Sunday, March 24, 2013

Recent Prisoner Free Exercise Cases

In Shabazz v. Virginia Department of Corrections, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 36317  (ED VA, March 15, 2013), a Virginia federal district court dismissed complaints by a Nation of Islam inmate that he is not permitted to purchase NOI religious non-music CDs directly from The Final Call, but must petition to have them added to the catalog of the prison's exclusive vendor.

In Loccenitt v. City of New York, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 36330 (SD NY, March 15, 2013), a Muslim inmate sued complaining of a lack of Halal meals and inability of inmates in the special housing unit to attend Friday Jummah services.A New York federal district court permitted plaintiff to move ahead on the Jummah services claim against certain defendants and held that an amended complaint could be filed expanding on the Halal meal claim.

In Carter v. Washington Department of Corrections, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 36365 (WD WA, March 15, 2013), a Washington federal district court adopted a magistrate's recommendations (2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 36367, Feb. 27, 2013) and dismissed a Muslim inmate's complaint about the 2010 Ramadan meal policy.

In Smith v. Riley, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 35273 (ND AL, March 14, 2013), an Alabama federal district court adopted a magistrate's recommendations (2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 36439, Feb. 7, 2013) and dismissed an Odinist inmate's complaint that he was denied various religious items, some of his books were confiscated and he was discriminated against. The court also dismissed his challenge to the prison's faith-based honor dorms.

In Phillips v. Lecuyer, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 35267 (ND NY, March 14, 2013), a New York federal district court adopted a magistrate's recommendations (2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 36452, Feb. 19, 2013), and held that an SHU inmate's threat to facility security justified the refusal to allow him to participate in Native American religious ceremonies with the facility's general population.

In Shapiro v. Community First Services, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 37137 (ED NY, March 18, 2013), a New York federal district court refused to dismiss a Quaker inmate's suit against employees of a halfway house complaining that during his 3-week residence, the 3-hour weekly pass he was given was not long enough to allow him to travel to and from, and attend, his religious services.

In Jean-Laurent v. Lawrence, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 38004 (SD NY, March 19, 2013), a New York federal district court dismissed on qualified immunity grounds a claim for damages by a Muslim inmate who claimed his religious beliefs were infringed when he was required to stand in his underwear while his belongings were searched by male and female officers, and was required to proceed to the shower fully in the nude with a female officer less than 15 feet away.

In French v. Maryland Division of Corrections, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 37862 (D MD, March 15, 2013), a Maryland federal district court dismissed complaints by two Muslim inmates regarding accommodation of Ramadan fasting and failure to provide meals expressly labeled Halal.

In Blanks v. Cate, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11233 (ED CA, March 25, 2013), a California federal magistrate judge, in an amended opinion after reconsideration in light of an intervening 9th Circuit decision, again recommended dismissing complaints that authorities failed to procure a Rastafarian chaplain, did not provide a separate outside place of Rastafarian worship, refused to allow possession of religious items and failed to approve a Rastafarian religious vendor.

In Evans v. Jabe, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 38745 (ED VA, March 18, 2013), a Virginia federal district court dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative remedies a Muslim inmate's complaint about authorities cutting short weekly Jummah services. However the court refused to dismiss at this time plaintiff's complaint that an institutional lock down interfered with meals to allow his Ramadan fasting.

In Stiles v. Shick, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 40301 (WD NC, March 22, 2013), a North Carolina federal district court dismissed an inmate's claim that prison officials should have purchased an Indian Bible for him.

In Cryer v. Spencer, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 39447 (D MA, March 21, 2013), a Massachusetts federal district court allowed an inmate to move ahead with claims for declaratory and injunctive relief, but not for damages, in his suit claiming denial of access to a cassette player and Native American audiotapes, and to a Native American clergy member or volunteer.

In Cunningham v. Fayette County Detention Center, (KY App., March 22, 2013), a Kentucky appeals court dismissed a claim for declaratory relief by a Muslim pre-trial detainee who was precluded from participating in group prayer during Ramadan. The court held that the claim is moot because plaintiff is no longer at the detention center involved.

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