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A young King & Spalding associate and a public-interest legal center have teamed to force a rare settlement of a prisoners’ rights suit. Federal Bureau of Prisons officials agreed Monday to pay $99,000 to a former Atlanta federal penitentiary inmate who claimed he was beaten by a prison officer and chained to a bunk for six days. It’s the first time the Bureau of Prisons Southeast Region has settled a prisoners’ rights suit. “Partnerships between public-interest programs and law firms have been a way of making sure that people are represented for wrongs that otherwise would never be addressed in court,” says Stephen B. Bright of the Southern Center for Human Rights, which partnered with King & Spalding on the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney David Wright in Atlanta represented the government. He didn’t return calls seeking comment. The Southern Center agreed to take the case, then asked King & Spalding associate Courtland L. Reichman to sign on as trial counsel as the case neared trial. Reichman, who graduated from Emory University School of Law in 1995, has been building a reputation as a private-sector lawyer with a strong commitment to pro bono work. After a year-long clerkship for 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge R. Lanier Anderson III, Reichman joined King & Spalding. He says he does about one-third pro bono and two-thirds civil litigation. One of his pro bono clients is death row inmate Exzavious Gibson, whose habeas corpus appeal is awaiting decision at the state level. BEATEN AND CHAINED The plaintiff in the case, Lealon Muldrow, claims that Lt. Dony Cartrette, a prison employee, became angry when Muldrow’s cellmate kicked the cell door. Cartrette allegedly entered the cell, rammed Muldrow into the wall and told him to kneel. When he didn’t, Cartrette allegedly threw him to the ground and slammed his head on an iron bedpost. According to the complaint, Cartrette then authorized prison staff to place Muldrow in four-point restraints on a bunk for five days. He then was restrained with a belly chain for a sixth day. Muldrow v. Thomas Keohane, No. CV1:98-CV-0919BBM (N.D. Ga. 1998). Though studies have shown that there are health risks involved in using a four-point restraining system, Bright says it’s been “a widespread practice at the federal penitentiary here in Atlanta” as well as in other federal prisons. “The practice has been to use it as punishment, much like putting people in the stocks back in the colonial times,” he says. Muldrow is serving a 30-year sentence for possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. He has been moved to another prison but his lawyers declined to name the site for fear he will incur retaliation by guards or other inmates. “Ninety-nine percent of the time, these cases are dismissed at the very preliminary level,” Reichman says. But a solid case, a fast-approaching trial, and effective lawyering were all factors that led to an unusual outcome in this case. Both Bright and Reichman agree that a looming trial, scheduled for April 9, pushed the case toward settlement. “We were going to do a lot of depositions this week and a lot more discovery,” Bright says. The prison officials were likely afraid of what might come out during discovery and trial, he says. Reichman says that, previously, many prisoners’ rights cases were dismissed on qualified immunity grounds. To overcome immunity, a government official must violate a clearly established constitutional right, he says. Recently, Reichman says, bringing these cases at all has become more difficult. The Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1996, a federal law aimed at decreasing suits by inmates, requires prisoners to exhaust all internal grievance procedures before they can bring a lawsuit. Prisoners’ rights cases also rarely are settled or won because lawyers usually are not awarded legal fees, even when they win. “To me, the most eye-opening part is that attorneys’ fees aren’t available to the winning party,” Reichman says. These cases require “several thousand hours of work,” he says. “No private attorney is going to take a case like that.” Briefly … Georgia State University College of Law has selected Clifford Oxford of McGee & Oxford to receive the eighth Ben F. Johnson Public Service Award. The award is presented annually to a Georgia attorney who has made significant contributions to public service. The public is invited to the award presentation on April 12 at 5:30 p.m. in the ballroom of Georgia State University’s Student Center on Gilmer Street. For more information, call (404) 651-2794. The University of Georgia School of Law will send student teams to the national finals of mock trial competitions. The law school’s Association of Trial Lawyers of America (ATLA) team was undefeated in the ATLA mock trial Northeast regional tournament in Providence, R.I., March 1-4. ATLA team members include third-year students S. Mark Mitchell and N. Michele Harris and second-year students Ryan P. Reavis and Shalena M. Cook. Second-year student Caroline P. Rogers served as their coach. The law school also sent two teams to the American Bar Association (ABA) regional tournament in Atlanta March 2-3. One team, consisting of 2L’s Drew Baiter, Lauren E. Sheridan and Tiffany S. Rowe, won the championship and advanced to the ABA national rounds, to be held at the end of March. The other team, whose members include 2L’s Mary Paige Tucker, David W. Adams and Alison Sawyer, was defeated in the second round of the regional competition. 3L’s Sam Burch and Laura E. Hill coached the ABA teams. King & Spalding commercial litigation partner Holly A. Pierson served as the teams’ adviser. Atlanta Legal Aid will kick off its 19th annual bar campaign today. Attorney Paula Lawton Bevington, CEO of Servidyne Inc., will chair the campaign. Last year, Atlanta Legal Aid raised more than $1 million to fund legal services for indigent and elderly Atlanta residents. For more information on the campaign, call Legal Aid’s director of development, Karen Steanson at (404) 614-3905. Julia D. Gray contributed to this report.

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