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Prison Litigation 2019: Practical Strategies

Speaker(s): Jessie Rossman, John Boston, Philip Desgranges, Stefen R. Short, Stephen Bergstein, Su Ming Yeh
Recorded on: May. 23, 2019
PLI Program #: 251600

Jessie Rossman joined the ACLU of Massachusetts as a staff attorney in June 2013. She has both trial level and appellate advocacy experience, and litigates on a broad range of civil rights and civil liberties issues. Her areas of focus include disability discrimination on the basis of opioid use disorder, involuntary confinement on the basis of addiction, free speech, privacy & technology, transparency, voting rights and reproductive rights.

In the fall of 2018, Jessie and Alexandra Valenti of Goodwin & Procter argued Pesce v. Coppinger before the federal District Court of Massachusetts, where Judge Casper issued a first-of-its-kind preliminary injunction requiring the defendant Essex County House of Corrections to provide Mr. Pesce with continued access to his medication for addiction treatment during his incarceration. Essex County subsequently joined the Massachusetts pilot program, agreeing to provide all three forms of FDA-approved MAT to all inmates with a pre-existing prescription by September 2019.

In March 2019, along with Goodwin and Procter, Jessie & the ACLU of Massachusetts filed DiPierro v. Hurtwitz, challenging the federal Bureau of Prison’s policy of denying methadone maintenance treatment to all non-pregnant inmates as applied to an individual client.

Jessie has a law degree from Harvard Law School and a bachelor's degree from Yale University. Before joining the ACLU of Massachusetts, Rossman served as a law clerk to Judge Raymond C. Fisher of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. She also worked as a staff attorney at the ACLU of Michigan and as a litigation fellow at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Philip Desgranges is a senior staff attorney at the New York Civil Liberties Union, where he focuses on statewide civil rights and civil liberties impact litigation.  He is lead counsel in V.W. v. Conway, No. 9:16-CV-1150, 2017 WL 696808, a case challenging the solitary confinement of 16- and 17-year-old juveniles in a Syracuse jail, and counsel in Peoples v. Annucci, No. 1:11-CV-2694, a case challenging the use of solitary confinement in New York’s prison system.  Desgranges is also the Chair of the Civil Rights Committee of the New York City Bar Association, and is a member of the City Bar’s Task Force on Mass Incarceration.

Prior to joining the NYCLU, Desgranges was an associate at Goodwin Procter LLP, where he litigated commercial matters and a wide range of pro bono matters, including a death penalty appeal.  He previously worked as a public defender at The Bronx Defenders, where he represented indigent clients at all stages of criminal proceedings, including trying cases to verdict.

Desgranges graduated cum laude from Boston University in 2006, and he graduated from New York University School of Law in 2009.

Stefen R. Short is a Staff Attorney at the Prisoners’ Rights Project of the Legal Aid Society of the City of New York, a litigation unit that challenges constitutional violations and unlawful conditions in jails and prisons in New York.  Stefen litigates on behalf of incarcerated people with disabilities, mental health needs, and unmet educational needs.  Previously, he was a Staff Attorney at Disability Rights New York, New York’s Protection and Advocacy System (“P&A”).

Stephen Bergstein is a civil rights lawyer in New Paltz, New York. He graduated from CUNY Law School in 1993. Mr. Bergstein speaks and writes regularly on developments in civil rights law, particularly in the Second Circuit.  He has published in the New York Law Journal, the NYSBA Labor and Employment Journal and Z Magazine. 

Maintaining an active trial and appellate practice, Mr. Bergstein has briefed and/or argued more than 100 civil rights appeals in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals and has lectured on civil rights and employment matters before the Practicing Law Institute, the National Employment Lawyers Association (New York Chapter), the Orange County (NY) Bar Association, the Westchester County (NY) Bar Association, the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, the National Business Institute and

Many of Mr. Bergstein's cases have become notable precedents, including Zarda v. Altitude Express, 883 F.3d 100 (2d Cir. 2018) (en banc) (holding that sexual orientation discrimination is a form of gender discrimination in violation of Title VII); Chauca v. Abraham, 885 F.3d 122 (2d Cir. 2018) (holding that punitive damages test under New York City Human Rights Law is not coterminous with federal standard); Darnell v. Pineiro, 849 F.3d 17 (2d Cir. 2017) (vacating summary judgment in case alleging pretrial detainees were subjected to unconstitutional jail conditions); Legg v. County of Ulster, 820 F.3d 67 (2d Cir. 2016) (vacating judgment as a matter of law in pregnancy discrimination case); Zeno v. Pine Plains Cent. Sch. Dist., 702 F.3d 655 (2d Cir. 2012) (sustaining $1 million jury award and liability finding that school district was deliberately indifferent to racial bullying); Jackler v. Byrne, 658 F.3d 225 (2d Cir. 2011) (holding that police officer had a First Amendment right to refuse to file a false police report).

Mr. Bergstein blogs on the Second Circuit's civil rights decisions at

Su Ming Yeh is the Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project, where she represents incarcerated people on their civil rights claims.  Ms. Yeh has litigated dozens of individual cases and class action suits challenging unconstitutional conditions for people who are incarcerated, institutionalized, or detained, and argued successfully before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.  These include a class action that obtained universal Hepatitis C treatment for over 5000 Pennsylvania prisoners, and successfully representing an immigration detainee who was sexually abused at the family immigration detention center in Pennsylvania.  She also served as an Adjunct Professor of Law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where she co-taught the Civil Practice Clinic for 5 years.

Prior to law school, she worked on social justice issues as a science teacher with the U.S. Peace Corps in the Kingdom of Tonga; the Executive Director of the Asian Professional Extension, Inc., a mentoring organization for Asian-American inner-city youth in New York City; and a community organizer with the Coalition for Asian-American Children and Families.

Ms. Yeh was the President of the Asian Pacific Bar Association of Pennsylvania in 2015 and currently serves on its board, is a board member of the Defender Association of Philadelphia, and a member of the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s House of Delegates. She is a previous co-chair of the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Civil Rights Committee, and previous Chair of the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Public Interest Section. Ms. Yeh graduated cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where she was a Public Interest Scholar and Senior Editor of the Law Review, and graduated with Honors from Brown University.  Following law school, she clerked for the Hon. Gerard E. Lynch, U.S. District Court judge in the Southern District of New York.

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.