Prisoner free exercise cases – February 8, 2016

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In Muhammad v. Virginia, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11153 (WD VA, Feb. 1, 2016), a Virginia federal magistrate judge recommended dismissing a Nation of Islam inmate’s complaint that the common fare diet does not comply with his religious beliefs and that if he elected to receive the common fare diet during Ramadan, he would not be allowed to receive special food for the Eid feasts. The magistrate also rejected his contention that Eid ul-Fitr was celebrated on the wrong date.

In Gomez v. Gipson, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11634 (ED CA, Feb. 1, 2016), a California federal magistrate judge dismissed with leave to amend a complaint by a Native American inmate who alleged that authorities limited sweat lodge ceremonies to once a month, without a spiritual adviser, in retaliation for his filing an inmate grievance.

In Isakhanova v. Muniz, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11663 (ND CA, Jan. 29, 2016), a California federal magistrate judge dismissed with leave to amend a suit by the mother of an inmate who was allegedly mistreated when she came to visit her son in prison. The court dismissed with leave to amend her complaint that correctional officers made derogatory remarks about her Muslim religion while they temporarily held her on suspicion she had passed tobacco to her son.

In Lashley v. Sposato, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 12165 (ED NY, Feb. 2, 2016), a New York federal magistrate judge  recommended allowing a Muslim woman, a former inmate, to file an amended complaint alleging that she was required to spend 11 days in lock down and denied access to legal documents for refusing to remove her Khimar.

In Holcomb v. Kramer, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 10557 (D SC, Jan. 29, 2016), a South Carolina federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendation (2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 12303, Jan. 6, 2016) and dismissed a claim by an inmate (a rabbi) that his kosher diet requirements were not adequately accommodated.

In Mitchell v. Staten, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 12930 (SD GA, Feb. 3, 2016), a Georgia federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendations (2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 13712, Jan. 4, 2016) and permitted a Muslim inmate to proceed with his claim for an injunction and nominal damages growing out of his complaint that his Qur’an was taken during a search of his jail cell and has not been returned to him.

In Searcy v. Macomb County Jail, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 13905 (ED MI, Jan. 14, 2016), a Michigan federal magistrate judge recommended dismissing an inmate’s claim that the jail offered no books, services, advice, or counseling for Jewish inmates.

In United States v. Cohee, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 14224 (D KS, Feb. 5, 2016), a Kansas federal district court rejected the claim by a convicted sexual offender who was on supervised release that his free exercise rights were violated because he has “the right to be judged by God and not by man.”