Prisoner free exercise cases – November 10, 2013

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In Whitaker v. Whitener, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 157692 (WD NC, Nov. 1, 2013), a North Carolina federal district court dismissed without prejudice a complaint by a Jewish prisoner that serving his kosher meals cold, or late, or delivering them along with non-kosher meals violates his free exercise rights.

In Barton v. Snaza, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 157934 (WD WA, Nov. 4,2013), a Washington federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendations (2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 157937, Oct. 4, 2013) and dismissed without prejudice prior to service for failure to state a claim an inmate’s complaint that  two of his personal Asatru/Odinist books were confiscated by an unidentified person, preventing him from performing a ceremonial rite in his cell for three different holidays.

In Arrendondo v. Brooks, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 158406 (D NV, Nov. 5, 2013), a Nevada federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendations (2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 158403, Sept. 23, 2013) and dismissed an inmate’s complaint that several of his religious books were confiscated as contraband because he did not have his name written in them.

In White v. Van Leer, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 159186 (ED CA, Nov. 5, 2013), a California federal magistrate judge recommended dismissing a Muslim inmate’s complaint that he was denied kosher meals in place of the vegetarian substitute meals served at breakfast and lunch to those receiving Halal diets.

In Medina v. Snyder, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 159225 (ED CA, Nov 5, 2013), a California federal magistrate judge dismissed,with leave to amend, an inmate’s complaint that he was denied a kosher meal on three separate occasions.

In George v. City of New York, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 159434 (SD NY, Nov. 6, 2013), a New York federal district court dismissed a Muslim inmate’s claim that a strip search of him violated his free exercise rights. His request to be searched in private was refused.

In West v. Grams, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 160003 (WD WI, Nov. 8, 2013), a Wisconsin federal magistrate judge dismissed complaints by a Muslim inmate that Muslim prayer services were not permitted to be held when a volunteer leader from outside the prison was unavailable. The court also dismissed his claim that Ramadan meals were served as late as possible in retaliation for his arguing about the proper time to serve these meals.

In McKenzie v. Michigan Department of Corrections, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 159981 (WD MI, Nov. 8, 2013), a Michigan federal district court dismissed a suit brought by several Jewish prisoners complaining about a change in Department of Corrections policy that eliminated separate kosher meals and instead made vegan meals that meet kosher and halal standards available for religious diets.

In Arafat v. U.S. Department of Justice, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 160075 (D MN, Nov. 8, 2013), a Muslim inmate complained of a lack of a halal-certified diet at the county jail in which he was held while his federal criminal trial was under way.  A Minnesota federal district court dismissed most of his claims but allowed him to proceed with his claim for injunctive relief, subject to its being dismissed as moot as soon as his sentencing hearing was completed and he was transferred back to federal prison where a halal diet was available.