Prisoner free exercise cases – June 20, 2016

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In Davis v. Davis, (5th Cir., June 14, 2016), the 5th Circuit , while affirming in part, vacated and remanded a district court’s refusal to allow Native American inmates to wear long hair or kouplocks. The district court had not evaluated plaintiffs’ claims in light of the specific characteristics and security risks posed by each inmate.

In Rouser v. White, (9th Cir., June 17, 2016), the 9th Circuit, in a 2-1 decision, held that the district court had abused its discretion in terminating a 2011 consent decree that allowed a Wiccan inmate to practice his religion in various ways.

In Epps v. Hein, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 73906 (SD GA, June 6, 2016), a Georgia federal magistrate judge dismissed, but with leave to amend to allege a sincere religious belief, an inmate’s complaint that he was denied a kosher Rastafarian diet.

In Ahdom v. Etchebehere, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 76149 (ED CA, June 9, 2016), a California federal district court permitted a Muslim inmate to move ahead under the free exercise clause with his complaint that he had been denied religious Ramadan Halal meals for a period of six days.

In Parker v. Shepard, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 77854 (SD GA, June 15, 2016), a Georgia federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendation (2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 78216, April 18, 2016)  and denied a preliminary injunction to a Rastafarian inmate who wished to wear long hair and dreadlocks.

In Muhammad v. Crews, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 78744 (ND FL, June 15, 2016), a Florida federal district court, adopting a magistrate’s recommendations in part, dismissed a number of claims by a Muslim inmate but remanded for evaluation under a proper framework his claim that he was denied a religious diet during a 4-year period.

In Owens v. Kernan, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 78854 (ED CA, June 16, 2016), a California federal magistrate judge dismissed a claim by an inmate serving a life sentence that denial of a conjugal visit to consummate his marriage violates his rights under RLUIPA.