JaneAnne Murray
Associate Clinical Professor of Law

Star Tribune Reports on Class Action Victory of Prof. Murray's Clemency Clinic on behalf of Covid-Vulnerable Clients Facing Return to Prison

As the Star Tribune reports today, the Minnesota Department of Corrections (DOC) has finally agreed to drop its opposition to a lawsuit filed by Prof. Murray's Clemency Clinic on behalf of those prisoners released from prison due to their COVID vulnerability, which the DOC decided to return to prison in August 2022.  Working with the ACLU of Minnesota and the LAMP Clinic at Mitchell-Hamline School of Law, Murray challenged the decision and successfully obtained a TRO against the DOC preventing implementation of its plan.  The case eventually proceeded to the Minnesota Court of Appeals, which ruled in September that the district court acted well within its discretion when it issued and later refused to lift the TRO.  Earlier this week, Ramsey County Judge Mark Ireland issued an order dismissing the case with prejudice, based on the DOC's stipulated agreement not return the plaintiffs to prison unless they violated the conditions of their supervised release.  

Two of the plaintiffs were Clemency Clinic client Tanya Wagner, who was released from prison because she was pregnant with the baby she gave birth to in December 2021, and Robert Rosas, released in 2020 due to chronic medical conditions.  Murray is quoted as saying: "I am delighted at the DOC's humane decision, and it's a huge relief for our clients.  During their years in the community, they have built strong family relationships — in Ms. Wagner's case, a deep bond with her now 2-year-old daughter and they have been filled with anxiety and dread at the prospect of return."  Murray added that she believed her two clients' drug sentences were too long, and that the sentence for client Robert Rosas "would be considerably shorter today because of changes in the drug guidelines that were not made retroactive . . . After years of law-abiding and productive living in the community, it is simply too cruel to return our clients to prison." She noted that since her release, Wagner has become a certified peer recovery specialist and obtained a job with a nonprofit working with people struggling with mental health issues and addiction.

The following Clemency Clinic students worked on the case at the district court level: Rob Grimsley ('23), Mary Hill ('23), Victor Jimenez ('23), Julia Kasbohm ('23), Emma Kruger ('23), Dylan Schepers ('24) and Buchanan Waller ('23).

At the Court of Appeals level, Murray's Clinic partnered with Prof. Elizabeth Bentley's Civil Rights Appellate Clinic, with Clemency Clinic students Mary Hill ('23), Julia Kasbohm ('23) and Emma Kruger ('24) and Civil Rights Appellate Clinic students Adam Kolb ('24) and E. Isabel Park ('24) drafting the brief.