Prisoner free exercise cases – July 3, 2017

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In Rials v. Avalos, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 97650 (ND CA, June 23, 2017), a California federal district court allowed an inmate to move ahead with free exercise and equal protection challenges to disciplinary action taken against him for possessing two religious photos outside of his cell.

In Nordgaarden v. Baca, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 97763 (D NV, June 23, 2017), a Nevada federal magistrate judge recommended refusing to dismiss a claim by a Jewish inmate that an officer threatened to throw him in the hole, confiscated his meal and placed him in a holding cell because he was leaving the culinary to eat his Passover meal, which he contends is religiously required.

In Nance v. Miser, (9th Cir., June 29, 2017), the 9th Circuit held that a ban on a Muslim inmate’s purchasing scented oils for use in weekly prayers substantially burdens his exercise of religion. and is not justified under RLUIPA. It remanded for further proceedings a claim regarding beard length.

In Medina v. Kuykendall, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 98980 (ED PA, June 27, 2017), a Pennsylvania federal district court dismissed with leave to amend in inmate’s complaint that the County Prison denied him religious materials and kosher and halal meals.

In McCann v. Texas, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 99400 (SD TX, June 27, 2017), a Texas federal district court dismissed a habeas corpus petition in which plaintiff challenged his conviction for giving false identifying information to the police, alleging that it violates his free exercise rights to require him to list his birth date as the date of delivery rather than the date of conception.

In Boyd v. Etchebehere, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 99467 (ED CA, June 27, 2017), a California federal magistrate judge recommended dismissing a complaint by a Muslim inmate that he was denied participation in the Ramadan meal schedule for a week during which he was enrolled in the vegetarian diet rather than the Religious Meat Alternative Program.

In Docherty v. Cape May County, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 100709 (D NJ, June 29, 2017), a New Jersey federal district court allowed Muslim inmates to move ahead against governmental defendants with their complaint that they are allowed to congregate for Friday prayers only in an area which is dirty and foul smelling.

In Rush v. Malin, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 101285 (SD NY, June 29, 2017), a New York federal district court permitted an inmate to move ahead with claims that Shi’a Muslims were denied Jumu’ah services for 2 months, a separate Ashura observance, and weekly classes, a separate account, and a fundraiser. The court dismissed certain other claims.

In Taft v. California Department of Corrections, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 101467 (ED CA, June 28, 2017), a California federal magistrate judge dismissed with leave to amend an inmate’s complaint that he was forced to remove his yarmulke without a security search protocol and that a correctional officer displayed anti-Semitic behavior toward him.