Prisoner free exercise cases – December 7, 2014

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In Mitchell v. Fox, (9th Cir., Dec. 5, 2014), the 9th Circuit affirmed the dismissal of an inmate’s complaint that prison officials destroyed and confiscated his religious property. Plaintiff had not shown that this constituted a substantial burden on his practice of religion.

In Mehmood v. United States Marshals Service, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 166386 (ED CA, Dec. 1, 2014), a California federal magistrate judge permitted a Muslim federal pre-trail detainee housed in a county jail to proceed with claims under the Free Exercise and Establishment clauses objecting to the diet furnished to him in response to his request for halal food, and denial of various religious items and of the ability to leave his cell 5 times a day to pray. His equal protection and RLUIPA claims were dismissed with leave to amend.

In Evans v. Godinez, (IL App., Dec. 1, 2014), an Illinois appellate court affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of a complaint by a Nation of Islam inmate seeking space and time for weekly inmate-led NOI study groups and prayer sessions.

In Brame v. Hodge, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 166586 (SD IL, Dec. 2, 2014), an Illinois federal district court denied a preliminary injunction to a Hebrew Israelite inmate who claims he suffered retaliation because of a lawsuit he filed complaining that he was denied a kosher diet, attendance at Jewish services, and participation in Jewish holidays.

In Reiske v. Bruno, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 167443 (D CT, Dec. 3, 2014), a Connecticut federal district court dismissed a Wiccan inmate’s complaint that he was not permitted to purchase various religious items, including religious oils and a pendant cord.

In Ajala v. West, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 168602 (WD WI, Dec. 5, 2014), a Wisconsin federal district court vacated its earlier order and allowed a Muslim inmate to proceed with his complaint that he was denied Ramadan meal accommodations, but affirmed the earlier dismissal of his complaint regarding his Eid-al-Fitr meal.