Court Grants Correctional Staff Summary Judgment on Inmate’s Medical Care and Kosher Diet Claims

September 25, 2018

In two recent decisions in the same case, Judge Colin Bruce ruled in favor of Kankakee County and various County officials, granting summary judgment against an inmate who was complaining about both a lack of medical attention and the County’s failure to provide him with kosher vegan meals. In the first decision in Armour v. Kolitwenzew, No. 17 CV 2003 (C.D. Ill. 9/25/18), Judge Bruce ruled that the jail’s physician’s assistant and medical director had acted reasonably when they had discontinued a medication (Neurontin) that had been previously prescribed by another doctor to help Donald Armour with his complaints of neuropathic pain. The medical director and the physician’s assistant had discontinued Neurontin because Armour was otherwise refusing to take his blood pressure medication, claiming that the medication was affecting his libido and was otherwise making him feel “druggy” and because officials wanted to first determine if the Neurontin was potentially affecting Armour’s blood pressure. Judge Bruce called the doctors’ temporary (2-week) cessation of Neurontin a reasonable medical decision which could not support a deliberate indifference claim against officials.

Judge Bruce also granted summary judgment on Armour’s claims that officials at the jail had discriminated against him by not providing him with kosher vegan meals, which Armour claimed were mandated by his strict religious practices and his status as a devout Hebrew Israelite. Judge Bruce first dismissed Armour’s claim under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”), holding that RLUIPA can only provide inmates with at most injunctive relief and that Armour could not receive injunctive relief in the case because he had been transferred out of Kankakee County at some point after his lawsuit was filed.  Additionally, Judge Bruce concluded that Armour could not prevail on his First Amendment (religious discrimination) claim because he had not asserted that his injuries were caused by an unconstitutional custom, policy or practice of religious discrimination (otherwise known as a Monell claim). The court further ruled that Armour could not prevail on his individual capacity claims against the County’s Corrections Chief, the Assistant Chief and the Sheriff because Armour had not shown that these individuals were sufficiently involved in the specific events which supported Armour’s religious discrimination claim. Mike Condon and Jason Rose represented Kankakee County and its officials in the case.

Armour v. Kolitwenzew

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