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Won a plaintiff's verdict and punitive damages as trial counsel for a pro bono client in federal court.


WTO won a plaintiff’s verdict in federal court for an inmate whose 1st and 14th Amendment rights were violated following a search of his cell. Two WTO associates served as lead trial counsel in this pro bono matter. 

In February 2017, before WTO’s involvement in the case, our client filed a complaint with the Department of Corrections regarding a retaliatory and harassing search of his cell arising out of purported comments his cellmate had made. In response, the officer who conducted the search took all of our client’s prescription eyeglasses—which regulations permitted him to have—and placed him in solitary confinement. Our client went without his glasses for over a month and lost his employment as a result. 

The prison then charged our client with making threats against the officer who performed the search. At the ensuing disciplinary hearing at the prison, our client denied the threats charge and requested surveillance footage from his cell block to prove his innocence. The presiding hearing officer claimed the video had been destroyed. When our client then asked to present witnesses in his defense, the officer refused again. 

Persevering, WTO’s client filed a pro se action that included a 1st Amendment claim against the officer who searched his cell and took his glasses in retaliation and a 14th Amendment claim against the hearing officer for convicting him without the opportunity to present evidence in his defense. Without counsel, WTO’s client survived the defendants’ motion to dismiss and motion for summary judgment. At that point, the Court requested pro bono counsel to represent the plaintiff at trial, and WTO agreed to take the case. 

At trial, WTO successfully demonstrated to the jury that the officers’ actions violated the U.S. Constitution and the Department of Correction’s own regulations and training. Our client is incredibly thankful to finally have his plight acknowledged in such a resounding fashion. The jury also felt strongly, reaching a verdict in our client’s favor on both claims and awarding substantial punitive damages. The verdict also affirms the importance of upholding constitutional rights for all, especially for those who are imprisoned.
 

Won a plaintiff's verdict and punitive damages as trial counsel for a pro bono client in federal court against two corrections officers who violated the client's 1st and 14th Amendment rights.
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