Several federal prison inmates were transferred to “Communications Management Units” for long periods of time (years), during which their physical contact and communications with the outside world, including family members, were severely restricted.  The inmates sued for violations of their due process and free speech rights, but the district court dismissed their claims because the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) provides that “No Federal civil action [for damages] may be brought by a prisoner . . . for mental or emotional injury suffered while in custody without a prior showing of physical injury or the commission of a sexual act,” and they had suffered no physical injuries. They appealed, and in November 2016, we filed an amicus brief in the D.C. Circuit, together with the Legal Aid Society of the City of New York and the ACLU National Prison Project, arguing that the PLRA does not bar inmates from suing for monetary compensation for violations of constitutional rights even when they do not include physical injury, because violations of constitutional rights are not just “mental or emotional” injuries. In August 2016, the D.C. Circuit agreed with us that plaintiffs’ claims were eligible for monetary compensation but affirmed judgment for the defendants on other grounds.

Pro Bono Law Firm(s)

Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP; Legal Aid Society of the City of New York

Date filed

November 4, 2015


Amicus Filed