On January 21, 2003, Plaintiff. a prisoner in an Oklahoma correctional center, filed a lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. §1983 in the United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma, alleging that his Constitutional rights under the Free Exercise Clause were being violated by the Oklahoma ...
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On January 21, 2003, Plaintiff. a prisoner in an Oklahoma correctional center, filed a lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. §1983 in the United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma, alleging that his Constitutional rights under the Free Exercise Clause were being violated by the Oklahoma Department of Corrections' refusal to provide him with a Kosher diet. In June 2003, the court (Judge Wayne Alley) consolidated Plaintiff's case with two other similar complaints. All three prisoners filed their complaints pro se and were appointed counsel. The prisoners won both preliminary and permanent injunctive relief requiring the Oklahoma Department of Corrections to provide them a Kosher diet at no personal cost.
On the merits, the district court (Judge Lee West) noted that in the Tenth Circuit, 'prisoners have a constitutional right to a diet conforming to their sincerely held religious beliefs, unless a state's decision to deny inmates access to such a diet 'is reasonably related to a legitimate penological interest,'' citing Beerheide v. Suthers, 286 F.3d 1179, 1184 (10th Cir. 2002). The court then conducted a four-part test per Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78, 89 (1987), and concluded that the balance of the factors weighed in favor of the prisoners. At the worst, the state's budgetary concerns paled in comparison to the irreparable harm of the loss of a First Amendment freedom for the plaintiffs.
The court granted the prisoners' motions for summary judgment, giving plaintiffs seven days to submit a proposed judgment and permanent injunction. That permanent injunction, issued February 8, 2006, ordered the Director of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections 'to immediately provide to the plaintiffs Kosher diets at no cost, [while complying with nutritional requirements currently applicable to all other ODOC prisoners].' The court held that 'the injunction is necessary to remedy a violation of these plaintiffs' rights to freely exercise their Orthodox Jewish religion as guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.' See Fulbright v. Jones, 2006 WL 222807 (U.S.D.C. W.D. Okla.). The court also awarded attorneys' fees.
On September 26, 2012, the Court found that the judgment entered in this case only applies to the claims pursued by the three named plaintiffs, and the permanent injunction relief does not apply to all Oklahoma Department of Corrections inmates. Anna Dimon - 03/26/2015