Prisoner free exercise cases – July 4, 2016

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In Smith v. Jensen, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 82909 (WD WI, June 27, 2016), a Wisconsin federal district court rejected claims by plaintiff who was committed as a sexually violent person that his right to freely exercise his Wiccan religion were infringed by a new restrictions on computer use and on computer access to clip art.

In Townsend v. Headley, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 82947 (ND AL, June 27, 2016), an Alabama federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendation (2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 83182, May 11, 2016) and dismissed without prejudice the claim by a member of the Moorish Science Temple of America that his free exercise rights were infringed when “my chartel paper I use to open up as Grand-Shiek” (along with other papers, books, magazines and photos) was destroyed as contraband.

In Hardwick v. Senato, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 83565 (D DE, June 28, 2016), a Delaware federal district court dismissed an inmate’s complaint of 4 years’ delay in confirming his Jewish faith, and called for plaintiff to file an a mended complaint stating more clearly his claims regarding refusal of a position because he would not work on his Sabbath, and problems receiving kosher meals.

In Bryant v. Woodall, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 83690 (MD TN, June 28, 2016), a Tennessee federal magistrate judge recommended that inmates who are members of the Odinic or Asatru faith be allowed to move ahead with their attempt to obtain approval for group worship and acquisition of various items used during worship ceremonies.

In Stile v. United States Marshals Services, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 83747 (D NH, June 27, 2016), a New Hampshire federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendation (2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 83750, May 9, 2016) and allowed an inmate to move ahead with his complaint that he could not participate in weekly religious services while he was being housed the maximum security disciplinary unit.

In Amaker v. Goord, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 83976 (WD NY, June 27, 2016), a New York federal magistrate judge (in addition to ruling on a number of non-religion related issues) recommended that an inmate be allowed to proceed with his free expression, but not his RLUIPA, complaint that delivery of incoming mail including Jehovah’s Witnesses’ magazines was denied. The court recommended dismissal of his complaint regarding occasional denial of food to break the fast during Ramadan, and his claim that denial of call outs was in retaliation for not complying with the prison grooming policy.

In Holland v. City of New York, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 84586 (SD NY, June 24, 2016), a New York federal district court dismissed on qualified immunity grounds a Muslim inmate’s complaint about a strip search because there was no clearly established rule that, during a lockdown or other exigent situation, a correction officer is prohibited from conducting a strip search and viewing the private parts of a Muslim inmate of the opposite sex,

In Brown v. Fischer, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 85105 (WD NY, June 23, 2016), a New York federal district court allowed a Rastafarian inmate to proceed with his complaint that, while in restraints after an attempt to injure himself, his dreadlocks were forcibly cut while he was told Rastafarians were not permitted in that housing unit.

In Kadonsky v. D’Ilio, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 86224 (D NJ, July 1, 2016), a New Jersey federal district court allowed an inmate to proceed with his claim that a series of incidents led to ongoing theft and denial of access to his personal religious documents.

In Mehmood v. United States Marshals Services, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 86082 (D NV, June 30, 2016), a Nevada federal district court held that petitioners had stated a colorable free exercise claim based on the lack of halal-certified meals, but dismissed without prejudice ordering each petitioner to file separately stating allegations specific to him.

In Green v. Director/Secretary, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 86187 (SD CA, June 10, 2016), a California federal magistrate judge recommended dismissing for failure to exhaust administrative remedies a Native American inmate’s complaint that his free exercise rights were infringed when his religious items were confiscated and he was denied access to a sweat lodge, and that his 8th Amendment claims be similarly dismissed.