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Arnold & Porter Secures Supreme Court Victory in Landmark Civil Rights Case

June 13, 2023

Arnold & Porter was named to Law360's list of Legal Lions for its recent major victory for civil rights nationwide in a groundbreaking U.S. Supreme Court decision that will help protect millions of Americans under numerous federal laws involving the rights of those impacted by racial injustice, reproductive restrictions, economic disadvantages, and disabilities.

The firm successfully represented the late Gorgi Talevski in a matter involving the severe abuse Mr. Talevski suffered at a state-run nursing home in Indiana, where he was subjected to unnecessary chemical restraints (for the purposes of discipline or convenience) and improperly transferred to another facility hours from his family. He sued to enforce his federal rights against such abuse under Section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act of 1871, a federal statute enacted just after the Civil War that created a cause of action against state actors for violating federal rights. After the district court dismissed his suit, an Arnold & Porter team, led by senior associate Andrew Tutt, secured a reversal in the Seventh Circuit.

The Supreme Court granted the nursing home's petition for certiorari in May 2022, and on June 8, 2023, the court ruled in favor of Mr. Talevski in a 7-2 decision, affirming the Seventh Circuit. Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, writing for the majority, held that Congress can create federal rights in Spending Clause legislation that are enforceable under Section 1983, and that the Federal Nursing Home Reform Act (FNHRA) unambiguously creates federal rights against chemical restraint, improper discharge, and transfer that are enforceable under Section 1983.

Many commentators and court-watchers predicted that the Supreme Court would reverse the Seventh Circuit and rule against Mr. Talevski. The court's decision not only secures the rights of nursing home residents under the FNHRA, but has major implications for civil rights litigation nationwide.

"This is an important ruling that will fundamentally change the relationship between nursing homes and those entrusted to their care, providing nursing home residents and their families with protection against abuse and mistreatment," said Tutt, who argued the case in the Supreme Court. "This ruling sends a strong message: those who would trample on an individual's civil rights will be held accountable," Tutt said.

Mr. Talevski died during the litigation, but his widow Ivanka and daughter Susie continue the fight. "This is a major win for disabled and elderly nursing home patients, especially Hoosiers," Susie Talevski said.

The Arnold & Porter team was led by senior associate Andrew Tutt, who argued the case in the Seventh Circuit and the Supreme Court. Tutt was supported by senior associates Stephen Wirth, Kolya Glick, and Loreli Wright, associates Alyssa Gerstner, Hannah Grace, William Sharon, Casey Brouhard, Ernesto Hernandez, and Laurel Ruza, counsel Kristine Blackwood, and partner Stanton Jones, with assistance from appellate specialist Kat Lindsey*.

*Not admitted to the practice of law