INMATES WIN TWO RLUIPA APPEALS

On Friday, December 29, the Fourth Circuit hands down published opinions in two separate challenges brought by inmates under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.  In Lovelace v. Lee , the court reverses two qualified immunity rulings in favor of defendants in a suit brought by an Islamic prisoner who contends that he was deprived of his right to celebrate Ramadan.  And in Madison v. Commonwealth, the court finds that RLUIPA is constitutional, and that a Jewish inmate states a claim for the prison’s failure to provide him a kosher diet.

The Lovelace case is remanded for further proceedings on the inmate’s claim against two defendants.  The Madison case was in the appellate court for the second time; this one is an interlocutory appeal to determine whether the trial court correctly adjudicated the constitutionality issue.  The court does give the Commonwealth one victory in Madison, finding that the state’s acceptance of federal funds was a waiver of its Eleventh Amendment immunity only for injunctive claims, not for monetary damage claims.  The Commonwealth thus will not face monetary liability on remand.