Professor Arthur S. Leonard Co-Authors Brief in Case on LGBT Prison Conditions

Professor Arthur S. Leonard has co-authored an amicus brief in support of a gay inmate who was savagely beaten and subject to homophobic slurs by other inmates in a Florida prison.

Inmate Kris Brown lost consciousness during the attack, suffered a detached retina, and was hospitalized for four days. The attack happened in a yard where one prison officer supervised hundreds of inmates.

Brown filed a lawsuit against the company that operates the prison, the officer supervising the yard, and two inmates. In it, he asserts that the officer never intervened in the attack and did not provide first aid afterwards, that his ongoing requests for medical treatment have been ignored, worsening his injuries, and that the prison does not adequately supervise the yard. Brown is representing himself in the suit, which is now before the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

Professor Leonard’s amicus brief criticizes a Florida magistrate judge for recommending to the District Court that the prison operator be removed as a defendant. The brief also argues that the attack should be subject to extra judicial scrutiny because it was an apparent anti-LGBT hate crime and involved a foreseeably dangerous situation (hundreds of prisoners with little supervision). The prison’s low staffing levels, it contends, are likely motivated by profits.

“The violence against Mr. Brown did not occur in a vacuum,” the brief asserts. “LGBT inmates like Brown experience violence at a much higher rate when compared to their non-LGBT peers.”

If the district court agrees that the prison operator should remain a defendant, Professor Leonard hopes that a pro bono law firm will assist in conducting discovery of the company.

Professor Leonard is the Robert F. Wagner Professor of Labor and Employment Law at NYLS. He is also a founder of the Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Greater New York, the nation’s oldest LGBT bar association; the editor of the monthly online legal new publication LGBT Law Notes; and a legal analyst for the Gay City News. Because of Professor Leonard’s contributions to LGBT equality, the New York City Bar Association’s LGBT Rights Committee has established an award in his name.

The brief’s co-author, and its primary drafter, is William J. Rold, a civil rights attorney and former judge who has represented thousands of inmates, served as lead counsel in numerous class actions, and consulted and taught nationwide. Brett Figlewski, the Legal Director of the LGBT Bar Association of Greater New York, and the Association’s Executive Director, Eric Lesh, also had input on the brief.