Education

  • Stanford University, J.D., with distinction, 1993
  • University of California, Santa Cruz, M.A., Psychology, 2014
  • Yale University, B.A., magna cum laude, 1986

Admissions

  • California, 1994
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T: 415-433-6830
F: 415-433-7104
E: tnolan@rbgg.com

Thomas Nolan is of counsel at Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld LLP, where his practice primarily has focused on constitutional and civil rights law since he arrived at the firm in 1993. Mr. Nolan’s practice has included consumer class actions, disability rights, freedom of association claims, civil rights actions, attorney’s fees and employment discrimination actions, and appellate work at all levels, including briefing and arguing cases before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and preparing amicus and certiorari briefs in the United States Supreme Court. Full bio »

vCard icon

Download vCard
T: 415-433-6830
F: 415-433-7104
E: tnolan@rbgg.com

Thomas Nolan is of counsel at Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld LLP, where his practice primarily has focused on constitutional and civil rights law since he arrived at the firm in 1993. Mr. Nolan’s practice has included consumer class actions, disability rights, freedom of association claims, civil rights actions, attorney’s fees and employment discrimination actions, and appellate work at all levels, including briefing and arguing cases before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and preparing amicus and certiorari briefs in the United States Supreme Court.

Mr. Nolan has played a lead role in several complex class action lawsuits, including Coleman v. Brown (a case brought on behalf of California prisoners with serious mental illness) and Armstrong v. Brown (a case brought on behalf of California prisoners and parolees with mobility, vision, hearing and learning disabilities). Mr. Nolan was also a member of the legal team that successfully defended against an effort by the State of California to terminate ongoing proceedings and injunctive relief in the Coleman case in 2013.

While working at RBGG, Mr. Nolan was awarded a Master’s Degree in Psychology from the University of California, Santa Cruz, in September of 2014, where he focused his research on issues related to prison policy and mass incarceration, including the excessive use of isolation in California’s prisons and the harsh impact of California’s three-strikes law. Mr. Nolan has lectured recently about prison conditions and civil rights law at the annual Capital Case Defense Seminar in Monterey, California and at seminars for mental health professionals run by disability rights groups. He has mentored numerous law students, attorneys, and paralegals engaged in prisoner rights litigation.

Mr. Nolan has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Yale University, a Master’s degree in Psychology from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a law degree from Stanford University School of Law.

