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Sixth Circuit: RLUIPA Does Not Permit Monetary Damages

The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) does not allow money damages for violations of that statute, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit held on April 24, 2009.

The Court entered its decision in an appeal by Gerald W. Cardinal, a Michigan state prisoner who refused to eat non-kosher food after he was transferred to the Kinross Correctional Facility, which did not offer kosher food. Cardinal went without eating for eight days until he was transferred to a prison that served kosher food.

Cardinal sued Warden Linda Metrish, alleging violations of his First and Eighth Amendment rights plus a RLUIPA vio-lation. The district court granted summary judgment to Warden Metrish; Cardinal appealed, and the Sixth Circuit affirmed.

The appellate court rejected Cardinal’s First Amendment claim, holding that his allegations against the warden were not particularized enough to impose supervisory liability. The Court also rejected his Eighth Amendment claim on the basis that Cardinal was offered food, he just refused to eat it. “The plaintiff does not allege that he was denied food, but that he was denied kosher food,” the Court wrote. Finally, the Sixth Circuit ruled that RLUIPA did not permit money damages against the state because the statute did not waive state sovereign immunity. See: Cardinal v. Metrish, 564 F.3d 794 (6th Cir. 2009).

A petition for certiorari review is pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, which recently granted cert on a similar issue in Sossamon v. Texas [see separate article in this issue of PLN].

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Related legal case

Cardinal v. Metrish