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Civil Rights Clinic Settlement Earns Plaintiff $300K

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Sturm College of Law

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In a major success for the University of Denver Sturm College of Law's Civil Rights Clinic, the United States of America has agreed to pay $300,000 to settle a lawsuit regarding violations of Seifullah Chapman’s constitutional right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. The settlement ended seven years of litigation brought by the Civil Rights Clinic against three Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) employees in Chapman v. Santini, et al., U.S. District Court of Colorado Case No. 15-cv-00279.

Seifullah Chapman is a forty-nine-year-old husband, father, college graduate, United States Marine Corps veteran, and devout Muslim. He also has a severe form of Type 1 diabetes, which is difficult to control because his blood sugar levels often fluctuate significantly. For years, BOP medical staff failed to provide Mr. Chapman with adequate medical care while he was incarcerated in federal custody. He has since been released. Student attorneys in the Civil Rights Clinic began representing Mr. Chapman in 2011. In 2015, after repeated requests to improve his medical care failed, the Clinic sued the federal supermax prison medical care providers on Mr. Chapman’s behalf.

From 2010 to 2015, the BOP incarcerated Mr. Chapman at the federal supermax prison, or ADX, in Florence, Colorado. People incarcerated at ADX spend twenty-three hours a day, every day, in solitary confinement in a small concrete cell. They cannot leave their cell for any reason unless shackled and accompanied by guards. Mr. Chapman described ADX as “a prison that causes people to lose hope and experience inhumanity to an extent I had not before nor since experienced.” At ADX, Mr. Chapman was completely dependent on Defendants George Santini, Anthony Osagie, and Ronald Camacho, among others, to care for his Type 1 diabetes. These medical providers often failed to provide care, allowing Mr. Chapman to suffer extended periods of severe pain and putting him at risk of diabetes complications, including coma and death.

“For over a decade, the lawyers and students from the Civil Rights Clinic fought to keep me alive at ADX and they continued working after my release from incarceration to have the BOP answer for their cruel and unusual conduct,” says Mr. Chapman. Many times, he lost consciousness from his extremely low blood sugar, which Defendants failed to treat for prolonged periods of time. Other times, he experienced severe pain. Every day, he lived in fear of death, seizure, or coma. Rather than continuing to trial on the issues, the ADX medical care providers chose to settle with Mr. Chapman for $300,000 to end the litigation. “Through their efforts, the Clinic helped not just me, but so many more people. The settlement we came to with the government is the result of student attorneys and their supervisors who believe that civil rights are important and that protecting a person’s civil rights is worth fighting for,” said Mr. Chapman.

Over nine generations of Civil Rights Clinic students, totaling more than twenty-five student attorneys, have represented Mr. Chapman. Tempest Cantrell, a former student attorney who worked on the case for the past two years, said, “This settlement should send a message to all BOP employees that the Eighth Amendment is not a maybe or sometimes proposition, and that there are consequences for bad actions.”