Recently, our friends at Jenner & Block won a rare plaintiff’s jury verdict in a very difficult Section 1983 prisoner rights case against correctional officers in the Central District of Illinois. The Law Center has been corresponding with the plaintiff, Mr. Donnie White, for over a decade and Alan provided some assistance to Mr. White’s counsel at Jenner. Here is Jenner’s description of the case:
In February 2008, Judge Harold Baker appointed the Jenner & Block to represent Donnie White, a prisoner at Tamms Correctional Center, the Illinois super-maximum security prison. Mr. White had brought suit against several corrections officers for subjecting him to four days of harsh treatment while he was housed at Pontiac Correctional Center so that he could attend a court hearing in Chicago. Mr. White claimed that his treatment at Pontiac was in retaliation for his filing of a previous suit against one of the defendants. After surviving two rounds of summary judgment motions, the Jenner team tried the case before a federal jury in Peoria. Partner Michael Brody and associate Sarah Ansari represented the client at trial before Judge Joe Billy McDade. They were supported by summer associate Joel Dendiu and paralegal Casey Gioielli, and they also received help from associates Andrew Kennedy and Christie Starzec.
The case presented significant challenges. Over objection, Mr. White was required to wear leg shackles in the courtroom, and was seated next to two burly Department of Corrections guards. Mr. White testified that he had assaulted prison guards, including the defendant, and he volunteered that he was an extreme escape risk. Mr. White’s testimony regarding the conduct at issue was corroborated by the testimony of a fellow inmate who had been convicted of a double murder and solicitation to commit a third murder. Nine prison guards testified that the events Mr. White complained of had never occurred. On June 19, 2012, after four hours of deliberations, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Mr. White and awarded compensatory and punitive damages. Needless to say, the client was very happy with the result of the case. Judge McDade was very complimentary of the Jenner & Block team.
We at the Law Center would like to congratulate the Jenner & Block litigation team and thank the firm for their historic continued commitment to achieving justice for those least advantaged in our society—and to prisoners in particular.