- Oakley v. Raemisch and Decoteau v. Raemisch – Outdoor Exercise Cases
Students in the Civil Rights Clinic, working with co-counsel Amy Robertson with the Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center, continue to challenge the Colorado Department of Corrections’ failure to provide outdoor exercise to inmates at Colorado State Penitentiary (CSP) in Canon City, CO. Two teams of students have picked up where last year’s students left off, litigating both an individual case (Oakley v. Raemisch) and a class action lawsuit (Decoteau v. Raemisch) focused on the lack of outdoor exercise at the two-decades-old prison.
In the past year, these Civil Rights Clinic students have investigated the conditions of confinement at CSP, selected class action representatives, drafted and filed a complaint, drafted and filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, and conducted discovery – in addition to, among many other tasks, handling a live radio interview and appearing in federal court! The Oakley case is set for trial in Colorado District Court in December 2014, and a team of students is hard at work preparing to litigate this case.
- Anderson v. Colorado Department of Corrections, et al. CRC students currently represent Troy Anderson, a mentally ill prisoner who has been held in isolation for more than a decade at Colorado State Penitentiary (CSP), the state “supermax” prison. Mr. Anderson’s lawsuit seeks 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 seeks effective medications to treat his mental illness. In addition, CSP does not permit any prisoner access to the outdoors. Mr. Anderson has not felt the sun for twelve years, a circumstance the lawsuit asserts is unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. Finally, the lawsuit challenges how prisoners at CSP progress out of solitary confinement, claiming that the use of behavioral notes called “negative chrons” is arbitrary and violates the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. These “chrons” can 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 is currently awaiting a ruling from the court on this matter. 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..
- Mallory v. Jones, et al. CRC students represent 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 is now suing 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 and CRC currently is awaiting a decision. A five-day trial is set to begin in the case on November 5, 2012. It will be conducted by the students who will enter CRC in Fall 2012.
- 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. Last year, 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’s confinement of him under “no human contact” status for over 28 years constitutes cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment and violates 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 have 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.
- 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.