REPRESENTATIVE CASES
  • Coleman v. Brown/Plata v. Brown: In a landmark decision, the United States Supreme Court ruled that overcrowding in California’s prisons resulted in cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Court affirmed a January 2010 order issued by a three-judge federal court after an extensive trial directing California officials to reduce the State’s severe prison overcrowding down to 137.5% of design capacity. The order was issued after the judges found that overcrowding is the primary cause of ongoing unconstitutional conditions in California’s prisons, such as the system’s inability to provide minimally adequate medical and mental health care for prisoners. Plata v. Brown, 131 S. Ct. 1910 (2011).
  • Coleman v. NewsomRBGG represents a class of the more than 38,000 men and women in California’s prison system with serious mental illness. After a contested trial, the district court held that the prison mental health delivery system violates the Eighth Amendment and ordered systemwide injunctive relief. See Coleman v. Wilson, 912 F. Supp. 1282 (E.D. Cal. 1995).  The court determined that the constitutional violations remain ongoing in 2013 after the State attempted to terminate the injunction. See Coleman v. Brown, 938 F. Supp. 2d 955 (E.D. Cal. 2013). Through hard-fought litigation over the last two decades, RBGG has secured a number of significant systemic changes on behalf of the class, including reforms to policies and practices regarding the use of force against prisoners with mental illness, as well as the overuse and misuse of solitary confinement. See Coleman v. Brown, 28 F. Supp. 3d 1068 (E.D. Cal. 2014). On November 28, 2018, the Ninth Circuit issued two unanimous rulings affirming lower court decisions on behalf of the class.  The Court dismissed the State’s appeal of an April 2017 order because the district court had not granted or modified an injunction under 28 U.S.C. § 1292(a)(1) in requiring the State to comply with prior orders to transfer class members to inpatient care in a timely fashion, nor had it issued a final order pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1291 because contempt proceedings remained ongoing.  See Coleman v. Brown, 743 Fed. Appx. 875 (9th Cir. 2018).  The Court separately upheld a  October 2017 order on the merits, ruling that district court complied with the Constitution and the Prison Litigation Reform Act in holding the State to its twenty-four hour timeframe to transfer patients in mental health crisis to licensed hospital settings, as longer waits “create ‘a substantial risk of serious harm’” in violation of the Eighth Amendment.  Coleman v. Brown, 756 Fed. Appx. 677 (9th Cir. 2018) (quoting Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 828 (1994)).  These appellate victories ensure timely access to critically needed psychiatric inpatient hospitalization for the members of the Coleman class, and the State’s compliance with the inpatient transfer timelines has dramatically improved in the wake of the rulings.  For more information see Coleman v. Brown: Court Orders, Reports, Photos, Expert Declarations and Media Coverage.
  • Armstrong v. Newsom: RBGG proved in federal court that California’s prison and parole systems violate the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 by discriminating against prisoners and parolees with mobility, sight, hearing, learning, mental and kidney disabilities. We secured systemwide injunctive relief to end the discrimination, which was upheld on appeal.  See Armstrong v. Wilson, 942 F. Supp. 1252 (N.D. Cal. 1996), aff’d 124 F.3d 1019 (9th Cir. 1997). We also established that the State is responsible for taking steps to ensure the rights of prisoners and parolees with disabilities are accommodated when it chooses to house them in third-party county jail facilities. See Armstrong v. Brown, 857 F. Supp. 2d 919 (N.D. Cal. 2012), aff’d 732 F.3d 955 (9th Cir. 2013), cert denied, 134 S. Ct. 2725 (2014); and 622 F.3d 1058 (9th Cir. 2010).   The Armstrong litigation has resulted in a series of ground-breaking precedents, including rulings that the ADA does not permit state government agencies to avoid compliance by delegating responsibilities to local governments, and that prisoners cannot be held in solitary confinement solely on account of disability.  We are currently working to stop staff misconduct targeting people with disabilities at CDCR.  On July 30, 2020, Judge Claudia Wilken entered a preliminary injunction to protect two incarcerated witnesses from retaliation by prison guards for making statements to RBGG lawyers about previous guard violence against incarcerated people with disabilities; the witnesses were transferred away from the prison where they had faced assault, threats and other retaliation by guards pursuant to a temporary restraining order.  Armstrong v. Newsom, 475 F.Supp.3d 1038 (N.D. Cal. 2020).  On September 8, 2020, Judge Wilken granted in part our Motion to Stop Defendants from Assaulting Abusing and Retaliating Against People with Disabilities at R.J. Donovan Correctional Facility, finding that the systemic abuses against incarcerated people with disabilities at the prison violate the ADA and prior court orders.  As a remedy, the Court required Defendants to develop a plan to install security cameras and use body worn-cameras throughout the prison, reform the staff complaint and disciplinary process, and increase supervisory staffing on all prison yards, and appointed an expert to oversee implementation of the mandated reforms.  Armstrong v. Newsom, — F.Supp.3d –, 2020 WL 5511523 (N.D. Cal. 2020).  We are also currently working to ensure that people with disabilities are safely and accessibly housed and receive accommodations for their disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic, to end discrimination in assignments to valuable jobs and programs in prison, improve the difficult transition from prison to parole, and facilitate access to education and programs to people with learning disabilities.
  • EEOC v. Pan American World Airways, Inc.:       After representing a class of Pan Am pilots on age discrimination claims in a two-month jury trial, we secured a $20 million dollar settlement, which was affirmed by the Ninth Circuit. See EEOC v. Pan Am. World Airways, Inc., 796 F.2d 314 (9th Cir. 1986), and 897 F.2d 1499 (9th Cir. 1990). Mr. Nolan, along with Sanford Jay Rosen, drafted an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of the Pan Am class in Commissioner of Internal Revenue v. Schleier, 515 U.S. 323 (1995), which concerned the taxability of damages awards received under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).
  • Gates v. Deukmejian: We secured a consent decree requiring California to improve medical and mental health care, treatment of HIV prisoners, and conditions of confinement for certain California prisoners. Over the course of four appeals (one unreported), we successfully defended the scope of the remedy, our entitlement to fees for litigation and monitoring, and an enforcement order prohibiting the use of certain riot-control guns on mentally ill prisoners confined to their cells. See Gates v. Deukmejian, 987 F.2d 1392 (9th Cir. 1993), Gates v. Rowland, 39 F.3d 1439 (9th Cir. 1994), and Gates v. Gomez, 60 F.3d 525 (9th Cir. 1995).
  • Armstrong v. Davis: After a contested trial, RBGG secured a federal court order requiring the Board of Prison Terms to remedy its shocking failure to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act during parole hearings. The court issued the order after RBGG presented testimony from, among others, a prisoner who required the use of a wheelchair was forced to crawl upstairs to attend his hearing, a deaf prisoner who could not communicate with his sign language interpreter during his hearing because he was forced to remain shackled, and a blind inmate who was offered no help with understanding complicated written materials regarding his rights. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the injunction. See Armstrong v. Davis, 275 F.3d 849 (9th Cir. 2001).
  • Valdivia v. Davis: RBGG secured a permanent injunction against the State based on a federal court’s finding that delays in its parole revocation process violated due process protections. The State agreed to improve the timeliness of parole revocation proceedings, to provide probable cause hearings, and to appoint attorneys to represent all parolees facing revocation proceedings, among other fundamental due process protections. See Valdivia v. Davis, 206 F. Supp. 2d 1068 (2002). The injunction remained in place until 2013, when parole revocation proceedings were turned over to the county courts by statute.  
  • Hecker v. California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation: RBGG brought this disability discrimination class action on behalf of all California prisoners with serious mental illness.  On March 2, 2015, the court approved a final settlement in the case, which includes several statewide policy changes to end discriminatory practices and gives the federal court the power to enforce implementation of the changes as necessary.
  • Schindler Elevator Corporation v. City and County of San Francisco: RBGG submitted a brief in the California Court of Appeal on behalf of the San Francisco Human Rights Commission, minority contractors, and business associations encouraging the court to uphold an affirmative action provision in the San Francisco Administrative Code seeking to increase participation by minority- and women-owned subcontractors in City contracting.

