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Case Name Willis v. Indiana Dept. of Correction PC-IN-0022
Docket / Court 1:09-cv-00815-JMS-DML ( S.D. Ind. )
State/Territory Indiana
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Special Collection DOJ Civil Rights Division Statements of Interest
Attorney Organization ACLU Chapters (any)
Case Summary
On July 1, 2009, an Orthodox Jewish prisoner incarcerated within the Indiana Department of Corrections filed this class-action lawsuit in the U. S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. The plaintiff sued the Indiana Department of Corrections (DOC) under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The ... read more >
On July 1, 2009, an Orthodox Jewish prisoner incarcerated within the Indiana Department of Corrections filed this class-action lawsuit in the U. S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. The plaintiff sued the Indiana Department of Corrections (DOC) under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The plaintiff, represented by the ACLU of Indiana, sought injunctive, declaratory, and monetary relief, claiming violations of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) and the First Amendment right to free exercise of religion as a result of the Indiana Department of Corrections’ denial of kosher meals to prisoners whose religion requires them to keep kosher.

The named plaintiff in this case had his kosher diet card suspended according to a policy which imposed a thirty-day suspension of a prisoner’s diet card if he did not use it at least seventy-five percent of the time. The named plaintiff, who claimed he did not receive notice of the policy, did not present his religious diet card at breakfast because the breakfast provided at the time was not kosher and he had received permission to remain in his cell during breakfast. Because he therefore only used his diet card at sixty-two percent of meals, the plaintiff had the card suspended by the chaplain. During the suspension period, he was not allowed to receive any kosher diet and was forced to eat the regular food.

Subsequently, the DOC discontinued the use of pre-packaged kosher meals altogether, determining that kosher diets were no longer to be provided to any prisoners, including those whose religion requires them to keep kosher. Instead, prisoners requesting a kosher diet were provided vegetarian meals that were not kosher. On August 18, 2009, the plaintiff amended his complaint, originally an individual claim regarding the suspension, to also challenge the system-wide termination of kosher diets on behalf of a putative class of similarly-situated individuals. On December 7, 2009, Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson granted the plaintiff’s motion for class certification. The court defined the certified class as:

All prisoners confined within the Indiana Department of Correction, including the
New Castle Correctional Facility, who have identified, or who will identify,
themselves to the Indiana Department of Correction as requiring a kosher diet in
order to properly exercise their religious beliefs and who have requested such a diet,
or would request it if such a diet was available.

For the next year, the parties engaged in discovery. On July 19, 2010, both parties sought summary judgment. On November 1, 2010, Judge Magnus-Stinson declared that the termination of the class’s kosher diets violated RLUIPA and granted summary judgment on the issue in favor of the plaintiffs. 753 F.Supp.2d 768. She also granted the named plaintiff’s individual claim for declaratory relief that the application of the 75-percent policy to him violated his First-Amendment rights and his rights under RLUIPA. Judge Magnus-Stinson granted the named plaintiff’s individual claim for nominal damages against the chaplain who suspended his diet card, but denied it as against the DOC’s Director of Religious Services who implemented the 75-percent policy. On November 22, 2010, the plaintiff submitted a proposal for a permanent injunction in accordance with the court’s declaratory judgment.

On December 8, 2010, Judge Magnus-Stinson entered a final judgment and injunction in the case. The permanent injunction required the Indiana DOC to supply a kosher meal option for all meals served within any of their facilities, and provide certified kosher meals to all inmates who request them in writing for sincerely held religious reasons. On January 6, 2011, the defendants filed a notice of appeal in the Seventh Circuit and a motion to stay the enforcement of the injunction pending appeal. The U.S. Department of Justice filed a Statement of Interest arguing that the court should deny the defendants’ motion to stay. On January 25, 2011, Judge Magnus-Stinson denied the motion to stay the injunction except as it pertained to nominal damages against the DOC chaplain. The defendants then dismissed their appeal.

Almost immediately following the injunction, the court started receiving pro se motions by class members seeking to intervene to enforce the injunction. On January 22, 2015, Magistrate Judge Debra McVicker Lynch granted the motions of two people, represented again by the ACLU of Indiana, confined within the DOC to intervene as named plaintiffs to pursue contempt remedies against the DOC.

