The Idaho Court of Appeals has ruled that an indigent prisoner’s legal action cannot be dismissed for failure to post the bond required by I.C. § 6-610 of persons filing suit against a “law enforcement officer.”
Steven Lee Hyde, an Idaho state prisoner and adherent of the Native American and Odinist religions, filed a habeas corpus in state district court challenging the prohibition against certain religious ceremonies and possession of certain religious items at the Idaho Maximum Security Institution, citing the federal and Idaho constitutions as well as the Religious Exercise in Land Use and by Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc, et seq., and the Free Exercise of Religion Protected Act (FERPA), I.C. § 73-401, et seq. I.C. § 6-610 mandates that any person filing suit against a law enforcement official, including prison officials, must first file a bond in an amount set by the court. Because Hyde failed to do this, the district court dismissed his RLUIPA and FERPA claims.
A bench trial was held on the merits of the constitutional claims. The district court denied Hyde’s constitutional claims basically reasoning that the state had a legitimate penalogical security interest in prohibiting the religious ceremonies and items and that a lack of parity in accommodations given other religious groups was not an equal protection violation. Hyde appealed.
The court of appeals held that the purpose of I.C. § 6-610 was to give the litigator a stake in the litigation and inhibit the filing of frivolous, petty, harassing, vexatious and vindictive litigation. For indigent prisoners, this law had been superseded by newer statutes. I.C. § 31-3220A provides a mechanism for involuntary installment payments from an indigent prisoner’s account or personal property for court fees whereas such fees can be waived for indigent non-prisoners and cannot be attached without execution. The court of appeals reasoned that this gave the indigent prisoner a stake in the litigation satisfying the intent of I. C. § 6-610. Furthermore, to use an inability to post a bond as a reason to dismiss a claim under FERPA would violate FERPA, the very purpose of which was to prohibit any state action, including the application of laws and rules that burden the free exercise of religion. Also, RLUIPA preempts the bond requirement of § 6-610. Therefore, the district court erred in dismissing the RLUIPA and FERPA claims for failure to post a bond.
The court of appeals also rejected the state’s argument that RLUIPA and FERPA, as non-constitutional claims, could not be raised in a habeas corpus action. This was not the basis for dismissal of those claims. Had it been, Hyde could have reasserted them in a civil suit. Therefore, in the interest of judicial efficiency and timely judicial attention to the claims, the court of appeals temporarily returned the case to the district court and ordered it to render findings of fact and conclusions of law on the statutory claims under RLUIPA and FERPA. The case is then to be returned to the court of appeals which will set a schedule for supplemental briefs.
See: Hyde v. Fisher, 152 P.3d 653 (Ida. App. 2007) (decision date 02-08-07).
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Related legal case
Hyde v. Fisher
|Cite||152 P.3d 653 (Ida. App. 2007)|
|Level||State Court of Appeals|