At Justia, we like rooting for the underdog. Chalk it up to our young geek days fighting playground bullies, we’re all about challenging old school thinking. That’s why we congratulate Cleveland federal appeals lawyer David Mills for a U.S. Supreme Court victory only a few years after opening his solo practice.
Like others before him, Mills faced an uphill battle prospecting for new clients, but he was determined to make his practice work.
Mills started with a good foundation: he graduated from the University of Michigan Law School, spent four years as a litigation associate in Jones Day’s Cleveland office, followed by clerkships at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, and for U.S. District Judge Louis Oberdorfer who heard federal appeals court cases, by special designation, in four different appellate circuits.
Mills chose to handle both criminal and civil appeals. Hoping to generate a steady income stream, he signed up to handle federal appeals for indigent criminal defendants, but then learned that getting paid in these matters took months or years.
A combination of factors ultimately led Michelle Ortiz to find and retain Mills. She is a former Ohio state inmate who was sexually assaulted over two consecutive nights while incarcerated. She told a prison case manager about her first assault, but he did nothing to ward off the next assault. Ortiz also sued a prison investigator who retaliated against her by “by placing her, shackled and handcuffed, in solitary confinement in a cell without adequate heat, clothing, bedding, or blankets,” that violated her Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights to have “reasonable protection from violence while in custody.”
Ortiz won her civil rights case at trial after the District Court denied the prison officers’ qualified immunity defenses — which they didn’t appeal — and the jury rendered a verdict for Ortiz. Moreover, the prison officers failed to contest the jury’s finding of liability for Ortiz against the officers.
The Sixth Circuit reversed the finding for Ortiz, granting both prison officers qualified immunity from such conduct.
After a number of appellate attorneys rejected her request to appeal the Sixth Circuit’s decision, Ortiz found and retained Mills with just hours left for him to request an extension to seek certiorari from the Supreme Court.
He received an extension for Ortiz, and was subsequently granted