Prisoner free exercise cases – May 3, 2015

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In Herbert v. Balducci, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 54866 (WD WA, April 27, 2015), a Washington federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendation (2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 54945, Jan. 8, 2015) and dismissed an inmate’s claim that his free exercise rights were infringed by prison policy that limits reading material to a Bible while serving disciplinary confinement  Plaintiff argued this means he is forced to read a Bible and cannot read his Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book.

In Truidalle v. Godinez, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 55061 (CD IL, April 28, 2015), an Illinois federal district court dismissed with leave to amend a complaint by a Rastafarian inmate that he was receiving a vegan rather than a kosher diet, and that his religion was wrongly changed on his identification card to “other.”

In Walker v. Fasulo, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 56209 (D NV, April 29, 2015), a Nevada federal magistrate judge permitted a Muslim inmate to move ahead with his complaints that  jail officials prevented him from praying (and threatened to send him to disciplinary housing if he prayed without permission), prevented him from attending Jumua services, and from obtaining Kosher-Halal meals.

In Simmons v. Williams, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 56134 (SD GA, April 29, 2015), a Georgia federal magistrate judge recommended permitting an inmate to move ahead with his claims that a search resulting in his being undressed in front of other men and having to shave his beard imposed a substantial burden on the exercise of his religion.

In Wilson-El v. Mutayoba, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 56163 (SD IL, April 29, 2015), an Illinois federal district court held that requiring an inmate who had successfully recovered $10,100 in punitive damages against prison officials who had denied his request for a vegan diet should not be required to pay more than a nominal amount of his $15,000 attorneys fees, with the remainder paid by defendants.

In Kindred v. Allenby, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 56318 (ED CA, April 29, 2015), a California federal magistrate judge dismissed with leave to amend a complaint by a Native American civil detainee that Native Americans were denied the right to hold Sunrise Prayer Ceremonies, were retaliated against for displaying sacred or spiritual items, and that his spiritual rug was confiscated and his medicine bag desecrated.