Sunday, October 02, 2016

Recent Prisoner Free Exercise Cases

In a lengthy opinion in Jackson v. Crawford, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 130983 (WD MO, Sept. 26, 2016), a Missouri federal district court upheld the prison system's failure to include "atheism" as a religious preference on intake forms, but allowed an inmate to move ahead on his claim that he was not given a sufficient opportunity for a secular alternative to the standard substance abuse program.

In Mitchell v. Cicchi, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 131900 (D NJ, Sept. 26, 2016), a New Jersey federal district court allowed a Muslim inmate to move ahead with a claim for nominal damages asserting that his free exercise rights were infringed when he was not allowed to attend an Eid feast because he was in maximum custody status.

In Warrior v. Gonzalez, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 132639 (ED CA, Sept. 27, 2016), a California federal district court dismissed a suit by a Muslim inmate challenging unclothed visual body cavity searches of Muslim inmates during Ramadan before they were allowed to attend religious programming.

In Williams v. Blood, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 133517 (D UT, Sept. 27, 2016), a Utah federal district court refused to dismiss for failure to exhaust administrative remedies an inmate's complaint that authorities ended certain Islamic meetings and he was retaliated against for filing grievances about religious diet accommodations.

In Harris v. California Medical Forensic Service, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 133752 (ND CA, Sept. 28, 2016), a California federal magistrate judge dismissed an inmate's claim that denial of use of marijuana burdened the exercise of his Christian Fundamentalist beliefs.

In Epperson v. Crawford, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 134065 (WD KY, Sept. 29, 2016), a Kentucky federal district court dismissed a Muslim inmate's complaint that a correctional officer dragged his prayer rug across the floor, but allowed him to move ahead with a complaint alleging retaliation for filing a grievance over the incident.

In Brewer-El v. Beckstrom, 2016 Ky. App. Unpub. LEXIS 662 (KY App., Sept. 30, 2016), a Kentucky state appeals court upheld the dismissal of an inmate's complaint that his grievance would not be considered because he added the suffiix "EL" to his last name. He alleged this infringed his free exercise of religion.

In Williams v. Pollard, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 134509 (ED WI, Sept. 29, 2016), a Wisconsin federal district court dismissed an inmate's complaint over confiscation of his materials from Fruit of Islam, a subgroup (considered by authorities as a security threat group) within the religious group Nation of Islam. His retaliation claim was also rejected.

In Sharps v. Richardson, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 135297 (D MD, Sept. 29, 2016) a Maryland federal district court rejected a Muslim inmate's complaint that the vegetarian diet that complies with his religious requirements consists of a repetition of the same meals.

In Johnson v. Federal Bureau of Prisons, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 135434 (MD PA, Sept. 30, 2016), a Pennsylvania federal district court allowed a Muslim inmate to move forward with complaints that he was not permitted to engage in group prayer and was not allowed to pray in the prison library and at adult education classes.

In Elder v. Cook County Department of Corrections, 2016 Ill. App. Unpub. LEXIS 2117 (IL App., Sept. 30, 2016), an Illinois state appellate court upheld dismissal of a complaint by an inmate who was a follower of Hermeticism that his request for a copy of the Kybalion was ignored.