Prisoner free exercise cases – April 9, 2018

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In Ackridge v. Aramark Correctional Food Services, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 54733 (SD NY, March 30, 2018), a New York federal district court in a lengthy opinion, while dismissing numerous claims, allowed a Jewish inmate to move ahead on his free exercise claim for delay in receipt of kosher meals and lack of regular Jewish religious services. The opinion includes a lengthy analysis of the state action doctrine as applied to the prison’s food service contractor.

In Seamons v. Ramirez, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 55348 (D ID, March 30, 2018), an Idaho federal magistrate judge dismissed an inmate’s complaint that, while in administrative segregation, he was limited to possessing no more than the five books and was not provided with regular, in-person, clergy visits.

In DePaola v. Clarke, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 55925 (WD VA, March 30, 2018), a Virginia federal district court allowed a Muslim inmate to move ahead with his claim that he was punished with reduced privileges for failing to shave his beard for religious reasons with no barbering services available to trim it, and that he was deprived of attending Jum’ah services or watching them on television.

In Allen v. Kunkel, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 56249 (D CT, April 2, 2018), a Connecticut federal district court allowed a Moorish-American inmate to move ahead with his complaint regarding denial of access to a particular book and refusal to allow him to purchase a fez.  It dismissed his claim that he was denied the right to choose his nationality under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In Rickman v. Martin, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 55624 (WD MI, April 2, 2018), a Michigan federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendation (2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 56828, Feb. 21, 2018) and allowed a Hebrew-Israelite inmate to move ahead with complaints that his request for a religious diet was denied as was his request to purchase a kufi and Star of David pendant.

In Hall v. Annucci, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 57317 (ND NY, April 4, 2018), a New York federal district court allowed a Muslim inmate to move ahead with his amended complaint that contends he was served meals that do not comply with requirements for Halal food.

In McLendon v. Montgomery County Jail, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 58365 (MD TN, April 5, 2018), a Maryland federal district court allowed an inmate to move ahead with 1st and 8th Amendment claims against a jail chaplain contending that plaintiff was not furnished nutritionally adequate meals that complied with his religious diet.

In Allen v. Holt, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 58362 (MD TN, April 5, 2018), a Tennessee federal district court held that inmates have not alleged a substantial burden on free exercise by alleging that during religious services in their housing pod the television is on at high volume and inmates not attending the service are out of their cells talking loudly.

In Larry v. Goldsmith, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 59100 (ED WI, March 30, 2018), a Wisconsin federal district court allowed a Muslim inmate to move ahead with his complaint that officers prevented him from praying on one ocassion during
Ramadan, but dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative remedies his complaint that he was not allowed to have his meals during Ramadan later in  the day.

In Wells v. Gonzales, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 59198 (ED CA, April 6, 2018), a California federal magistrate judge recommended that a Native American inmate be allowed to move ahead with his complaint that a correctional officer confiscated and handled disrespectfully a native spiritual totem of Plaintiff’s which was on display for Native Heritage Month. He also can pursue retaliation claims against defendant.