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Ninth Circuit Appellate Victory

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit handed TroyGould an appellate victory on August 4, 2014 for a constitutional law case handled by Jacob Harper, who represented pro bono Michael Murphy, an inmate in the Idaho prison system.  The appeal revives Due Process and Equal Protection claims arising from Idaho’s refusal to consider Mr. Murphy’s numerous applications to transfer to Canada, where he’s a citizen.  Those claims were erroneously dismissed by an Idaho federal district judge, Mr. Harper took up the case on appeal, and the Ninth Circuit reversed the dismissal.

The appeal follows years of litigation between Mr. Murphy and the state over Idaho’s severely flawed transfer application process.  During earlier litigation over the application process, Mr. Murphy and Idaho prison officials entered an agreement in which the state agreed to review his application according to strict guidelines and consider his application in a timely manner.  The judge in the earlier suit dismissed the claims, citing the state’s new obligations under its agreement as rendering the lawsuit moot.  Murphy reapplied for a transfer pursuant to the agreement, the state ignored the agreement, and several more years passed without compliance.  Murphy then filed the pro se complaint at issue in the appeal to seek redress for the prison officials’ breach of that agreement.  The Ninth Circuit’s decision revives these claims and grants him leave to amend his complaint—a significant victory for someone who has waited years just to get his claims heard in court.

“This decision represents a major step in holding the state of Idaho accountable for agreements it entered into with Mr. Murphy,” according to Mr. Harper, an associate in TroyGould’s litigation department.  “The Ninth Circuit has correctly given Mr. Murphy a chance to pursue those claims and bind the State to its obligations.”

Mr. Harper, who briefed and argued the appeal in Seattle on July 9, has been working on this case for nearly two years.