Published Decisions

Coleman v. Brown, 938 F. Supp. 2d 955 (E.D. Cal. 2013)

Education

  • Stanford University, J.D., with distinction, 1993
  • University of California, Santa Cruz, M.A., Psychology, 2014
  • Yale University, B.A., magna cum laude, 1986

Admissions

  • California, 1994

Thomas Nolan is of counsel at Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld LLP, where his practice primarily has focused on constitutional and civil rights law since he arrived at the firm in 1993. Mr. Nolan’s practice has included consumer class actions, disability rights, freedom of association claims, civil rights actions, attorney’s fees and employment discrimination actions, and appellate work at all levels, including briefing and arguing cases before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and preparing amicus and certiorari briefs in the United States Supreme Court.

Mr. Nolan has played a lead role in several complex class action lawsuits, including Coleman v. Brown (a case brought on behalf of California prisoners with serious mental illness) and Armstrong v. Brown (a case brought on behalf of California prisoners and parolees with mobility, vision, hearing and learning disabilities). Mr. Nolan was also a member of the legal team that successfully defended against an effort by the State of California to terminate ongoing proceedings and injunctive relief in the Coleman case in 2013.

While working at RBGG, Mr. Nolan was awarded a Master’s Degree in Psychology from the University of California, Santa Cruz, in September of 2014, where he focused his research on issues related to prison policy and mass incarceration, including the excessive use of isolation in California’s prisons and the harsh impact of California’s three-strikes law. Mr. Nolan has lectured recently about prison conditions and civil rights law at the annual Capital Case Defense Seminar in Monterey, California and at seminars for mental health professionals run by disability rights groups. He has mentored numerous law students, attorneys, and paralegals engaged in prisoner rights litigation.

