Wilhelm v. Rotman, --- F.3d ----, 2012 WL 1889786 (9th Cir. 2012).
In a successful appeal handled by the Ninth Circuit Appellate Advocacy Clinic at UCLA School of Law, O'Melveny & Myers counsel Ivana Cingel and third-year law student Sam Siegel recently prevailed before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of pro bono client Steven Wilhelm. Cingel and Siegel persuaded the Ninth Circuit to reverse the district court's holding that Wilhelm failed to state a claim that his prison physician was “deliberately indifferent” to Wilhelm’s serious medical need (and thus violated the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment), by failing to timely arrange for surgery Wilhelm required.
The case presented two questions of first impression in the Ninth Circuit. The first, jurisdictional question concerned whether the magistrate judge to whom Wilhelm’s case was reassigned lacked jurisdiction, as Wilhelm had expressly consented only to the jurisdiction of different, specifically named magistrate judge. The second question concerned whether the district court erred by dismissing Wilhelm’s case at the complaint screening stage (applicable only to prisoner complaints) for failure to state a claim of deliberate indifference to serious medical need.
Following a lively oral argument, the court held in a published opinion that the magistrate judge to whom Wilhelm’s case was reassigned had jurisdiction and that the Ninth Circuit thus had jurisdiction to consider the appeal from the magistrate judge’s adverse ruling. The jurisdictional holding allowed the Court to accept Cingel and Siegel's arguments on the merits and rule for the first time that pro se prisoner complaints can be dismissed at the screening stage only if it appears beyond doubt that there was no set of facts entitling the plaintiff to relief. Employing this standard, the Court further agreed with Cingel and Siegel’s argument that Wilhelm had stated a claim of deliberate indifference by alleging that his prison physician was aware of Wilhelm’s painful condition for over a year yet failed to schedule the surgery necessary to treat it. This was the Ninth Circuit’s first published opinion upholding a prisoner’s deliberate indifference claim following district court’s screening stage dismissal.
O'Melveny counsel Ivana Cingel and UCLA student Sam Siegel, with supervision by O’Melveny partner Sabrina H. Strong, authored the appellate briefs and argued the appeal before Ninth Circuit judges Susan P. Graber, Mary M. Schroeder, and Diarmuid O’Scannlain.
In USA v. Fernando Arango, O'Melveny & Myers and the UCLA Law Ninth Circuit Appellate Advocacy Clinic represented Fernando Arango in an appeal from a grant of summary judgment in a denaturalization case. The client, Mr. Arango, had lived in the United States for almost 20 years after immigrating from Colombia before the United States government moved to take his citizenship away for events that transpired in 1989 and the early 1990's. The government argued that Mr. Arango's sham marriage and concealment of that marriage in his naturalization interview rendered him denaturalizable. Mr. Arango insisted that he entered into a cooperation agreement with the government that would allow him to naturalize when he assisted in the INS's investigation of a fraudulent marriage operation. Shaun Simmons of O'Melveny & Myers supervised and worked with Bryce Woolley of the UCLA Law Ninth Circuit Appellate Advocacy Clinic to draft and submit an opening brief and a reply brief arguing that the district court improperly made factual findings and credibility determination on summary judgment and the district court improperly determined that venue was proper in Arizona. Simmons and Woolley then carried out oral argument before a three judge panel. In January 2012, the Ninth Circuit published a 20-page opinion reversing the district court's grant of summary judgment on the basis that the district court improperly weighed the evidence and did not permit Mr. Arango to rebut the presumption that his place of residence remained where he lived prior to incarceration for venue purposes.
Ninth Circuit Appellate Advocacy Clinic student Ryan Chin argues successfully in front of Ninth Circuit Panel in Suradi v. Holder