Prisoner free exercise cases – April 23, 2018

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In Merrick v. Ryan, (9th Cir., April 17, 2018), the 9th Circuit affirmed the dismissal of an inmate’s free exercise and RLUIPA complaints regarding denial of religious materials and practices, finding that the district court properly relied on lack of sincere religious belief.  It also upheld dismissal of equal protection of establishment clause claims.

In Covington v. Bledsoe County Corrections, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 63311 (ED TN, April 16, 2018), a Tennessee federal district court allowed a Muslim inmate to move ahead with his complaint that the jail would not allow Muslim inmates to have a feast or allow outside Muslims in to cook or pray for Ramadan.

In Barfell v. Aramark, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 63582 (ED WI, April 16, 2018), a Wisconsin federal district court allowed an inmate to move ahead with his complaint about a 5-day delay in receiving a religious vegan diet and his claim that religious vegan trays routinely contain animal products. However he was not allowed to proceed with his complaint regarding the quality of the vegan food.

In Slater v. Teague, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 63263 (D CO, April 12, 2018), a Colorado federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendations (2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 63605, March 21, 2018) and dismissed a former inmate’s complaints regarding availability, timing and preparation of kosher food and his limited access to Jewish religious texts.

In Hearns v. Gonzales, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 63885 (ED CA, April 13, 2018), a California federal district court, adopting in part a magistrate’s recommendation (2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 28959, Feb. 22, 2018), allowed an inmate to move ahead with retaliation, free exercise and California Bane Act claims complaining that a correctional officer poured bleach on his legal papers and his prayer rug.

In Sims v. Wegman, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 64678 (ED CA, April 16, 2018), a California federal magistrate judge recommended dismissing a Nation of Islam inmate’s complaint that he was refused an NOI, or alternatively a kosher diet.  Dismissal of one defendant was only because of failure to effect service.

In Johnson v. Roskosci, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 65405 (MD PA, April 17, 2018), a Pennsylvania federal magistrate judge recommended dismissing an inmate’s complaint that beads and necklaces with religious significance were confiscated.

In Fusco v. Cty. of Putnam, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 65444 (SD NY, April 18, 2018), a New York federal district court allowed an inmate to proceed with his claim that he was prevented from attending Catholic mass during his placement in segregation.