CLS Clinic Represents Gay Inmate in Discrimination Lawsuit

CLS Clinic Represents Gay Inmate in Discrimination Lawsuit
Columbia Law School’s Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic Is Co-counsel for the Inmate

Press contact: Erin St. John Kelly [email protected]
Office: 212-854-1787 Cell: 646-646-284-8549
Public Affairs: 212-854-2650

November 10, 2008 (NEW YORK) –  Federal District Court Judge Patti Saris allowed Bruce Wilborn, an openly gay Massachusetts prison inmate, to go forward with his discrimination suit against the Massachusetts Parole Board on Oct. 31.

Mr. Wilborn accuses the Board of discriminating against him during his parole hearing because he is openly gay.  Columbia Law School’s Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic and the law firm McDermott Will & Emery LLP serve as counsel for Mr. Wilborn.  Clinic students Mollie Kornreich ’09 and Keren Zwick ’09 argued against dismissal of Mr. Wilborn’s case before Judge Saris.

The federal court rejected the state’s effort to dismiss the lawsuit and instead adopted Magistrate Judge Judith Dein’s conclusion that “federal anti-discrimination guarantees apply to parole decisions.”  Mr. Wilborn alleges that the parole board violated these guarantees by treating him unequally and unfairly as compared to non-gay inmates.

The court’s decision lets Mr. Wilborn move to the next stage of the litigation process and obtain information from the state to help prove his discrimination claims.  

“This decision is a groundbreaking victory for all gay prison inmates,” said Suzanne B. Goldberg, Director of the Sexuality & Gender Law Clinic.  “It reinforces that all prisoners have a right to equal treatment when they come up for parole and that anti-gay discrimination violates inmates’ basic constitutional rights.”

“Working with a prison inmate has presented a number of challenges for us.  Because Mr. Wilborn’s claims call for a careful consideration of numerous types of evidence as one complete package, it would be immeasurably more difficult for a prisoner, no matter how well informed, to represent himself in a case of this sort,” said Zwick.  “Helping our client feel that the law does protect him has been incredibly gratifying,” added fellow student Kornreich.  Clinic student Abram Seaman ’10, agreed, noting that “everyone has the right to be treated fairly, a fact Judge Saris’ ruling in this case reaffirms.”

Mr. Wilborn is represented by Neal Minahan and Lisa Linsky of McDermott Will & Emery LLP.  Third-year law students Mollie Kornreich and Keren Zwick along with second-year student, Abram Seaman, also represent Mr. Wilborn.  Former Clinic students Adam Pulver ’08, Amos Blackman ’08 and Katherine Harris ’09 have also worked on the case.

To contact Professor Suzanne B. Goldberg: (212) 854- 0411 or email [email protected].

To contact students: Mollie Kornreich, [email protected]; Keren Zwick, [email protected]; Abram Seaman, [email protected].

To contact Neal Minahan: (617) 535-4481 or email [email protected].

Interviews can be arranged through Columbia Law School’s Public Affairs office at (212) 854-2650. Public Affairs can arrange for TV and radio interviews using the Law School’s studio equipped with IFB and ISDN lines.

Columbia Law School’s Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic was founded in September 2006 by Professor Suzanne Goldberg. Students work on a broad variety of projects related to gender equality and LGBTQ rights.

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