Current Civil Rights Clinic Cases

  • Ajaj v. United States, et. al. CRC students currently represent Ahmad Ajaj, a federal prisoner confined to the United States Penitentiary – Administrative Maximum (ADX) facility in Florence, Colorado. Mr. Ajaj is a devout Muslim, and his lawsuit seeks injunctive relief and damages for the substantial burdens placed on his religious practice by Federal Bureau of Prisons officials. CRC students filed an amended complaint alleging that BOP officials violated Mr. Ajaj’s constitutional and statutory rights by failing to provide him food and medications outside the fasting hours during religiously-required fasts, by failing to provide him halal meals, by failing to provide him access to an imam, and by forbidding him from engaging in group prayer. CRC students alleged these claims under both the First Amendment free exercise clause and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). Mr. Ajaj’s complaint also states claims for relief under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fifth Amendment and the Federal Tort Claims Act. CRC students continue to represent Mr. Ajaj in this ongoing litigation.
  • Chapman v. BOP, et al.: CRC students currently represent Seifullah Chapman, a federal prisoner confined to the United States Penitentiary – Terre Haute in Terre Haute, Indiana. Mr. Chapman suffers from Type 1 diabetes, and fluctuations in Mr. Chapman’s blood sugar cause Mr. Chapman acute pain and, if ignored, could be fatal. In February 2014, when Mr. Chapman was confined at the United States Penitentiary – Administrative Maximum (ADX) facility in Florence, Colorado, a group of CRC students filed a federal lawsuit on his behalf, alleging that the BOP and certain individual defendants violated Mr. Chapman’s rights under the Eighth Amendment and Section 504 of the Rehabiliation Act (“Rehab Act”). Throughout 2015, teams of CRC students twice moved for a preliminary injunction/temporary restraining order to obtain immediate relief for Mr. Chapman after consulting with a diabetes expert who became gravely concerned about Mr. Chapman’s repeated low levels of blood sugar. After the second motion for a preliminary injunction/temporary restraining order, the BOP moved Mr. Chapman to Terre Haute, Indiana. On December 4, 2015, the United States District Court for the District of Colorado denied the Defendants’ motion to dismiss Mr. Chapman’s claims. CRC students continue to represent Mr. Chapman in this ongoing litigation.
  • In re: Seifullah Chapman: In 2003, Seifullah Chapman was convicted of three criminal counts under 18 U.S.C. § 924: conspiracy to possess and use a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 924(o), possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 924©, and use and discharge of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 924©. Mr. Chapman has 55 years remaining to serve for two of these § 924© convictions. A group of CRC students is working on an action for post-conviction relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, challenging Mr. Chapman’s § 924© convictions as unconstitutional pursuant to the Supreme Court’s decision in Johnson v. United States, 135 S. Ct. 2551 (2015).
  • Federal and State Clemency: A team of CRC students is currently representing two prisoners incarcerated in the federal prison system who are seeking clemency under President Obama’s 2014 clemency initiative. Both of the CRC clients are serving mandatory life sentences for non-violent drug offenses. The current CRC student team is preparing clemency petitions to the Office of the Pardon Attorney at the United States Department of Justice on behalf of both of both federal clients. This student team is also representing a Colorado state prisoner who is seeking clemency from Governor Hickenlooper for his de facto life sentence for a non-violent drug possession conviction.
  • Shapiro v. Rynek, et al.: Anthony Shapiro is a state prisoner incarcerated at the Sterling Correctional Facility (SCF), a facility operated by the Colorado Department of Corrections (CDOC). A team of CRC students represents Mr. Shapiro in a federal lawsuit alleging violations of his Fourth Amendment right to a reasonable search of his person for an unlawful strip search that occurred at SCF on December 6, 2012. Two teams of CRC students have represented Mr. Shapiro through the discovery process (the CRC was appointed to represent Mr. Shapiro after his pro se complaint survived a motion to dismiss), including multiple depositions, and continue to represent Mr. Shapiro in this ongoing litigation.
