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Eleventh Circuit Says Passover Sign-Up Requirement in Florida Jail Passes Constitutional Muster

by David M. Reutter

On June 10, 2022, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit ruled that a Florida jail’s policy requiring detainees to sign up for Passover meals 45 days in advance did not violate the constitution or the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA).

While held at the Broward County Jail on March 6, 2017, pretrial detainee Bradley Dorman, who is Jewish, attempted to sign up for the Passover service and meals. But Chaplain Capri Jordan replied that “Passover isn’t until April.” On April 3, 2017, a week before the holiday began, Dorman successfully persuaded the Chaplain’s office to add him to the list, and he participated in Passover 2017.

On April 1 the following year, he attempted to sign up again. But this time Jordan refused to add him to the list, explaining that a notice was posted with a sign-up deadline of February 14, 2018 — 45 days before the beginning of the holiday, as per jail policy. Dorman was unable to participate in Passover 2018.

After exhausting his administrative remedies, he filed suit pro se in federal court for the Southern District of Florida against Jordan and her fellow Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO) chaplain, Richard Aronofsky. Proceeding under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, he accused them of violating his First Amendment right to free exercise of religion with the early deadline and his Fourteenth Amendment due-process right by failing to give him adequate notice of it. He also filed a claim under RLUIPA.

Defendants moved to dismiss, and the district court granted their motion. With the aid of Miami attorney Marc D. Seitles of Seitles & Litwin, PA, Dorman filed an appeal with the Eleventh Circuit.

The Court began with the RLUIPA claim, incorporating Dorman’s First Amendment claim under its more protective framework. That required the Court to question whether the advance registration requirement substantially burdened Dorman’s exercise of his Jewish faith. In answer, the Court said no. Registering in advance may be inconvenient, but it “is not a substantial burden” under RLUIPA, the Court said. That also meant the legal burden didn’t shift to Defendants to show their policy was the “least restrictive means of furthering a compelling government interest.”

The Court found no Fourteenth Amendment violation because posting the sign-up notice on the the jail’s kiosk system was reasonable. Dorman argued that he should have received a personal notice, after he was allowed to sign up after the deadline in 2017. Also, he said, important notices were usually printed and posted around the kiosk. But the Court rejected both arguments, so the district court’s order was affirmed. See: Dorman v. Chaplains Office BSO, 36 F.4th 1306 (11th Cir. 2022). 

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