Appellate Litigation Clinic Wins First Case Argued This Term

Clinic Director Calls Outcome a ‘Civil Rights Victory’
Emily Mordecai and Joshua Kain Day

Third-year law students Emily Mordecai and Joshua Kain Day helped notch the appellate clinic’s first victory of the year.

December 19, 2017

The U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond handed the Appellate Litigation Clinic at the University of Virginia School of Law a win on Monday in the first case it argued this year — a case that alleged retaliation by corrections officers against an inmate, causing the prisoner physical harm.

The plaintiff will now be able to move forward in court on some of his claims.

“It is a wonderful civil rights victory,” said Stephen Braga, head of clinical programs at UVA Law and the appellate clinic’s director.

Third-year students Emily Mordecai and Joshua Kain Day presented arguments in September on behalf of clinic client Paul Thompson, an inmate at Deep Meadow Correctional Center in Powhatan, Virginia.

The appeal challenged the propriety of the District Court's grant of qualified immunity to correctional officers, which meant that Thompson’s claims were not pursuable.

Thompson alleged he had been given a "rough ride" in a prison transport van in April 2010 as retaliation for filing grievances at the prison.

“According to Mr. Thompson, the officers intentionally drove the van in a way that caused him to be thrown around the cabin,” the judges wrote in their reiteration of the charges. “As a result, Mr. Thompson’s head and upper body struck the steel mesh covering the windows, causing bleeding and bruising on his forehead, hands, and arms.”

The correctional officers argued that the law prohibiting “rough rides” was not clearly established at the time they drove Thompson. Braga said he is “delighted that the court’s ruling now makes that law clearly established for every prisoner in the Fourth Circuit.”

Monday’s decision in affirming some of the claims as actionable remanded the case back to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.

Professors George Rutherglen and John C. Jeffries Jr. helped Braga prepare the students to argue the case. 

Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.

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