Prisoner free exercise cases – May 9, 2016

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In Robinson v. Wetzel, (3d Cir., May 3, 2016), the 3rd Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a complaint by a Christian inmate held in the highest level of security that he was not allowed to view church services, Bible study and religious programming by closed-circuit television.

In Garnica v. Washington Department of Corrections, (9th Cir., May 5, 2016), the 9th Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a suit complaining that prison officials inadvertently provided plaintiff a low-calorie meal on the first day of Ramadan 2010 before correcting the error.

In Williams v. Does, (2d Cir., May 6, 2016), the 2nd Circuit reversed the district court and held that a Muslim inmate plausibly alleged a free exercise violation stemming from several of his Ramadan meals being served to him before sunset.

In Bradford v. Kramer, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 58067 (SD IL, April 29, 2016), an Illinois federal district court permitted a Sunni Muslim pre-trial detainee to move ahead with his claim that 24-hour camera surveillance of him in his cell violates his religious belief that he can be seen nude only by his wife.

In Halsey v. Armstrong, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 58436 (D OR, April 28, 2016), an Oregon federal magistrate judge dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative remedies a complaint by a Muslim inmate that an officer insulted his religion; that he was wrongly removed from the Ramadan fast list because of false reports that he had broken the fast; and that he was subsequently precluded from engaging in any religious activities.

In Valerio v. New Hampshire Department of Corrections, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 59237 (D NH, May 3, 2016), a New Hampshire federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendations (2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 59515, April 1, 2016) and, while dismissing a number of claims, allowed an inmate to move ahead with his complaint that his free exercise rights were infringed by a group strip search following a Christian revival event. His religious beliefs bar his being nude in front of other men.

In Bausman v. California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 59514 (ED CA,May 3, 2016), a California federal magistrate judge allowed an inmate to proceed with his complaint that a change in regulations reduced the kinds of religious and cultural items that Native American inmates can possess.

In Hoffmann v. Price, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 59520 (ED CA, May 3, 2016), a California federal magistrate judge dismissed with leave to amend an inmate’s complaint that during a cell search officer went through his kosher food bags and placed his Torah open and face-down on the floor and leaving a boot print on it.

In Hampton v. Chaplin, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 59583 (SD IN, May 4, 2016), an Indiana federal district court dismissed an inmate’s suit claiming $1 million in damages for emotional distress when he was removed one time from religious services.

In Blankenship v. Setzer, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 59862 (WD NC, May 5, 2016), a North Carolina federal district court dismissed a Christian inmate’s complaint that his Bible was confiscated under jail policies that barred possession of books without covers, and that he was not permitted to take his Bible during transfers between jails.