King Hall Civil Rights Clinic Wins Impressive Victory in Ninth Circuit
The UC Davis Civil Rights Clinic won a definitive victory for one of its clients in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on November 5. In a 25-page published opinion authored by Senior Judge Arthur L. Alarcón, the Court reversed the lower court's order dismissing the client's complaint in Akhtar v. Mesa, which alleged that his medical needs were ignored by prison staff. The case drew coverage from media including the Sacramento Bee.
The Clinic's client is a disabled California state prison inmate with limited English-speaking ability. He alleged that prison officials violated his Constitutional rights when they transferred him to dormitory housing despite a medical doctor's order that he remain in a ground-floor cell. The Ninth Circuit held that the Clinic's client had exhausted his administrative remedies by filing an adequate grievance putting prison officials on notice of the problem, and that his complaint stated a claim for relief. Because the client did not have an attorney in the early stages of his case in the district court, and because of his disabilities and limited ability to speak English, the Court of Appeals ruled that the lower court should have considered arguments he raised for the first time in his objections to the recommendations of a United States Magistrate Judge.
The Clinic's supervising attorney, Carter White, said the case provided a tremendous learning opportunity for his students. Amer Lakhani ‘11 drafted a motion to reconsider in the lower court. The appellate briefs were drafted by Roya Ladan '12 and Angela Ho '12, who initially attempted to resolve the case through the Ninth Circuit's Appellate Mediation Program. On September 14, 2012, Ladan presented the oral argument on behalf of the Clinic's client before a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco that included Judges Alarcón, Susan P. Graber, and Marcia S. Berzon.
The Clinic would like to recognize several individuals who assisted with the case. Maila Labadie ‘11 and Josh Eisenberg '11 conducted initial interviews with the client, and Mohammed Sakrani '11 served as a volunteer interpreter. Professor Amagda Pérez served as co-counsel in the mediation, and several faculty members participated in moot practice sessions, including California Supreme Court Clinic Director Aimee Feinberg and Professors Ashutosh Bhagwat, J. Angelo DeSantis, Margaret Johns, and Carlton Larson. Current Clinic students Islam Ahmad '13 and Elizabeth Klueck '13 also assisted in the practice rounds.
Sacramento Bee article