Friday, August 15, 2014
A Second Court Victory in a Week for the Dignity of Prisoners (and for the University of St. Thomas and University of Arkansas Clinics)
For I was ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me. Matthew 25:36
A couple of days ago (here), I was delighted to report a victory for a prisoner’s right to confidentiality in correspondence with his attorney in a published Ninth Circuit decision (here). Scott Nordstrom, a death row inmate whose legal mail was read when he was challenging his conviction, was represented by the University of St. Thomas Appellate Clinic, which I supervise.
Just three days after that decision, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the human dignity of prisoners again in another case involving our UST Appellate Clinic, in which the lead was taken by our partners at the University of Arkansas Federal Litigation Project supervised by my colleague Professor Dustin Buehler and which was argued to the court by students (now graduates) Mason Boling and Lauren Murphy.
In Colwell v. Bannister (decision here), a prisoner who had suffered from blindness in one eye due to cataracts for a decade challenging the prison’s refusal to grant surgery despite the recommendations of his doctors. Yesterday, the Court of Appeals reversed the District Court’s grant of summary judgment to the Nevada Department of Corrections.
In words that speak eloquently to the fundamental dignity of all persons, including our neighbors held in prison, the Ninth Circuit held “that the blanket, categorical denial of medically indicated surgery solely on the basis of an administrative policy that ‘one eye is good enough for prison inmates’ is the paradigm of deliberate indifference.”