Prisoner free exercise cases – June 19, 2017

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause


In Barner v. Pientka, 2017 Pa. Commw. Unpub. LEXIS 422 (Commw. Ct. PA, June 12, 2017), a Pennsylvania appeals court affirmed the dismissal of a suit for damages by a Rastafarian inmate who was required to cut his hair.

In Hoffman v. Lassen Adult Detention Facility, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 90083 (ED CA, June 12, 2017), a California federal magistrate judge recommended that a Jewish inmate be allowed to proceed with his 1st Amendment complaint that a jail commander denied his request for a kosher diet. On internal review the kosher diet was approved. Various other claims were recommended for dismissal.

In McElroy v. Clarke, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 91185 (WD VA, June 14, 2017), a Virginia federal district court dismissed a Nation of Islam inmate’s complaint over his suspension from, and refusal of reinstatement to, the Common fare diet.

In Ervin v. Davis, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 91433 (SD OH, June 14, 2017), an Ohio federal magistrate judge recommended dismissing a suit by a Messianic Jewish inmate complaining of initial denial of kosher meal accommodation.

In Harris v. Cooper, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 91637 (ND CA, June 14, 2017), a California federal magistrate judge dismissed with leave to amend an inmate’s claim that he was denied parole because he is a Muslim, and that religious items were confiscated from his cell. Plaintiff’s initial parole grant was rescinded by the governor, and after a successful habeas petition his parole was again suspended.

In Cooley v. LeBlanc, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 90733 (WD LA, June 13, 2017, a Louisiana federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendation (2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 91670, April 24, 2017) and dismissed a Rastafarian inmate’s challenge to grooming regulations that require all male inmates to receive a closely cropped haircut.

In Smith v. Goss, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 91675 (ED CA, June 14, 2017), a California federal magistrate judge dismissed, with leave to amend, a series of complaints by an inmate, including that he was retaliated against by denial of his religious meals.

In Epp v. Frakes, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 92236 (D NE, June 15, 2017), a Nebraska federal district court allowed a Buddhist inmate to move ahead on his claim for prospective relief growing out of his complaint that his religious diet has been suspended as a disciplinary measure at least 4 times and he is not permitted to obtain food items from outside sources.