Prisoner free exercise cases – May 2, 2016

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause 

In Isakhanova v. Muniz, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 55649 (ND CA, April 26, 2016), a California federal district court allowed a suit by the mother of a Muslim inmate to proceed.  While visiting her son in prison, the mother was held for several hours on suspicion of passing tobacco to her son. While being held she was questioned extensively about her religious beliefs and practices.

In Sims v. Wegman, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 56251 (ED CA, April 27, 2016), a California federal magistrate judge allowed an inmate to move ahead with a complaint that he was denied a diet that complies with Nation of Islam requirements and was also denied a kosher diet as an alternative.

In Beaudette v. Winfrey, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 56275 (ND CA, April 26, 2016), a California federal district court dismissed with leave to amend an inmate’s claim that some of his Christian Identity religious material was removed when he was moved to administrative segregation, and the material was never returned to him.

In James v. Taylor, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 55811 (MD GA, April 27, 2016), a Georgia federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendation (2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 56612, March 22, 2016) and dismissed a Muslim inmate’s claim against the prison warden alleging that plaintiff was denied vegan meals required by his religion during a Mental Health Evaluation.

In Williams v. Cox, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 56714 (SD GA, April 28, 2016), a Georgia federal magistrate judge recommended dismissing as moot a complaint by a Hebrew Israelite inmate that he was refused a work proscription for the Messianic/Sabbatarian date (as opposed to the Jewish date) for observance of Shavuot.

In Davilla v. Watts, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 56721 (SD GA, April 28, 2016), a Georgia federal magistrate judge recommended  that plaintiff be allowed to move ahead with free exercise, RFRA and equal protection objections to the elimination of “Spiritual Mass” for Santeria inmates and other interferences with Santeria practices.

In Wolcott v. Board of Rabbis of Northern & Southern California, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 56847 (ED CA, April 28, 2016), a California federal magistrate judge granted an inmate leave to file a third amended complaint alleging that Jewish inmates are allowed to possess Tefillin and a Tallit Katan only once a week in the chapel.

In Bayadi v. United States, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 57232 (WD VA, April 29, 2016), a Virginia federal district court dismissed as frivolous an inmate’s claim that language in the state constitution establishes Christianity as the state religion.

In Evans v. Aramark Food & Commissary Services, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 57418 (SD NY, April 28, 2016), a New York federal court dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative remedies a Muslim inmate’s complaint that he was served insufficient amounts of food during Ramadan.