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Prison Litigation 2016: Practical Strategies

Speaker(s): Antonio Ponvert III, Hon. Therese Wiley Dancks, John Boston, Kristina A. Moon, Vincent Warren
Recorded on: Jun. 2, 2016
PLI Program #: 171056

Kristina Moon was a staff attorney in the Ithaca office of Prisoners’ Legal Services of New York from September 2013 through April 2016. At PLS, Kristina represented prisoners in NYS facilities and employed administrative advocacy on various conditions issues including medical and mental health care, protection of vulnerable populations and appeals of disciplinary confinement sentences. Kristina also litigated claims of excessive force and unconstitutional conditions of confinement in federal court.

Previously, Kristina worked as a litigation associate at Dechert LLP where, in addition to her work on complex commercial litigation matters, she coordinated the firm’s efforts in a federal civil rights action challenging the excessive use of solitary confinement for youth with mental health needs in delinquency placement. Prior to that, Kristina worked as an attorney with Juvenile Law Center where she was a member of the Luzerne County “kids-for-cash” litigation team and employed legislative and litigation strategies to combat the criminalization of consensual teen technology use. 

Kristina graduated cum laude from Temple University Beasley School of Law where she was a research editor for The Temple Law Review and participated in several clinics, internships and student groups focused on advocating for indigent criminal defendants, low-income families and LGBT individuals. Prior to law school, Kristina worked in direct service with underserved youth and families through an AmeriCorps violence-prevention position in Seattle, WA and an after-school program in Ithaca, NY.

Kristina joined the Philadelphia office of Education Law Center as a staff attorney in May 2016.  She supports ELC’s litigation and policy advocacy across all issue areas. 

Vincent Warren is the executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights. He oversees CCR's groundbreaking litigation and advocacy work, which includes using international and domestic law to hold corporations and government officials accountable for human rights abuses; challenging racial, gender and LGBT injustice; and combating the illegal expansion of U.S. presidential power and policies such as illegal detention at Guantanamo, rendition, and torture. Prior to his tenure at CCR, Vince was a national senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, where he litigated civil rights cases, focusing on affirmative action, racial profiling, and criminal justice reform. Vince was also involved in monitoring South Africa's historic Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings, and worked as a criminal defense attorney for the Legal Aid Society in Brooklyn. He is a graduate of Haverford College and Rutgers School of Law.

Vince is a frequent guest on MSNBC’s Melissa Harris Perry Show, The Reid Report, and Up with Chris Hayes, and has appeared on Moyers & Company with Bill Moyers and Democracy Now! His writing has been featured in the New York Times Room for Debate, on the Huffington Post, and on, among other publications.

Vince is the recipient of many awards, including the New York State Bar Association’s Committee on Civil Rights 2016 Haywood Burns Memorial Award; the New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers 2015 Justice Award; the Rutgers Law School Alumni Association 2012 Fannie Baer Besser Award for Public Service; and the CUNY School of Law 2012 Distinguished Public Service Award. He gave the keynote speech at Yale Law School's 2015 Rebellious Lawyering Conference, and the 2013 Clarence Clyde Ferguson, Jr. Human Rights Lecture at Howard Law School.

Antonio Ponvert III represents child and adult victims of catastrophic personal injury and wrongful death, deprivation of Constitutional rights, sexual abuse, police misconduct, psychiatric malpractice, and other abuses of power in complex cases in Federal and State courts in Connecticut and across the nation. 

Since joining the Bridgeport, Connecticut law firm of Koskoff Koskoff & Bieder in 1999, Antonio has achieved record-breaking verdicts and settlements for his clients, including the second largest verdict in Connecticut history ($41.75 Million) on behalf of a young woman who contracted Tick-Borne Encephalitis on an overseas school trip, the one and only wrongful death settlement with the manufacturer of Skoal smokeless tobacco on behalf of the surviving wife and children of a man who died from tongue cancer, and substantial monetary compensation and injunctive relief on behalf of female correctional officers who were victims of sexual harassment and discrimination at the Connecticut Department of Correction.

Antonio has won numerous awards for mentally ill prisoners and state psychiatric patients, including the largest amount ever paid in Connecticut for the death of an inmate, a number of settlements for inmates who committed suicide in prison, and many other settlements and verdicts for prisoners killed and abused by guards.  He was the first to compel the State of California to provide organ transplants to prisoners.  For more than a decade, Antonio represented the Guardians Black Police Officers Association against the City of Bridgeport in one of the longest-running race discrimination cases in the nation.

In 2005, Ponvert represented the father of Michael Ross, a young man on Connecticut death row who had volunteered to be executed by lethal injection and whose mental competency was in doubt. In two separate cases, spanning a period of five months, Antonio sued the State to prevent the execution, he obtained a temporary injunction from the federal district court, and he then brought and defended appeals in the Federal Circuit Court and the U.S. Supreme Court. Michael eventually was executed, despite his father's efforts to save him.

Attorney Ponvert is on staff at Gerry Spence's Trial Lawyers College in Dubois, Wyoming, and is a member of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers.

John Boston recently retired as director of the Prisoners’ Rights Project of the New York City Legal Aid Society, where he worked for many years, and is co-author of the Prisoners’ Self-Help Litigation Manual.

Thérèse Wiley Dancks is a United States Magistrate Judge for the 32 county Northern District of New York.  At the time of her appointment in February of 2012, she was a founding partner in the law firm of Gale & Dancks, LLC, where her practice centered on civil litigation and trial work.  She was associated with the Syracuse law firm of Mackenzie Hughes, LLP from 1991 to 1997.  Judge Dancks graduated magna cum laude from LeMoyne College in 1985 and earned her J.D. degree cum laude from Syracuse University College of Law in 1991.  She serves on district-wide court committees, U.S. Second Circuit court committees, and Federal Magistrate Judges Association committees.  She is a native Central New Yorker, and assists local community and professional organizations, with an emphasis on helping providers of legal services to the indigent and poor, bar associations, and higher education institutions.  Judge Dancks is a past president of the Central New York Women’s Bar Association and established the chapter’s award winning Domestic Violence Legal Assistance Clinic during her term.  She served as chairwoman of the Hiscock Legal Aid Society board of directors, and has co-authored articles for the Syracuse Law Review.  She frequently lectures for educational institutions, professional organizations and bar associations.