Nov. 21, 2023
COLUMBIA, S.C. — Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP recently recognized a partner from the firm’s Charleston, South Carolina office with the Claude Scarborough Pro Bono Award for his outstanding commitment and contributions to pro bono work in 2022. This year’s honoree from the Charleston office was Charleston partner Robert H. Brunson. The award is named for the late Chair Emeritus Claude Scarborough, who made pro bono an integral part of the firm culture during his years as managing partner.
Brunson was recognized for his roles in driving impactful, systemic change and in designing program models which can be sustained and replicated.
In partnership with the then named Protection and Advocacy for People with Disabilities organization (now known as Disability Rights South Carolina), Brunson and his team at the firm filed a federal lawsuit in 2020 against Charleston County officials claiming conditions at the Charleston County Detention Center were “medieval.” Brunson, former Nelson Mullins partners Stuart Andrews, Patrick Wooten, and Andrew Connor; former Charleston County Assistant Public Defender Annie Andrews – who is now in private practice; and paralegal Lauren Lynch all committed many hours to this endeavor.
Brunson is the lead partner on this matter and committed over 650 hours to this case since the firm began working on this matter in 2020.
The lawsuit detailed inhumane and unconstitutional conditions in which already vulnerable and in many instances mentally ill children entrusted to the county were being exposed to excessive force, unlawful solitary confinement, a lack of state-required education, and essential medical and mental health care.
The 2020 lawsuit prompted immediate action on the part of the Sheriff and other officials to move the detention center to a more habitable temporary space within a month after the case filing. Subsequently, the County completed construction of a new juvenile detention center with vastly improved facilities.
For the past three years, with the election of a new sheriff, along with continued litigation and negotiations in mediation before a federal Magistrate, the parties have made significant progress towards entry of a consent order.
Negotiations between counsel and Charleston County officials included input from various stakeholders within the judiciary, social services, and experts. The parties enlisted the Center for Children’s Law and Policy to conduct an assessment and to provide recommendations for reforms. This comprehensive expert assessment was used as a basis for negotiating a consent order to resolve the litigation.
Brunson is leading a team of litigators in an effort to bring this litigation to a conclusion. Before Nelson Mullins initiated this lawsuit, there had been significant publicity and discussion about the conditions at the facility, but no action had been taken.
Committed to serving the most vulnerable in our society with legal, social, and economic issues through pro bono service, Nelson Mullins engages in complex pro bono litigation, policy, and legislative advocacy and provides individual representation to a diverse group of individuals and organizations whose mission is to serve people with limited means. For more information, visit www.nelsonmullins.com.
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