discrimination based on age, sex, or religion does not provide a cause of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1981, which is race-based and intended to allow all citizens the same right to enforce a contract as white citizens. Sisney v. State, 754 N.W.2d 639 (S.D. 2008). This affirmed the Second Judicial Circuit's ruling.

This inmate is sentenced to life in prison, and has filed a number of lawsuits pro se related to his Jewish religious practice.

In a parallel case decided by the South Dakota Supreme Court on the same day, July 23, 2008, the court ruled that the same inmate was a member of a class entitled to pre-packaged kosher meals, and entitled to the declaratory relief he sought. Sisney v. Reisch, 754 N.W.2d 813 (S.D. 2008). The plaintiff had also filed this lawsuit pro se, claiming that he was a third-party beneficiary of a settlement between the Department of Corrections and a former inmate that entitled the former inmate to pre-packaged, certified kosher meals. Similar to the parallel case, the plaintiff appealed to the Supreme Court of South Dakota from a dismissal of his complaint in the Circuit Court Second Judicial Circuit Minnehaha County, South Dakota by Judge Kathleen Caldwell.

Kate Craddock - 11/08/2015


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Equal Protection
Defendant-type
Corrections
Jurisdiction-wide
Discrimination-basis
Religion discrimination
General
Conditions of confinement
Food service / nutrition / hydration
Plaintiff Type
State Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1981
Defendant(s) CBM, Inc.
State of South Dakota
Plaintiff Description Plaintiff is an inmate of the South Dakota Department of Corrections who practices Judaism.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations None on record
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Declaratory Judgment
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration not on record
Case Closing Year 2008
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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Case Studies Civil Rights Injunctions Over Time: A Case Study of Jail and Prison Court Orders
N.Y.U. Law Review
By: Margo Schlanger (Washington University)
Citation: 81 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 550 (2006)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ] [ External Link ]

  Judicial Policy Making and the Modern State: How the Courts Reformed America's Prisons
By: Malcolm M. Feeley & Edward Rubin (UC Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law & Vanderbilt School of Law Faculty)
Citation: (1998)
[ Detail ]

Docket(s)
No docket sheet currently in the collection
General Documents
Appellant's Brief 12/13/2007
PC-SD-0006-0002.pdf | Detail
Document Source: Westlaw
Appellee's Brief 01/23/2008
PC-SD-0006-0003.pdf | Detail
Document Source: Westlaw
Appellant's Reply Brief 01/30/2008
PC-SD-0006-0004.pdf | Detail
Document Source: Westlaw
Opinion 07/23/2008 (754 N.W.2d 639)
PC-SD-0006-0001.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Westlaw
Judges Gilbertson, David (State Supreme Court)
PC-SD-0006-0001
Konenkamp, John K (State Supreme Court)
PC-SD-0006-0001
Meierhenry, Mark V. Court not on record
PC-SD-0006-0001
Sabers, Susan M. Court not on record
PC-SD-0006-0001
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers None on record
Defendant's Lawyers Bratkiewicz, Jeffrey L. (South Dakota)
PC-SD-0006-0002 | PC-SD-0006-0003 | PC-SD-0006-0004
Other Lawyers None on record

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