- 2018: Thomas Vaughn v. Victims Compensation Assistance Program
Mr. Vaughn sought compensation of $6,500 from the Fund for the funeral expenses for his grandson Zion Vaughn following his tragic death. The claim was denied as the Fund ruled that Zion contributed to his death by dealing drugs. A successful appeal followed proving that Zion, a star athlete at Penn Wood High School with no criminal history, was not a drug dealer and was entitled to compensation.
- 2017: Wildcat Hall v. Klemm
A Native American inmate sought a diet that would reflect his religious beliefs. The Court’s summary judgment decision included an order that Wildcat Hall be provided with a diet consistent with his religious beliefs for the duration of his incarceration in any DOC facility.
- 2017: Hollihan v. Pa. DOC
The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) had a policy of only treating cataracts in one eye and refusing similar treatment to the other eye. The DOC argued that binocular vision is not guaranteed for inmates. The Court called the policy draconian and allowed the inmates’ claims to move forward. The case settled shortly after, and the DOC abandoned the old policy and accepted the new policy ensuring treatment for both eyes. This case was litigated in partnership with Pepper Hamilton and David Rudovksy.
- 2014: Montanez and Hale v. Sec. Pa DOC
Timothy Hale and Domingo Colon-Montanez brought a due process challenge to Act 84, Pennsylvania law and regulations which allowed the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) to automatically take 20% of incoming inmate wages and gifts, with any review or ability to challenge mistakes, towards the payment of costs, fines, and restitution. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled that this taking failed to provide due process and ordered the DOC to provide due process protections. This case was litigated with Ernie Preate.
- 2013: DRN v. Wetzel
This case was nominated as Case of the Year by the Public Justice Foundation. The case was an injunctive action challenging the delivery of mental health services in the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC). A settlement led to a complete revision of the mental health delivery system for seriously mentally ill inmates. This included more mental health treatment, less time in the cell, the reduced use of solitary confinement, limits on disciplinary confinement, and the ability to use mental health as a defense to misconducts. This case was litigated with the Disability Rights Network, Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing, Feinberg, and Lin, ACLU, and Covington & Burling.
- 2011: Blades v. Brushshaw
Amanda Blades was shackled on her arms, leg irons, and belly chain while being transported to the hospital to deliver her baby. She went into labor and delivered the baby en route, but correctional officers refused to unshackle her. This case was litigated with the Women’s Law Project and settled.
- 2011: Fross v. Allegheny County
This was a successful challenge to Allegheny County ordinance limiting the residence of sex offenders. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court unanimously declared the ordinance unconstitutional. The Court ruled that the ordinance made virtually all of Allegheny County off-limits to sex offenders, forcing them to reside in remote areas without access to much needed services. This case was litigate with the Community Justice Project.
- 2011: Inmates of Northumberland County Prison v. Reisch
This prison was built in the mid-1890’s and was in deplorable condition. It had a virtual dungeon in the basement where men were sent for punishment. They would be forced to sleep on a concrete slab without bedding while being placed in chains. A successful class action settlement led to improved conditions and policies at this county prison. However, the facility has been burned down.
- 2010: Williams v. City Of Philadelphia
Class certification was granted in this challenge to the triple-celling of inmates and the overcrowded conditions of confinement in the Philadelphia Prison System. The system was approaching 10,000 inmates, one of the largest city prisons in the country per capita. The practice has since been discontinued and the population dramatically reduced to below 7,000 inmates. This case was litigated with Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing, Feinberg, and Lin, Pepper Hamilton, and the Disabilities Rights Network.
- 2010: Clark v. Lane
This was a successful class action challenge to the conditions of confinement and medical policies at the Coleman Hall halfway house in Philadelphia, a privately owned facility. There was virtually no medical care at the facility, even for emergencies. There is now around-the-clock access to medical care and special attention to emergency transport.
- 2008: Bowers v. City of Philadelphia
Overcrowding in the Philadelphia Prison System caused prison officials to close intake for the prison system, causing a backup in the intake facilities at the prison, the “Roundhouse,” and in the police holding cells around Philadelphia. Following a favorable court ruling, a successful settlement forced improvements to the intake conditions in the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility and police lockups.
- 2007: Mitchell and Rosado v. Kissinger
Two female inmates at SCI Muncy were forced to have sex for the pleasure of Correctional Officer Kissinger, under threat of losing upcoming parole date. Kissinger was convicted of sexual assault and the remaining claims were settled. This case was litigated with Jeffrey Dohrmann.
- 2006: Beard v. Banks
Ronald Banks wanted to subscribe to the Christian Science Monitor but was forbidden by prison regulations in this highly restrictive housing unit. The case went to the United States Supreme Court, which decided against Mr. Banks in his challenge to the constitutionality of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections policy of denying access to written materials, such as newspapers and magazines, to violent ("Level 2") inmates, and ultimately lost.
- 2000: NAACP, Pa. Prison Society et al v. Ridge et al
This litigation led to the successful removal of a 5-year ban on ex-offender voting rights upon release. The companion case in state court, Mixon v. Comm. of Pa., adopted our equal protection argument despite not being raised in that court and ended the practice, thus restoring voting rights for all ex-offenders upon release. This case was co-counseled with the Brennan Center. Mixon was represented by Sam Stretton.
- 1998: Hernandez v. Kalinowski
Hernandez brought a successful failure to protect claim, who was attacked by a cellmate after requesting assistance from staff and the staff refused to help. This case also established a precedent on attorney fee awards under the Prisoner Litigation Reform Act.
- 1996: In the Matter of JM
The Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed a lower court order in favor of our client, JM, in a custody dispute of an incapacitated adult. JM lived in a group home and worked in a shelter workshop. Her mother wanted to remove her and take her home against the wishes of the father (her guardian), and the professionals working with her.
- 1990: Austin v. Lehman
This was a statewide class action against the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) for overcrowding, that led to an extensive settlement regarding medical care including tuberculosis, mental health care, fire safety, environmental conditions, and administrative issues, including use of force monitoring and protocols for chronic disease. This was co-counseled with the ACLU National Prison Project, Disability Rights Network, Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing, Feinberg, and Lin, and Schnader, Harrison, Segal and Lewis.
- 1990: Tillery v. Owens
PILP brought a successful challenge to conditions of confinement at the State Correctional Institution at Western/Pittsburgh. The prison was constructed in the 1890s and was later closed by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC).
- 1989: Limerick Ecology and Martin v. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Our client Thomas Martin successfully challenged the evacuation plans, or lack thereof, for the State Correctional Institution at Graterford, in the event of a nuclear disaster at the Limerick Nuclear Power Plant. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission required evacuation plans for a 10-mile radius around the plant, which included Graterford, and failed to provide an adequate plan until the challenge was filed.
- 1988: Hassine v. Jeffes
PILP brought a successful challenge to the conditions of confinement at the State Correctional Institution at Graterford. A settlement followed a successful appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, which led to improvements in food services, living conditions, and treatment of the mentally ill.
- 1985: Inmates of Allegheny County Prison v. Wecht
PILP brought a conditions of confinement challenge that led to the recognition of mental illness treatment as constitutionally required, resulting in major improvements in the living conditions at the facility.
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