Our Victories

A group photo of three of the earliest team members of the Florida Justice Institute

Our relentless pursuit on behalf of all Floridians has resulted in several historic and significant wins.

These legal triumphs and impactful policy initiatives have brought tangible improvements to the lives of our constituents. From landmark court rulings to groundbreaking legislation, each success underscores our unwavering commitment to advancing civil rights, challenging injustices, and creating lasting change throughout Florida.

Industry Leadership

Volunteer Lawyers Project

Housed, administered, and supervised the Volunteer Lawyers Project for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, which helped find pro bono lawyers for pro se litigants in federal court. Thanks to the VLP’s efforts, numerous pro se litigants who could not afford a lawyer were able to get a fair day in court with the help of pro bono representation.

1993 to Present

Established Public Interest Law Bank

Established a pro bono program for the Dade County Bar Association and Legal Services of Greater Miami, dubbed the Public Interest Law Bank. Quickly gained nationwide recognition and received the Harrison Tweed Award from the ABA as the country’s best pro bono program.


Published Older Floridians Handbook

Published various self-help publications such as the Older Floridians Handbook: Laws and Programs Affecting Older Floridians. First published in 1979, this immensely popular Handbook has been updated and republished 5 times.


Human Rights & Prisons

Haney v. Miami-Dade County, No. 1:04-CV-20516, 2004 WL 2203481 (S.D. Fla.)

In the wake of mass arrests that occurred after FTAA protests in Miami, lawyers for FJI received information the Miami-Dade County jail was strip-searching the female arrestees, but not the male arrestees, who had been arrested for minor offenses and with no individualized suspicion. FJI brought suit on behalf of a class of women to stop this practice. The case eventually settled for $6.25 million to be split among the class of plaintiffs. As a result of the lawsuit, Miami-Dade County changed its policy to allow strip searches prior to a first appearance before a judge only if the charged offense involved violence, weapons, or drugs, or if there was some other individualized suspicion relating to contraband.


Osterback v. Moore, Case No. 97-2806-civ-Huck (S.D. Fla.)

Statewide class action sought to reform the FDOC’s solitary confinement system, which warehoused thousands of people, often for years on end, with little or no mental health treatment and no viable method of being returned to the general population. The settlement reached resulted in a drastic reduction in the number of people held in solitary, greater mental health treatment, and a required step-down method for eventual return to the general population.


Raines v. Florida, 983 F.Supp. 1362 (N.D. Fla.)

Statewide class action arising out of the FDOC’s refusal to allow inmates with disabilities to perform certain certain jobs, thus limiting the amount of gain time they could earn, which resulted in them serving longer sentences. The case was brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and resulted in a wide-reaching settlement that forced the FDOC to provide the same gain time opportunities to all inmates, regardless of any perceived disability.


Stapleton v. Singletary, No. 88-14178-civ-JCP, S.D. Fla., affirmed, 52 F.3d 1071 (11th Cir.)

A class action constitutional challenge to Florida’s system of protective custody, which held inmates who feared for their lives in isolation for extended periods of time. The resulting settlement completely changed the Florida Department of Corrections’ protective custody procedures and the conditions for those being held there.


Ancata v. Prison Health Services, 769 F.2d 700 (11th Cir.)

Landmark appellate decision established for the first time that private correctional actors operate under color of state law and are liable for constitutional violations, and contracting government officials have a non-delegable duty to provide medical care for inmates despite the contract for services. This case also helped define what constitutes deliberate indifference to serious medical needs under the 8th Amendment.


Arias v. Wainwright, Case No. TCA 79-0792 (N.D. Fla.)

The largest and only statewide jail conditions class action ever successfully brought in the country. Challenged the FDOCs’ failure to promulgate jail regulations, inspect county jails, and enforce jail standards in Florida’s 211 jails, which resulted in horrid living conditions for the thousands of people housed in those facilities. A settlement in 1981 brought tremendous relief, and over the course of the 15 year consent decree, crowded and unsanitary jails were either closed or significantly improved largely due to enforcement lawsuits brought against non-complying counties by the FDOC.


Right to Prosperity

Chinye v. Milton, Case No. 93-1003-civ-Ferguson (S.D. Fla.)

A class action against an apartment complex with over 650 units, whose employees were systematically refusing to rent apartments to African-Americans. The case settled for $1.25 million and a three year consent decree.


Burstyn v. City of Miami Beach, 663 F.Supp. 528 (S.D. Fla.)

A challenge to Miami Beach’s efforts to eliminate adult congregate living facilities from Miami Beach with a restrictive zoning ordinance. The ordinance was struck as unconstitutional in violation of Equal Protection Clause for intentional discrimination against elderly poor residents of Miami Beach.


Voting and Electoral Challenges

Florida Caucus of Black State Legislators v. Crosby, 877 So.2d 861 (Fla. 1st DCA)

A successful challenge to the FDOC’s systemic failure to assist formerly incarcerated people with getting their civil rights restored.


Armstrong v. Harris, 773 So.2d 7 (Fla.)

A constitutional challenge by Florida’s religious leaders to a ballot resolution amending Florida’s Constitution, the Florida Supreme Court struck as unconstitutional the amendment changing the Constitution’s cruel or unusual punishment clause as being misleading after it had passed by 72.8% of the voting public.


Socialist Workers Party v. Leahy, 145 F.3d 1240 (11th Cir.)

This case was a successful constitutional challenge to the State of Florida’s bonding requirement for minor political parties.

Scroll to Top