California Court Strikes Down Newly Adopted Lethal Injection Procedure

January 3, 2012

January 2012 -- Last month, Marin County Superior Court Judge Faye D'Opal invalidated California's newly adopted three-drug lethal injection protocol in the decision Mitchell Sims v. California Department of Corrections Rehabilitation, et al (case number CIV 1004019). The plaintiff, Mitchell Sims, was represented by lawyers Sara J. Eisenberg, Jaime Huling Delaye, Kenneth Hausman, and Lisa Wang, all of whom were formerly with Howard Rice, a firm that combined with Arnold & Porter as of January 1, 2012.

"The court struck down California's three-drug lethal injection protocol because it was enacted in violation of California law," said Ms. Eisenberg, an attorney for Mr. Sims, the condemned inmate who filed the lawsuit challenging the newly adopted three-drug procedure.

The decision, which was announced on December 15, 2011, finalized a tentative ruling Judge D'Opal issued a day earlier, stating that prison officials had failed to comply with the Administrative Procedures Act, including the consideration of an alternative one drug method used elsewhere. Six years ago, a federal court in California had invalidated the three-drug protocol, finding it could constitute cruel and unusual punishment. The state decided to come up with new protocols, for which it had to comply with the Administrative Procedures Act.

The judge wrote that critics of the three-drug lethal injection submitted comments to the department saying one of those three drugs - pancuronium bromide - "is unnecessary, dangerous, and creates a risk of excruciating pain."

This case represents one of the many ongoing prominent pro bono matters handled by lawyers at Arnold & Porter LLP, which has one of the world's leading law firm pro bono programs. Arnold & Porter is one of a small number of firms whose attorneys consistently average more than 100 hours per year of pro bono work. The firm and its lawyers have won dozens of awards in recent years, including the American Bar Association's prestigious "Pro Bono Publico" award.

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