Fenwick Wins Injunction Ordering Prison Officials to Provide Pro Bono Client with Medically Appropriate Diet

Mountain View (October 9, 2014)– Fenwick & West has won a preliminary injunction on behalf of one of the firm’s pro bono clients, protecting the client’s constitutional right to adequate nutrition and medical care while incarcerated.

Gabriel Pineida is an inmate imprisoned in Salinas Valley State Prison under California’s three-strikes law. During his incarceration, Mr. Pineida developed ulcerative colitis, a painful chronic condition affecting the colon. After emergency surgery and follow-up procedures, Mr. Pineida’s physician instructed him to maintain a low-fiber diet. Mr. Pineida alleged that prison officials, however, refused to provide him with such a diet, and that as a result, he was often left with two options: eat food that would cause him ongoing, painful and severe symptoms or go hungry.

Fenwick moved for a preliminary injunction, arguing that Mr. Pineida was likely to show the prison’s denial of appropriate food had violated his Eighth Amendment rights. Northern District of California Judge Jon Tigar agreed, finding that “providing the prisoner with only half as many food options as those available to other prisoners” was a serious deprivation, and “Pineida has provided compelling evidence that prison officials knowingly refused to provide him with the diet recommended by doctors following his [surgical] procedure.” The court directed prison officials to provide him with a medically appropriate diet while the lawsuit remains pending.

Litigation partners Saina Shamilov and Ryan Marton and senior associate Todd Gregorian led the pro bono team that secured the win, which included associates Ravi Ranganath, Tammi Hill and Kunyu Ching. Shamilov, commenting on the victory, said, “Lawyers have the responsibility to promote justice and make justice available to all, and Fenwick and its lawyers take this responsibility seriously.” Fenwick’s continuing representation will now turn towards securing relief for Mr. Pineida on a permanent basis.

Patrick Premo, chair of the pro bono practice, noted that the firm’s win exemplifies Fenwick’s long tradition of providing free legal services—a tradition that began with founder Bill Fenwick and that continues today.

Fenwick’s nationally recognized pro bono program includes civil rights, child advocacy and political asylum work, as well as impact litigation and death penalty cases, and advocacy for the Appellate Project, Street Law and AIDS Project. Over the past five years, Fenwick attorneys and staff have completed nearly 50,000 pro bono hours valued at roughly $20 million in legal fees.

Fenwick has received several awards in 2014 for its exemplary commitment to pro bono work, including the San Francisco Business Times’ Community Impact Award, the National Legal Aid & Defender Association’s Beacon of Justice Award and the San Mateo County Legal Aid Society’s Guardian of Justice Award. The National Law Journal selected Fenwick for its 2014 Pro Bono Hot List; Fenwick was one of only 10 law firms in the United States to receive this recognition.

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