Press Release December 06, 2018

Goodwin Teams with ACLU to Secure Victory for Pro Bono Client in Medication-Assisted Treatment Lawsuit

Goodwin and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Massachusetts recently secured a victory in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts to grant a preliminary injunction in favor of firm pro bono client Geoffrey Pesce. The Court’s order required the Middleton House of Correction in Essex County, Massachusetts, to provide Mr. Pesce with continued access to his physician-prescribed methadone treatment for opioid use disorder (OUD) during his upcoming incarceration. In Massachusetts, opioid-related deaths have surpassed the national average and increased exponentially in the last two years. Most significantly in Mr. Pesce’s case, the opioid-related death rate in Massachusetts is 120 times higher for people released from prison as compared to the rest of the adult population.

Mr. Pesce’s situation came to the attention of the ACLU of Massachusetts, which enlisted Goodwin to help bring a lawsuit to compel Middleton to provide methadone to Mr. Pesce during his impending incarceration. Within two weeks of being retained, Goodwin and the ACLU filed a complaint in the District of Massachusetts on Mr. Pesce’s behalf alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Eighth Amendment, and a motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction, along with several hundred pages of supporting declarations and exhibits. Judge Casper heard argument on November 5.

Seven days before Mr. Pesce was expected to begin his sentence, the Court issued its decision finding in favor of Mr. Pesce on all applicable factors and granting a preliminary injunction to ensure his continued access to methadone throughout his incarceration. Relying heavily on eight fact and expert declarations prepared by Goodwin and ACLU lawyers, the Court found that Mr. Pesce was likely to prevail on both the ADA and Eighth Amendment claims because Middleton’s policy, among other things, would deviate from the standard of care by “ignoring treatment prescriptions given to Mr. Pesce by his doctors.”

As a result of the Court’s decision, Mr. Pesce will now be able to maintain his recovery, even as he serves his sentence over the next several months.

The Pro Bono team was led by partners Ira Levy and Robert Frederickson and associate Alexandra Valenti and included associates Jenny Zhang and Michael Pickett.