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Civil Rights Clinic Scores Big Victory in Tenth Circuit Court

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Sturm College of Law

Tenth Circuit affirmed a denial of summary judgment for three medical providers at ADX who provided grossly inadequate care to client with diabetes.

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crc 10th circuit

Civil Rights Clinic students (l-r) Emily Saunders, Taylor Volkman and Olivia Kohrs.

A multi-year case in the Civil Rights Clinics (CRC) resulted in a favorable appellate opinion on Thursday. The opinion from the Tenth Circuit in Chapman v. Santini, et al., affirmed a denial of summary judgment for three medical providers at ADX who Mr. Chapman alleges provided grossly inadequate care to him for his particularly severe form of Type 1 diabetes.

In November 2018, CRC student attorney and third-year law student, Olivia Kohrs (JD’19), argued a Tenth Circuit interlocutory appeal filed by several individual medical officers employed by the Bureau of Prisons (BOP). The BOP officers argued that the district court erred in denying summary judgment on qualified immunity grounds, and Kohrs urged the Court to affirm the district court’s order and allow the case to proceed to trial on client Seifullah Chapman’s claim that the medical officers were deliberately indifferent to his diabetes. 

Thanks to the hard work of Kohrs, her fellow student attorneys, and the CRC’s faculty advisors, Mr. Chapman’s case can proceed to trial.

“This win is attributable to the tenacious advocacy on behalf of our client in this and a federal post-conviction case by eight generations of CRC student attorneys,” said CRC Visiting Assistant Professor Nicole Godfrey.

The students who worked on the case include Emily Miller (JD’16), Chelsea Gilbertson (JD’16), Shannon Hurley (JD’17), Carter McDonnell (JD’17), Casey Shea (JD’16), Hannah Mitchell (JD’18), Alexis Sheek (JD’17), Melissa Vorenberg (JD’17), Michael Bishop (JD’19), Stephanie Blumberg (JD’18), Desmond Brazil (JD’19), Nathan Fall (JD’19), Zach Shiffler (JD’19), Olivia Kohrs (JD’19), Allie Parrott (JD’19), David Valleau (JD’19), Rachel Kennedy (JD’19), Elizabeth Othmer (JD’19), Emily Saunders (JD’20), Taylor Volkman (JD’20), Annika Adams (JD’21), and Sue Rogers (JD’21). Annika Adams and Sue Rogers will be returning to the CRC in the next academic year to spearhead the trial team.

“We feel honored to represent Mr. Chapman and are overjoyed at this victory. We consider ourselves very lucky to be a part of this eight-year-long journey and to take this case to trial as students,” said Adams and Rogers.

Through the years, these students were supervised by Professor Laura Rovner, CRC Clinical Fellow Danielle Jefferis, and Godfrey, as well as former CRC faculty Lisa Graybill, now with the Southern Poverty Law Center; Lauren Fontana, now Director of Affirmative Action Programs at the University of Colorado Denver; and Professor Lindsey Webb.

“We're thrilled for our client, for our wonderful students, and for this recognition from the circuit that, as quoted in the Order and Judgment, ‘The Eighth Amendment is not a maybe or a sometimes proposition. If conditions violate the Eighth Amendment, all prisoners have the right to be free of such conditions. The right does not vary depending on the threat that the individual prisoner presents to institutional security,’" said Rovner.

 Congratulations to our students, fellows and faculty for their success in this landmark case.

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