On November 4, 2015, we filed an amicus brief in the D.C. Circuit in Yassin Aref v. Loretta Lynch, together with the ACLU's National Prison Project and the Legal Aid Society of the City of New York. The case involves a section of the Prison Litigation Reform Act that bars federal prisoners from suing for damages "for mental or emotional injury suffered while in custody without a prior showing of physical injury ...." The plaintiffs in this case seek damages for violations of their First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendment rights by prison officials, but they were not physically injured. The trial judge dismissed their claims. The federal courts are divided about whether violations of constitutional rights that don't involve physical injury necessarily involve only "mental or emotional injury." The D.C. Circuit has not considered the question. Our brief argues that while constitutional injuries such as denial of free speech or due process may be intangible, that does not mean they are merely emotional, and the plaintiffs should be allowed to go forward and prove their damages.
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