On May 14, 2015, the intervening plaintiffs filed an amended motion for contempt. They alleged that one of the intervening plaintiffs was terminated from his kosher diet plan without warning in 2014 because he had purchased certain items he believed were kosher from the commissary. The other formally applied for a kosher diet plan in 2013 and was denied, despite stating a clear need in his application, because the DOC found that the vegetarian meal did not contain any food that he stated his diet prohibited. The plaintiffs argued that these denials, and similar denials to many other class members, represented a failure to substantially comply with the judgment. They requested that the DOC be found in contempt of court and that it create a new system for determining sincerity with regard to the receipt of kosher diets.

The parties subsequently entered into a private settlement agreement. The confidential settlement agreement put in place substantive requirements to remedy the problems that had arisen regarding the approval and monitoring of kosher diets. Following notice to the class and a fairness hearing on July 27, 2016, the settlement agreement was approved and the pending contempt matter was dismissed. It was to remain in effect for three years from July 27, 2016.

Since the dismissal of the contempt action, the court has received letters from inmates incarcerated within the DOC alleging ongoing issues with kosher meals.

Sarah McDonald - 02/21/2018


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Free Exercise Clause
Content of Injunction
Recordkeeping
Defendant-type
Corrections
Discrimination-basis
Religion discrimination
General
Food service / nutrition / hydration
Religious programs / policies
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Religious Freedom Rest. Act/Religious Land Use and Inst. Persons Act (RFRA/RLUIPA)
Defendant(s) Indiana Department of Corrections
Plaintiff Description All prisoners confined within the Indiana Department of Correction, including the New Castle Correctional Facility, who have identified, or who will identify, themselves to the Indiana Department of Correction as requiring a kosher diet in order to properly exercise their religious beliefs and who have requested such a diet, or would request it if such a diet was available.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU Chapters (any)
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Declaratory Judgment
Attorneys fees
Damages
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 2016 - 2019
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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  Civil Rights Injunctions Over Time: A Case Study of Jail and Prison Court Orders
N.Y.U. Law Review
Date: May 2006
By: Margo Schlanger (Washington University Faculty)
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
Book
Date: Jan. 1, 1998
By: Malcolm M. Feeley & Edward Rubin (UC Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law & Vanderbilt School of Law Faculty Faculty)
Citation: (1998)
[ Detail ]

Docket(s)
1:09-cv-815 (S.D. Ind.)
PC-IN-0022-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/25/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief and Nominal Damages [ECF# 1]
PC-IN-0022-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/01/2009
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Second Amended Complaint - Class Action Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief and Individual Claim for Injunctive and Declaratory Relief and Nominal Damages [ECF# 17]
PC-IN-0022-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/18/2009
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order and Opinion [ECF# 101] (753 F.Supp.2d 768) (S.D. Ind.)
PC-IN-0022-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 11/01/2010
Source: Google Scholar
Statement of Interest of the United States [ECF# 126]
PC-IN-0022-0002.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 01/14/2011
Source: U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Special Litigation Section
Order [ECF# 129] (S.D. Ind.)
PC-IN-0022-0001.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 01/25/2011
Source: U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Special Litigation Section
Amended Verified Petition for Contempt [ECF# 272]
PC-IN-0022-0008.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/14/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Finding Private Settlement Agreement to be Fair, Reasonable and Adequate Pursuant to Rule 23(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure [ECF# 303] (S.D. Ind.)
PC-IN-0022-0007.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/27/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Lynch, Debra McVicker (S.D. Ind.) [Magistrate]
PC-IN-0022-9000
Magnus-Stinson, Jane Elizabeth (S.D. Ind.)
PC-IN-0022-0001 | PC-IN-0022-0003 | PC-IN-0022-0007 | PC-IN-0022-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Falk, Kenneth J. (Indiana)
PC-IN-0022-0004 | PC-IN-0022-0005 | PC-IN-0022-0008 | PC-IN-0022-9000
Mygatt, Timothy D (District of Columbia)
PC-IN-0022-0002
Songer, Michael J. (District of Columbia)
PC-IN-0022-0002
Defendant's Lawyers Arthur, David A. (Indiana)
PC-IN-0022-9000

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