Case Western Reserve University School of Law faculty argue prison-inmate-abuse case before the United States Supreme Court

News Release: Monday, November 1, 2010

WASHINGTON--Case Western Reserve University School of Law faculty argue prison-inmate-abuse case before the United States Supreme Court.

School of Law Adjunct Professor David Mills presents oral argument before the U.S. Supreme Court in Ortiz v. Jordan, No. 09-737, November 1, 2010. Visiting Associate Professor of Law Andrew Pollis is his co-counsel.

The case began when Ohio Reformatory Inmate Michelle Ortiz, of Elyria, sued state prison officials for failing to protect her from a prison guard’s sexual abuse and for retaliating against her by putting her in solitary confinement after reporting the abuse. The officials moved for summary judgment before trial based on qualified immunity, and the district court denied that motion. The officials did not appeal that ruling, so the case proceeded to trial, and the jury issued a verdict concluding that Ortiz’s rights were violated. The officials then appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, where a 2-1 decision reversed the district court’s order denying summary judgment, effectively overturning Ortiz’s verdict. The dissenting judge called this result a “legal travesty.”

“My argument to the Supreme Court is that the Sixth Circuit lacked the power to extinguish the jury’s verdict based on a review the district court’s pre-trial order denying summary judgment,” Mills explained.

The federal appellate attorney notes that the ramifications of the upcoming Ortiz decision will affect not only Michelle Ortiz. “The decision will set legal precedent that will govern federal procedure in all 13 federal courts of appeals in the country. I believe the Court agreed to hear the case to clarify the conditions under which, if ever, a party may appeal the denial of summary judgment after trial and effectively overturn the verdict.”

Each year, the Court receives approximately 8,500 petitions for certiorari, of which approximately 80 are granted plenary review with oral arguments.

This is the first time Mills argues before the Court and it is the second time for Pollis. Mills teaches Appellate Practice at Case Western Reserve University School of Law. Pollis teaches Civil Litigation Clinic.

Posted by: Carolyn Widdowson, November 1, 2010 03:53 PM | News Topics: Official Release