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Updated - February 27, 2019

Garza v. Idaho (U.S. Supreme Court)

Access to Courts
This case concerns one of the clearest instances in which a criminal defendant was abandoned by his defense attorney and deprived of his right to appellate review. After pleading guilty, Gilberto Garza, Jr., instructed his attorney to file an appeal, but his attorney refused to do so. As a result, Mr. Garza’s attorney deprived him...

Filed - January 23, 2018

Updated - March 2, 2018

Williamson v. Stirling (Fourth Circuit)

Solitary Confinement
Following an order from then-Governor Nikki Haley, Mr. Williamson was transferred from general population in a county jail to solitary confinement in a South Carolina prison after he engaged in misconduct while awaiting trial. Mr. Williamson was not provided notice or a hearing prior to the transfer and was not provided process during the three...

Filed - November 20, 2017

Updated - January 25, 2018

Finley v. Huss (Sixth Circuit)

Solitary Confinement
Mr. Finley suffers from severe mental illness, which compels him to swallow razor blades and engage in other acts of self-harm. After he swallowed—but did not pass—a razor blade, prison officials subjected him to solitary confinement, apparently because the blade lodged in his esophagus constituted dangerous contraband. A prison psychiatrist informed corrections personnel that solitary...

Filed - July 26, 2017

Updated - October 17, 2017

Sanders v. Melvin (Seventh Circuit)

Solitary Confinement
Prior to being incarcerated, Mr. Sanders was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder. In prison, he was designated Seriously Mentally Ill. Nevertheless, for nearly ten years, Mr. Sanders was held in solitary confinement. As a result, his mental health deteriorated, he self-mutilated, and he attempted suicide. In 2016, Mr. Sanders filed a pro se lawsuit in which...

Filed - July 17, 2017

Priest v. Holbrook (Ninth Circuit)

First Amendment
Like many Native Americans, David Priest believes that eagle feathers are sacred and central to his faith. Recognizing the centrality of eagle feathers to the spiritual practices of some Native Americans, the United States Department of the Interior will provide them with 20 such feathers—but only once during one’s life. Mr. Priest, a prisoner in...

Filed - August 1, 2018

Sherman and Rafferty v. Trumball County (Sixth Circuit)

Health and Safety
Sexual abuse is rampant in American prisons and jails, supervisors often turn a blind eye to it, and incarcerated men and women who complain about sexual abuse face all manner of retaliation at the hands of their jailers. The MacArthur Justice Center filed an amicus brief, arguing that when an officer directs a detainee or prisoner to perform sexual acts for his gratification, it is offensive and absurd to call the encounter “consensual.”

Filed - July 20, 2018

Lacaze v. Louisiana (U.S. Supreme Court)

Death Penalty
The MacArthur Justice Center filed a petition for a writ of certiorari on behalf of Louisiana death-row inmate Rogers Lacaze, challenging his conviction based on serious issues of juror misconduct and judicial bias. Our brief laid out the split among the circuit courts and state courts of highest resort on these issues and urged the...

Filed - January 24, 2018

Wallace v. Baldwin (Seventh Circuit)

Solitary Confinement
Mr. Wallace, who suffers from mental illness, has been in solitary confinement since 2006. Mr. Wallace sued, charging that his solitary confinement and the process accompanying its imposition violated the constitution. The district court dismissed the case after concluding that Mr. Wallace was not under imminent danger of serious physical injury and, accordingly, could not...

Woodson v. McCollum (Tenth Circuit)

Access to Courts
The Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) is the 1996 federal law, which governs how an individual in prison can bring forth constitutional violations within the federal court system. It imposes a number of obstacles specifically designed to reduce the amount of federal litigation coming from prisoners. One of these obstacles is the “three strikes” rule,...