January 26, 2011

School of Law Professors Win Case in U.S. Supreme Court

David Mills
David Mills

Local attorney and Case Western Reserve University School of Law Adjunct Professor David Mills argued and won his first case in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. On Monday, the justices unanimously reversed a federal appeals court ruling that had thrown out a jury’s verdict in favor of an Elyria woman who was sexually assaulted while serving a sentence in an Ohio prison. School of Law Visiting Assistant Professor Andrew Pollis served as co-counsel on the case, which was heard in November.

The justices said the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati had “no warrant” to override the jury’s verdict, thus reinstating a $625,000 award to Michelle Ortiz, Mills’ client. Ortiz was serving a 12-month sentence at the Ohio Reformatory for Women in November 2002 when she reported sexual assault by a male guard who threatened to assault her again, and then did. When she discussed the attacks with other inmates, she was sent to solitary confinement in shackles.

Now, Ortiz is “obviously elated” by the Supreme Court decision, Mills said. “I’m very relieved and happy for her. Part of the reason this is all happening is because of her perseverance even before I got into the picture.”

This was Mills’ first case in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, and the experience for him was both surreal and surprising. The grandeur of it all was thrilling, from the building to the history to the face-to-face interaction with nine famous justices, he said, but the process was a surprisingly intimate exchange. “It turned into a discussion with the nine justices and the attorney, and I felt they were really trying to ascertain the best way to apply the law,” Mills said.

Andrew Pollis
Andrew Pollis

Pollis, who previously served as co-counsel on another Supreme Court case, Saudi Basic Indus. Corp. v. ExxonMobil Corp., 544 U.S. 280 (2005), said working with Mills was an honor. As one of two co-counsels, Pollis helped Mills research, draft, review and edit briefs as well as prepare for the oral argument, which served as a learning experience for all involved. “We took the case apart and put it back together a million times,” he explained. “The best part for me was realizing how other people—very smart people—think through problems in different ways. The give-and-take was tremendously gratifying.”

For Mills, the ruling confirms the hard work throughout the entire process paid off. “I interpret the decision today with a feeling that the Court really heard what we were saying,” he said.

Posted by: Emily Mayock, January 26, 2011 07:30 AM | News Topics: School of Law

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