FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 19, 2012
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MSU Law Students Win Favorable Verdict in Civil Rights Case
East Lansing, MI — Michigan State University College of Law Civil Rights Law Clinic students Dorian George and Jesse Miller recently obtained a favorable federal court jury verdict for their prisoner client.
George and Miller handled all stages of the trial, including jury selection, opening and closing statements, the presentation of their client’s case, and cross-examination of the defendants’ witnesses. The trial was held in Lansing before the Honorable Paul Maloney, chief judge for the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan. George and Miller’s client, Bahaa Iswed—who is serving a sentence of life without parole—filed the lawsuit in 2008.
The jury found that the former director of the Michigan Department of Corrections and three lower-level officials violated Iswed’s right to have communications with family members who lived in Jordan and Romania. The defendants did not allow the prisoner to receive family members’ letters that were written in Arabic—the only language they could read and write—or to have prepaid telephone conversations with the relatives.
“People should be able to speak to and receive letters from their family members,” said Professor Daniel Manville, who directs the MSU Law Civil Rights Law Clinic. “That is an important constitutional right.”
The jury found that there was no penological justification for denying the telephone calls, when other prisoners could place calls to any location within Canada, Mexico, the United States, or the U.S. territories, and engage in conversations in any foreign language.
According to Manville, compensatory damages were not available to the client absent physical injuries. The jury awarded $1 in damages against each defendant, for a total award of $4. George and Miller next will file a brief seeking an injunction to allow Iswed to call his relatives in Jordan and Romania.
MSU College of Law Civil Rights Law Clinic student clinicians represent civil rights litigants in federal court, with a focus on assisting those who are incarcerated in Michigan prisons. Students are required to research case facts and the law, develop and effectuate trial strategies, engage in discovery and motion practice, and participate in all aspects of trial.
Michigan State University College of Law, a leading institution of legal education with a long history of educating practice-ready attorneys, prepares future lawyers to use ethics, ambition, and intellect to solve the world's problems. Michigan State Law offers comprehensive interdisciplinary opportunities combined with a personalized legal education, and is on an upward trajectory of national and international reputation and reach. MSU Law professors are gifted teachers and distinguished scholars, its curriculum is rigorous and challenging, and its facility is equipped with the latest resources—all affirming MSU Law's commitment to educating 21st-century lawyers.
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