Prisoner free exercise cases – December 26, 2016

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

 In Ali v. Eckstein, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 175024 (ED WI, Dec. 19, 2016), a Wisconsin federal district court ordered a Muslim inmate who sued over his inability to sign up to participate in Ramadan to file an amended complaint curing pleading deficiencies.

In Harvey v. Gonzalez, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 175793 (D CO, Dec. 20, 2016), a Colorado federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendation (2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 175796, Nov. 21, 2016) and dismissed as moot a Muslim inmate’s complaint about confiscation of his Qur’an and his inability to obtain a replacement.

In Carawan v. Mitchell, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 175858 (WD NC, Dec. 20, 2016), a North Carolina federal district court permitted a Muslim inmate to move ahead with his complaint that he was forced to choose between attending class to earn gain-time credits and attending Muslim worship services held at the same time.

In Husband v. Dougherty, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 175890 (D AZ, Dec. 19, 2016), an Arizona federal district court dismissed an inmate’s claim that his access to the grievance process was blocked because of his religion.

In Baines v. Hicks, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 176116 (ED VA, Dec. 19, 2016), a Virginia federal district court dismissed a Muslim inmate’s complaint regarding removal from the common fare diet and pressure to consume food from the common fare diet that did not meet his religious dietary requirements.

In Walters v. Livingston, 2016 Tex. App. LEXIS 13507 (TX App., Dec. 21, 2016), a Texas state appeals court held that a provision in the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act that bars a person filing suit if the burden on religious exercise has been cured does not allow the state to avoid liability by curing a burden once the suit has been filed. Here the suit was by a Native American inmate.

In Pigues v. Solano County Jail, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 176910 (ED CA, Dec. 21, 2016), a California federal magistrate judge recommended dismissal of a suit by a Jehovah’s Witness inmate complaining that correctional officers confiscated two religious drawings they thought to be gang related.

In Villalobos v. Bosenko, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 176924 (ED CA, Dec. 20, 2016), a California federal magistrate judge dismissed a complaint by an inmate who was a recent convert to Buddhism that he was denied a religiously compliant vegetarian diet that could have been served by combining elements of existing diets available to inmates.

In Stathum v. Nadrowski, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 177492 (D NJ, Dec. 22, 2016), a New Jersey federal district court allowed a Muslim inmate to proceed with his equal protection challenge, but not his free exercise challenge, to requiring him to accept vegetarian meals to satisfy his religious dietary needs instead of kosher meals that were available to Jewish inmates.