Prisoner free exercise cases – March 28, 2016

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In Dolan v. Lowe, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 35118 (MD PA, March 18, 2016), a Pennsylvania federal district court upheld prison authorities’ refusal to allow an inmate to change his religious designation from Christian-Catholic to Islam so he could participate in Ramadan.

In Langford v. Koskela, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 35712 (WD MI, March 21, 2016), a Michigan federal district court rejected a Muslim inmate’s challenge to misconduct sanctions imposed when he refused to give a urine sample for drug testing while he was abstaining from food and water for Ramadan.

In Hayes v. Bruno, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 35996 (D CT, March 21, 2016), a Connecticut federal district court rejected a claim by an Orthodox Jewish inmate that the prison’s Common Fare diet, which had been certified as kosher by two rabbis who served a prison chaplains, did not meet Orthodox kosher standards because of the method of preparation.

In Weddle v. Baker, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 36133 (D NV, March 21, 2016), a Nevada federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendations (2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 37307, Jan. 11, 2016) and dismissed a Jewish inmate’s complaint that he was denied kosher meals.

In Cox v. Cronin, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 36549 (WD NY, March 18, 2016), a New York federal magistrate judge recommended dismissing an inmate’s complaint that barring him from NA meetings violated his free exercise rights because he had adopted NA as his religion. The court concluded that defendants were protected by qualified immunity.

In Al-Fuyudi v. Corrections Corporation of America, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 36687 (WD OK, March 22, 2016), an Oklahoma federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendations (2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 37750, Jan. 26, 2016) and dismissed a complaint by a Muslim inmate in a private prison that he was not provided a proper and nutritionally adequate halal diet, was denied the right to wear a kufi at all times, and was not provided religious materials, access to Muslim television programs, and additional chapel time for services.

In Oliver v. Harner, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 36835 (SD IL, March 22, 2016), an Illinois federal district court allowed an Assembly of Yahweh inmate to move ahead with his complaint against the prison chaplain that he was denied a kosher diet.

In McCombs v. Parker, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 36906 (WD NC, March 22, 2016), a North Carolina federal district court dismissed without prejudice an inmate’s complaint that he was denied a kosher diet and was denied the ability to attend a Messianic Jewish prayer service when the volunteer who was supposed to supervise it was ill.

In Booker v. Graham, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 37100 (ND NY, March 21, 2016), a New York federal magistrate judge told defendants to wait until the completion of discovery to move for summary judgment in a case in which Muslim inmates complained that they could not attend daily Ramadan services or consult with an imam during a lock down and that they received inappropriate Ramadan food.

In Smith v. Davis, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 37325 (ND CA, March 21, 2016), a California federal district court dismissed two of the defendants in a Muslim inmate’s suit claiming that Muslim inmates were limited to one congregational prayer service per day and could not meet in groups of 5 or more for prayer. The suit continues against two others.