December 2010/January 2011 Volunteer Feature: O’Melveny & Myers LLP Partners with The Legal Aid Society to Protect Hospitalized Inmates from Barbaric Shackling Practices
The Legal Aid Society's Prisoners' Rights Project and O'Melveny & Myers LLP obtained a highly favorable settlement in Reynolds v Horn, a high-impact civil rights case involving the treatment of inmates in prison psychiatric wards, as well as those out-posted to civilian medical wards under the supervision of New York City's Department of Correction.
O'Melveny joined as co-counsel in September 2008 to help the Society assess New York City's compliance with a 1990 Consent Judgment that secured relief for a class of pre-trial detainees and prisoners. The Consent Judgment established standards for monitoring and administering treatment to psychiatric patients; the use of seclusion, restraint, and sedating medication in psychiatric wards; and the use of security restraints against prisoners in civilian medical wards. Under the Consent Judgment, for example, the City is required not to shackle certain categories of inmates, including women admitted for delivery and inmates on life support. In early October 2008, however, the City moved to terminate the Consent Judgment under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), which requires termination of a consent judgment unless a plaintiff shows that prospective relief remains necessary to correct a continuing violation of a federal right.
The Legal Aid Society and O'Melveny requested discovery to oppose the City's motion to terminate and make the evidentiary showing required by the PLRA. Over several months, Legal Aid and O'Melveny obtained and reviewed thousands of medical and corrections records for 200 inmate-patients and retained medical, psychiatric, and security experts to analyze those records. Following a joint meeting with the security expert, which included a visit to the civilian medical wards and submissions from the medical and psychiatric experts, the City agreed to resolve the matter through a new stipulation designed to improve compliance with the standards for psychiatric treatment and use of security restraints. The settlement, a great result for the clients. will ensure that pre-trial detainees and prisoners in prison psychiatric wards and civilian medical wards are treated humanely and receive the same psychiatric care as other patients. The United States District Court for the Southern District of New York approved the stipulation and order of settlement on November 23, 2010.
The O'Melveny team consisted of: partner Andrew Frackman; counsel Shiva Eftekhari; associates Christine Bustany, Brad Elias, Mia Gonzalez, and Christina Hayes; former O'Melveny attorneys Peter Herrick and Clara Pugsley; legal assistant Casey Petrillo; former legal assistant Matt Bailey; Practice Support Coordinator Romeo Marquez,; and assistant Barbara Kurdziel. Jonathan Chasan and Dori Lewis, supervising attorneys with the Society's Prisoners' Rights Project, and Joseph Cleemann, a deferred associate extern from Ropes & Gray LLP, comprised Legal Aid's litigation team.