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Prison Law 2020

Speaker(s): Chinyere Ezie, Eunice Hyunhye Cho, John Boston, Lisa Graybill, Peggy Cross-Goldenberg, Philip Desgranges, Rachel Meeropol, Richard Saenz, Robert M. Quackenbush, Stefen R. Short, Su Ming Yeh
Recorded on: Jun. 17, 2020
PLI Program #: 278262

Chinyere Ezie is a Staff Attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, where she advocates for racial justice, gender justice, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Intersex (LGBTQI) rights, and challenges governmental abuses of power. She is also the originator of #BoycottPrada, a viral campaign challenging racism in the fashion industry that led to a landmark settlement with luxury fashion house Prada.

Prior to joining the Center for Constitutional Rights, Chinyere worked at the Southern Poverty Law Center where she brought cases defending the rights of LGBTQI Southerners. She also served as a Trial Attorney at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, where she litigated employment discrimination cases and secured a $5.1 million jury verdict and historic injunction on behalf of workers who were subjected to religious harassment.

Chinyere is a William J. Fulbright Scholar and a graduate of Yale University and Columbia Law School, where she was an Alexander Hamilton Scholar and served as Editor in Chief of the Journal of Gender and Law.

She was also named one of the nation’s Best LGBT Lawyers Under 40.

Chinyere is a frequent speaker at law conferences and her advocacy has been reported on by the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, NBC, and NPR, among others.

Eunice Hyunhye Cho is a Senior Staff Attorney at the ACLU National Prison Project. Eunice’s work focuses on challenging unconstitutional conditions in U.S. immigration detention facilities and the expansion of immigration detention. Prior to joining the NPP, Eunice was a Staff Attorney at the ACLU of Washington, where she litigated cases involving the rights of immigrants in detention, incarcerated people, and students with disabilities.  She also worked as a Staff Attorney at the Southern Poverty Law Center, where she litigated cases related to immigration enforcement abuse and prison conditions, and authored several reports regarding abuses in immigration detention and immigration court adjudication, including Shadow Prisons: Immigration Detention in the South.  She was a Skadden Fellow, and later a Staff Attorney, at the National Employment Law Center, focusing on issues affecting immigrant workers.

Eunice received a B.A. from Yale University and a J.D. from Stanford Law School. Following graduation, she clerked for Hon. Kim McLane Wardlaw of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. She is proficient in Spanish and Korean, and is a former community organizer.

Lisa Graybill oversees the SPLC’s work to reverse the “new Jim Crow” and eliminate the structural racism entrenched in the policing, sentencing, imprisonment and post-conviction practices of states in the Deep South through litigation, legislation and public education. Her previous experience includes teaching civil rights and immigration practice in the clinical programs at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law; serving as the legal director for the ACLU of Texas; and working on police and prison conditions cases as a trial attorney in the Special Litigation Section of the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice. A native Texan, Graybill clerked for a federal judge in New Jersey after graduating from the University of Texas School of Law and Smith College.

Peggy Cross-Goldenberg holds a B.A. in history and political science from Duke University and a J.D. from Columbia Law School, where she was a Kent Scholar and served as an articles editor on the Columbia Law Review.  Ms. Cross-Goldenberg clerked for the Honorable Lewis A. Kaplan of the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York, and for the Honorable William A. Fletcher of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Before joining the Federal Defenders in 2007, Ms. Cross-Goldenberg was an associate at Stillman, Friedman & Shechtman and a staff attorney in the Manhattan office of the Criminal Defense Division of the Legal Aid Society.  She is a lecturer-in-law at Columbia Law School, where she teaches Professional Responsibility in Criminal Law.

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.

Rachel Meeropol is a Senior Staff Attorney and the Associate Director of Legal Training and Education at the Center for Constitutional Rights (“CCR”), where she has worked since 2002.  Rachel represents federal prisoners in restrictive Communication Management Units, California prisoners held for decades in solitary confinement, and animal rights and environmental activists targeted for their organizing. Rachel is also lead counsel on Turkmen v. Ashcroft, a class action lawsuit against high-level federal officials for the post-911 detention and abuse of Muslim non-citizens, which she argued in the Supreme Court in 2016. Rachel has co-edited and written two editions of the Jailhouse Lawyers Handbook, a do-it-yourself litigation manual for prisoners distributed free by CCR and the National Lawyers Guild, and was the contributing editor of “America’s Disappeared: Secret Imprisonment, Detainees, and the War on Terror,” published in 2005 by Seven Stories Press. Rachel completed her undergraduate degree at Wesleyan University, and graduated from NYU School of Law in 2002.   

