United States v. Sec'y, Florida Dept. of Corrections, No. 14-10086 (11th Cir. 2015)Annotate this Case
In August 2012, the United States filed a civil suit under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C. 2000cc et seq., alleging that the failure of the Florida to provide a kosher diet program to all of its prisoners with sincere religious grounds for keeping kosher was a substantial burden on those prisoners' religious exercise. The complaint requested both injunctive and declaratory relief under the statute. After the district court denied Florida's motion to dismiss the complaint, the State issued a new policy in March 2013, formally titled "Procedure 503.006" and informally referred to as "the Religious Diet Program." In addition to outlining the contents of the meals, Procedure 503.006 contains a number of provisions that determine a prisoner's eligibility for the program. When the United States learned about Procedure 503.006 in April 2013, it filed a motion for a preliminary injunction. The preliminary injunction the court entered required Florida to provide the kosher diet, and prevented the State from enforcing the eligibility provisions of Procedure 503.006. The court's order did not, however, mention the need-narrowness-intrusiveness criteria for preliminary injunctions established by the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA). While this interlocutory appeal was pending, the district court held monthly status conferences between the parties. But the court did not make any need-narrowness-intrusiveness findings regarding the preliminary injunction, nor did it issue an order finalizing the preliminary injunction. As a result, the preliminary injunction expired by operation of law on Thursday, March 6, 2014. "The preliminary injunction in the present case passed on to injunction heaven [. . .] And with it died this appeal," unless there existed an exception to the mootness doctrine. Finding no exception, the Eleventh Circuit dismissed the mooted issue, and vacated the portion of the district court's order that addressed it.