Section 1983 Cases
The firm represents a number of plaintiffs whose constitutional rights were violated during arrest or while being detained while incarcerated, as well as prisoners deprived of medical care, held in inhumane conditions or subjected to violence. We had 24 active 1983 matters in 2019, amounting to approximately 11,300 pro bono hours.
Davis v. Nanny
On the heels of a trial win on liability last year, a Sidley team secured one of the largest verdicts for cases brought under Section 1983 and tried to a jury in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois. The Sidley team’s trial strategy resulted in our client, Christopher Novus Davis, obtaining compensatory damages of $150,000 for physical and emotional pain and suffering, and punitive damages of $300,000 against the four defendants. Mr. Davis was beaten by four guards while he was a patient in a maximum security mental health facility. The defendants claimed that Mr. Davis caused the scuffle and that they did not use excessive force. The federal jury in Illinois found in our client’s favor on his claim of excessive force and failure to intervene against all four defendants but awarded him nominal damages. Following that verdict, Sidley filed a motion for a new trial, arguing that the verdict on liability in our client’s favor was inconsistent with the award of only nominal damages, and ultimately securing the $450,000 verdict.
Arguing Against Solitary Confinement
As part of its partnership with the Roderick & Solange MacArthur Justice Center at Northwestern University, Sidley filed amicus briefs in support of the appellant in Johnson v. Pennsylvania Department of Corrections and in support of the petitioner in Bailey-Snyder v. United States, which was considered by the U.S. Supreme Court. Both briefs were filed on behalf of an influential group of psychologists and psychiatrists who study the effects of solitary confinement on prisoners. The briefs argued that solitary confinement imposes severe psychological and physiological harm on prisoners, and that the practice is unconstitutional, cruel and unusual punishment.
Section 1983 Settlement Victories
Several Sidley teams obtained favorable settlements on behalf of our prisoner clients over the last year in cases seeking damages for violations of our clients’ constitutional rights, including claims of excessive force, failure to intervene and failure to provide adequate medical care.