  • Decoteau v. Raemisch – Outdoor Exercise Cases
    Students in the Civil Rights Clinic, working with co-counsel Amy Robertson and Lauren Fontana of the Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center, filed a class action lawsuit challenging the Colorado Department of Corrections’ failure to provide outdoor exercise to inmates at Colorado State Penitentiary (CSP) in Canon City, CO. Student attorneys investigated the conditions of confinement at CSP, selected class action representatives, drafted and filed a complaint, drafted and filed a motion for partial summary judgment and responded to a defense motion for summary judgment, conducted discovery, and began preparation for trial – in addition to, among many other tasks, handling a live radio interview, multiple press interviews, and appearing in federal court. The parties reached a settlement agreement, scheduled for a final approval hearing in June 2016, which will provide outdoor exercise to all inmates at CSP.

Representative Sample of Former Civil Rights Clinic Cases

  • Anderson v. Colorado Department of Corrections, et al. CRC students represented Troy Anderson, a mentally ill prisoner who had been held in isolation for more than a decade at Colorado State Penitentiary (CSP), the state “supermax” prison. Mr. Anderson’s lawsuit sought improved mental health treatment and better conditions at CSP. Pursuant to the Eighth Amendment, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Rehabilitation Act (RA), Mr. Anderson sought effective medications to treat his mental illness. In addition, Mr. Anderson raised an Eighth Amendment claim challenging the fact that CSP did not permit any prisoner access to the outdoors. Mr. Anderson had not felt the sun for twelve years. Finally, the lawsuit challenged how prisoners at CSP progressed out of solitary confinement, claiming that the use of behavioral notes called “negative chrons” was arbitrary and violated the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. These “chrons” could be entered by any staff member, for any reason, and result in prisoners, like Mr. Anderson, staying in solitary confinement for additional months. CRC students drafted the complaint, conducted extensive discovery, including an entry onto the CSP grounds and thirteen depositions. Starting on April 30, 2012, the students then conducted a seven-day bench trial, which included sixteen witnesses. News articles about the trial can be found here and here. CRC students also had the opportunity to work with co-counsel on this case, specifically Amy Robertson from the civil rights law firm of Fox & Robertson, P.C. (now the Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center).
  • Oakley v. Raemisch, et al. CRC students represented Mr. Oakley in a lawsuit raising an Eighth Amendment challenge to the lack of outdoor exercise at Colorado State Penitentiary. Having taken over Mr. Oakley’s representation from another attorney at a later stage in this litigation, CRC student attorneys filed a motion for summary judgment on Mr. Oakley’s behalf, prepared for trial in Mr. Oakley’s case, and responded to a defense motion to dismiss, including arguing against the motion in federal court.
  • Mallory v. Jones, et al. CRC students represented Matthew Mallory, who was formerly incarcerated at Centennial Correctional Facility (CCF). While held in isolation in the custody of Colorado Department of Corrections, Mr. Mallory began to vomit blood. For four days, he told correctional officers and nursing staff, none of whom provided him with reasonable medical care, never even removing him from his cell to be examined. On the fourth day, he collapsed and was rushed to the hospital. Having lost 2/3 of his blood, Mr. Mallory was given emergency surgery and forced to remain in the hospital for weeks. Mr. Mallory sued nurses and correctional officers for their failure to treat him adequately, as well as managers in the prison who knew that bleeding ulcers were common but did not adequately train their staff to identify and treat this condition. Students drafted his complaint and took and defended seventeen depositions on his behalf. Extensive summary judgment briefing was done in this case, but prior to a decision, CRC students engaged in settlement negotiations with counsel for Defendants. The parties were able to reach a settlement agreement to resolve the case.
  • Jordan v. Pugh, 504 F.Supp.2d 1109. CRC students represented Mark Jordan, a prisoner confined at the federal “supermax” prison, in his First Amendment challenge to a federal Bureau of Prisons regulation that prohibits prisoners from “acting as a reporter” or “publishing under a byline.” CRC students conducted discovery, engaged in complex motions practice, and ultimately conducted a three-day bench trial that resulted in a decision striking the regulation as unconstitutional. A copy of the district court’s order may be found here.
