Winston & Strawn lawyers won a significant victory by persuading the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals that a district court's power to impose a bond in order to secure a defendant's costs could not be used to bar an indigent's access to the courts.
Winston & Strawn's client, Anthony Gay, is a mentally disturbed inmate with a long history of self-mutilation. After suffering from years of intentional medical neglect and mistreatment in the Tamms Correctional Center, Mr. Gay sued three mental health professionals at the prison alleging constitutionally inadequate treatment and retaliation for a prior lawsuit. Without evaluating the merits of Mr. Gay's case or properly considering his indigence, the district court required Mr. Gay to post a $1,000 bond to cover the defendants' costs should the suit prove unsuccessful. When Mr. Gay did not post the required bond, the district court dismissed his case with prejudice.
The Seventh Circuit reversed and remanded, stating that "before requiring a bond to cover costs under Rule 54(d), a court must consider a party's ability to pay. A court abuses its discretion when it requires a cost bond that it knows the party cannot afford." Mr. Gay's case is the Seventh Circuit's first opinion making clear that a court must consider the financial abilities of a party when imposing a bond.
The Winston & Strawn team was led by Washington, D.C. partner Geoff Eaton.