ILNews

Judge: Prisoner suit can proceed

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2008
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A federal judge has decided a state prison inmate can proceed with his lawsuit against a Department of Correction official and food service provider, claiming that both denied him enough food to stay healthy and went against a medically prescribed diet restricting onions.

U.S. District Judge William Lee in South Bend ordered March 11 that Joshua Ketchem be allowed to proceed with his suit filed in January 2007. The case is Joshua Ketchum v. J. David Donahue, et al., No. 3:07-CV-316 WL.

A prisoner at Westville Control Unit incarcerated on several felony convictions including attempted murder, Ketchem alleges that food service provider Aramark Food Service and Superintendent William Wilson have purposely influenced his meal plans as a form of cruel punishment. He claims that purposely reduced food portions have led to unhealthy weight loss and weakened his immune system, and that both defendants have intentionally served him food containing onions, which he is allergic to and a prison physician has ordered not be included in his diet.

Judge Lee allowed that component of the suit to proceed, citing caselaw that the Eighth Amendment requires prison officials to ensure inmates receive adequate food, clothing, and shelter.

But the judge dismissed that claim against DOC Commissioner J. David Donahue, who it determined had no personal knowledge or influence on what was happening. In his order this week, the judge also dismissed various other claims involving restricted access to prison disciplinary processes, and access to courts and "legal mail."

In his 13-page handwritten complaint originally filed in Marion Superior Court, then transferred to both of Indiana's federal District Courts, Ketchem requests injunctive relief, asks for $15,000 in damages, and $25,000 in punitive damages against each defendant.
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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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