Richard Saenz is a Senior Attorney and the Criminal Justice and Police Misconduct Strategist at Lambda Legal, the oldest and largest national legal organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those living with HIV. He focuses his work on the criminal justice system, coordinating litigation and policy work on behalf of incarcerated people.

Richard was lead counsel in Dorn v. Michigan Department of Corrections that resulted in substantive changes to a Michigan Department of Corrections policy directive that unlawfully discriminates against incarcerated people living with HIV.  In addition, Richard was a lead member of the litigation team in Hicklin v. Precythea successful challenge to Missouri’s Department of Corrections “freeze frame” policy denying appropriate health care to transgender people in its custody, in one of the first court decisions to rule specifically that “freeze-frame” policies are unconstitutional. The court ordered that Ms. Hicklin have access to hormone therapy, permanent body hair removal, as well as access to gender-affirming canteen items. 

He also helped secure a settlement with the City of New York on behalf of a gay man attacked by Rikers Island jail officials while visiting his partner (Hamm v. City of New York).

He has filed numerous amicus briefs addressing anti-LGBT biases in the legal system.  In Rhines v. Young, a capital case in South Dakota, Richard was co-author of an amicus brief urging the U. S. Supreme Court to allow Mr. Rhines to present evidence that anti-gay bias was a factor in some jurors’ decisions to sentence him to death. Richard was also co-author of amicus briefs on the right to medically necessary care for incarcerated transgender people, the rights of sex workers and the rights of incarcerated LGBT people to have their cases reviewed.

Richard is a frequent speaker on criminal justice and policing issues at national conferences, law schools, and bar associations.  In addition, he served as a panelist on the 2016 White House LGBT/HIV Criminal Justice Briefing.   

Richard has been named a Hispanic National Bar Association’s Top Lawyers Under 40 and a National LGBT Bar Association’s Best LGBT Lawyers Under 40.  He received his Juris Doctor from Fordham University School of Law, where he was a Stein Scholar for Public Interest Law and Ethics. He holds a Bachelor of Arts from Georgetown University.

Robert Quackenbush is a staff attorney at The Legal Aid Society Prisoners’ Rights Project in New York City, where he advocates for systemic reform of the New York City jails and New York State prisons. He is currently the lead staff attorney on the oldest active case in the Southern District of New York, Benjamin v. Brann, which was filed in 1975 and governs the physical conditions of confinement in the New York City jails. He also helped develop and is currently litigating M.G. v. Cuomo, a putative class action in the Southern District of New York challenging the state’s confinement of people in prison past their release dates because they have serious mental illnesses and are at risk of homelessness upon release. He also engages in direct advocacy with correctional agencies on issues ranging from punitive transfers of pretrial detainees to jails far from their communities and defense attorneys, to safe and respectful housing of transgender individuals, to suicide prevention, to restrictions on visitation.

Robert has also worked in the private and government sectors. Immediately after law school, he joined Rankin & Taylor (since acquired by Beldock Levine & Hoffman), a small firm that focused on § 1983 actions against police and corrections agencies. There, he was charged with conducting all aspects of pretrial civil practice. The firm also empowered him to single-handedly create and cultivate a prison law docket, which allowed him to investigate claims of unlawful uses of force and denials of necessary medical treatment, and to bring lawsuits as appropriate. He later served as a law clerk in the Southern District of New York’s Office of Pro Se Litigation, helping to manage the nearly twenty percent of the court’s civil actions filed by unrepresented litigants. In that role, he drafted hundreds of orders and scores of bench memos – several of which addressed issues of first impression, including the issue of whether government officials using Twitter violate the First Amendment when they block their online critics from viewing or responding to their posts.

Robert graduated from Brooklyn Law School in 2009, and is admitted to practice in New York and in the United States Virgin Islands.

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”).

Su Ming Yeh is the Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project, where she represents prisoners and other institutionalized individuals 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 is an Adjunct Professor of Law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where she co-teaches the Civil Practice Clinic.

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.