Prisoner free exercise cases – April 13, 2014

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In Blaine v. California Health Care Facility, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 33686 (ED CA, March 12, 2014), a California federal magistrate judge dismissed, with leave to amend, an inmate’s claim that he has not been allowed to attend church.

In Williams v. Champagne, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 47753 (ED LA, April 6, 2014), a Louisiana federal district court permitted a Rastafarian inmate who was placed in lock down for refusing to cut his dreadlocks to proceed with his RLUIPA challenge to the prison’s hair policy.

In Harris v. Ellis, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 48604 (ED CA, April 8, 2014), a Muslim inmate challenged a prison’s policy to serve him only a symbolic portion of lamb for his Eid-ul-Adah meal. A California federal district court dismissed the claim because the request for injunctive relief is moot and damages are not recoverable under RLUIPA.

In Potts v. Holt, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 49176 (MD PA, April 8, 2014), a Pennsylvania federal district court dismissed on qualified immunity grounds a Muslim inmate’s complaint that the religious diet program was discontinued for 2 weeks during a prison lock down necessitated by the outbreak of food poisoning among inmates who ate in the regular meal program. Plaintiff did not eat the food served him during the lock down for fear he would be removed from the religious diet program for doing so.

In Khadzhimurad v. Sacramento County Sheriff Department, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 49876 (ED CA, April 9, 2014), a Muslim inmate complained that halal meals had been replaced by vegetarian meals.  A California federal magistrate judge held that while plaintiff may have a 1st Amendment or RLUIPA claim, his pleadings presently do not set out one. The court dismissed the complaint but provided that an amended complaint may be filed.