Prisoner free exercise cases – September 20, 2015

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In Finley v. Nevada ex rel. Nevada Department of Corrections, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 122165 (D NV, Sept. 14, 2015), a Nevada federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendation (2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 122167, (May 27, 2015), and dismissed complaints by African American Hebrew Israelite inmates that they were switched from the pre-packaged kosher meal program to the kosher common fare diet.

In Cole v. Danberg, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 122373 (D DE, Sept. 15, 2015) a Delaware federal district court dismissed a Muslim inmate’s objections to a ban on charitable fundraising and institutional accounts; his claim that Muslim inmates are prevented from attending Friday services at the proper time and are not given equal time as other religious groups to conduct services; and the failure to furnish a Muslim inmate clerk and a typewriter. However the court permitted plaintiff to move ahead with has complaint that congregational prayer was banned and a Halal diet was not available.

In Walker v. Scott, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 122467 (CD IL, Sept. 15, 2015), an Illinois federal district court allowed a civilly committed Muslim inmate to move to trial on his complaint that he was denied a Halal or kosher diet and required to choose either the standard or vegetarian diet.

In Ellis v. Avery Mitchell Correctional, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 122679 (WD NC, Sept. 15, 2015), a North Carolina federal district court gave plaintiff inmate 20 days to submit evidence that he exhausted administrative remedies in seeking a vegan diet for religious reasons.

In Watkins v. Jones, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 123648 (ND FL, Sept. 15, 2015), a Florida federal district court adopted in part a magistrate’s recommendations (2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 123647, Aug. 28, 2015) in a suit by a Muslim inmate and ordered prison officials to make kosher or other religiously acceptable meals available to plaintiff. The court dismissed as moot plaintiff’s objection to prior rules barring his quarter-inch beard and dismissed his complaint that there were not separate Sunni Muslim services.

In Munic v. Langan, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 124662 (MD PA, Sept. 18, 2015), a Pennsylvania federal district court permitted a Jewish inmate to move ahead with is damage claims for denial of kosher meals, denial of visits with his rabbi, and denial of drug and alcohol treatment because of his religious beliefs.

In Damon v. Masters, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 124754 (SD WV, Sept. 18, 2015), a West Virginia federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendations and dismissed a complaint by a Nation of Islam inmate that his free exercise rights were infringed when kidney beans were substituted for navy beans at a religious ceremonial meal.

In Harvey v. Segura, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 124998 (D CO, Sept. 17, 2015), a Muslim inmate complained that authorities confiscated his only kufi, while prison officials contended that they took a second kufi which he was not entitled to keep under prison regulations.  A Colorado federal district court, adopting a magistrate’s recommendation, dismissed the suit, but ordered officials to conduct a search of plaintiff’s personal property. If he has no kufi, one must be furnished to him. If he does have one, this is to be reported to the court so it can consider sanctions for frivolous litigation.