Two students in the Sturm College of Law’s Civil Rights Clinic (CRC) are suing a Colorado state prison for violating an inmate’s constitutional rights.
Ashley Wheeland, a third-year law student, and Patrick Curnalia, a second-year, say that prison officials at the Colorado State Penitentiary in Canon City are depriving an inmate, Troy Anderson, of his due process rights under the 14th Amendment, and are subjecting him to cruel and unusual punishment, violating his Eighth Amendment rights.
Wheeland and Curnalia also argue that the prison is discriminating against Anderson, who has a mental illness, violating his rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act.
The students filed the claim against the prison in federal district court on May 3.
They are working with Brittany Glidden, a clinical fellow in the CRC, and with co-counsel Amy Robertson, a civil rights attorney at the firm Fox and Robertson, on the law suit.
Anderson, 40, has been in prison in the Colorado Department of Corrections (CDC) since May 2000.
He has been convicted of aggravated armed robbery, assault and attempted murder while trying to escape police custody, among other crimes, according to the complaint filed by Curnalia and Wheeler.
Anderson has mental health problems that impair his learning and interaction with others and cause him to have mood fluctuations, bouts of depression and to act impulsively.
The goals of the lawsuit are to compel the prison officials to properly diagnose and treat Anderson, to supply him with the medications that will treat his symptoms, to end the inconsistent behavior review system and to allow him to earn privileges, including seeing fresh air and sunshine.
“For us, the overall goal is to make Troy’s life better,” said Wheeland. “And that’s his goal too.”
The CRC was started in 2004. It is a year-long program in which teams of student lawyers represent clients in civil rights cases. The program has about 10 students a year, who are supervised by Professor Laura Rovner and Fellow Brittany Glidden. The clinic is currently working on four cases, including Anderson’s.
“It’s been a great opportunity to get some real-life experience,” said Curnalia. “I’m glad I got to see another side of law,” he said.
The students’ co-counsel, Amy Robertson, has been working in the civil rights law field since 1996.
She said she has been very impressed with the doggedness and creativity of Curnalia and Wheeland throughout the program.