  • Mohammed Saleh, et al., v. Federal Bureau of Prisons. CRC represents three prisoners challenging several issues related to their conditions of confinement in the federal supermax prison, including infringement of their right to exercise their religion in violation of the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act; and a lack of due process as to their placement/continued confinement in ADX (all three clients were transferred to ADX after the events of September 11, 2001, despite there being no evidence that any of them was involved in the events of that day). The student attorneys working with these clients prepared an amended consolidated complaint on behalf of all three clients, propounded and responded to written discovery requests, conducted multiple depositions, worked with expert witnesses, and engaged in motions practice. In 2008, they were able to negotiate a settlement of the religion claims which may be found here.
  • Rezaq v. Nalley, et al. CRC represents a prisoner who was placed in the federal supermax and held there for thirteen years without explanation of what he needed to do to be removed from isolation and returned to a regular, high-security prison. This claim—raised under the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment—asked for increased procedures to explain why Mr. Rezaq was placed in solitary confinement at the supermax and why he continued to be held there. Though the claim survived a motion to dismiss, the district court found in favor of the government at summary judgment. This case was then consolidated on appeal with Saleh, and CRC students filed an appeal on behalf of the clients to the Tenth Circuit.
  • Krystofik v. Great Western Floral Exchange, et al., CRC students represented a woman in her sexual harassment and sex discrimination claims against her former employer, who harassed her over a period of several months until the conditions of her employment were so intolerable that she was forced to resign. CRC represented the client in a state court action asserting statutory claims under the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act as well as state tort claims. In 2008, the students representing Ms. Krystofik conducted discovery and filed a motion for summary judgment on behalf on their client, on which they prevailed. The decision granting summary judgment may be found here. They then conducted a damages hearing which resulted in an award of $70,000 to their client.
  • Silverstein v. Bureau of Prisons, et al. CRC represents Tommy Silverstein, a prisoner confined in the federal supermax, in his lawsuit claiming that the Bureau of Prisons’ confinement of him under “no human contact” status for over 28 years constitutes cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment and violated his Fifth Amendment right to due process. Students working on this case researched and developed the client’s claims, drafted the complaint, conducted written discovery requests and depositions, and responded to complex motions involving issues of qualified immunity, personal jurisdiction and constitutional law. This work resulted in a landmark decision in which the district court held that extended solitary confinement—in and of itself—could violate that Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. At summary judgment, however, the court ruled in favor of Defendants on all claims. CRC students sought to have this decision reconsidered, and to supplement the record based on the increasing national trend against long-term solitary confinement. The court denied the motion for reconsideration, and the CRC appealed to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.
  • CRC represented a group of nine national and state organizations who filed an amicus brief in support of the plaintiff class in Shook v. El Paso County, a prisoners’ rights case on appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. The plaintiffs brought suit in federal court on behalf of prisoners held in the El Paso County Jail in Colorado Springs, challenging inadequate mental health care. Student attorneys on this case coordinated the groups interested in participating as amici, researched the issues relating to certification of 23(b)(2) injunctive classes, and wrote a brief representing the interests of all amici that was filed in the Tenth Circuit.
  • CRC represented a Jewish man who was harassed at his job on the basis of his religion and was terminated after complaining about the harassing conduct. This case was litigated in federal district court, and student attorneys representing our client amended the client’s complaint to allege claims under Title VII, § 1981, and Colorado tort law. The students appeared in federal court for conferences and motions, drafted discovery requests, engaged in informal fact investigation, and filed and responded to discovery motions. Ultimately, the students negotiated a favorable settlement on behalf of their client.
  • CRC students represented a man who is HIV+ and who was denied LASIK surgery on the basis of his HIV status in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as well as state contract and tort law. Shortly after filing a complaint in federal district court, the student attorneys negotiated a creative settlement for their client that provided him several nontraditional remedies that were specifically tailored to his objectives.