Mr. Nolan has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Yale University, a Master’s degree in Psychology from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a law degree from Stanford University School of Law.

REPRESENTATIVE CASES
  • Coleman v. Brown/Plata v. Brown: In a landmark decision, the United States Supreme Court ruled that overcrowding in California’s prisons resulted in cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Court affirmed a January 2010 order issued by a three-judge federal court after an extensive trial directing California officials to reduce the State’s severe prison overcrowding down to 137.5% of design capacity. The order was issued after the judges found that overcrowding is the primary cause of ongoing unconstitutional conditions in California’s prisons, such as the system’s inability to provide minimally adequate medical and mental health care for prisoners. Plata v. Brown, 131 S. Ct. 1910 (2011).
  • Coleman v. NewsomRBGG represents a class of the more than 38,000 men and women in California’s prison system with serious mental illness. After a contested trial, the district court held that the prison mental health delivery system violates the Eighth Amendment and ordered systemwide injunctive relief. See Coleman v. Wilson, 912 F. Supp. 1282 (E.D. Cal. 1995).  The court determined that the constitutional violations remain ongoing in 2013 after the State attempted to terminate the injunction. See Coleman v. Brown, 938 F. Supp. 2d 955 (E.D. Cal. 2013). Through hard-fought litigation over the last two decades, RBGG has secured a number of significant systemic changes on behalf of the class, including reforms to policies and practices regarding the use of force against prisoners with mental illness, as well as the overuse and misuse of solitary confinement. See Coleman v. Brown, 28 F. Supp. 3d 1068 (E.D. Cal. 2014). On November 28, 2018, the Ninth Circuit issued two unanimous rulings affirming lower court decisions on behalf of the class.  The Court dismissed the State’s appeal of an April 2017 order because the district court had not granted or modified an injunction under 28 U.S.C. § 1292(a)(1) in requiring the State to comply with prior orders to transfer class members to inpatient care in a timely fashion, nor had it issued a final order pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1291 because contempt proceedings remained ongoing.  See Coleman v. Brown, 743 Fed. Appx. 875 (9th Cir. 2018).  The Court separately upheld a  October 2017 order on the merits, ruling that district court complied with the Constitution and the Prison Litigation Reform Act in holding the State to its twenty-four hour timeframe to transfer patients in mental health crisis to licensed hospital settings, as longer waits “create ‘a substantial risk of serious harm’” in violation of the Eighth Amendment.  Coleman v. Brown, 756 Fed. Appx. 677 (9th Cir. 2018) (quoting Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 828 (1994)).  These appellate victories ensure timely access to critically needed psychiatric inpatient hospitalization for the members of the Coleman class, and the State’s compliance with the inpatient transfer timelines has dramatically improved in the wake of the rulings.  For more information see Coleman v. Brown: Court Orders, Reports, Photos, Expert Declarations and Media Coverage.
  • Armstrong v. Newsom: RBGG proved in federal court that California’s prison and parole systems violate the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 by discriminating against prisoners and parolees with mobility, sight, hearing, learning, mental and kidney disabilities. We secured systemwide injunctive relief to end the discrimination, which was upheld on appeal.  See Armstrong v. Wilson, 942 F. Supp. 1252 (N.D. Cal. 1996), aff’d 124 F.3d 1019 (9th Cir. 1997). We also established that the State is responsible for taking steps to ensure the rights of prisoners and parolees with disabilities are accommodated when it chooses to house them in third-party county jail facilities. See Armstrong v. Brown, 857 F. Supp. 2d 919 (N.D. Cal. 2012), aff’d 732 F.3d 955 (9th Cir. 2013), cert denied, 134 S. Ct. 2725 (2014); and 622 F.3d 1058 (9th Cir. 2010).   The Armstrong litigation has resulted in a series of ground-breaking precedents, including rulings that the ADA does not permit state government agencies to avoid compliance by delegating responsibilities to local governments, and that prisoners cannot be held in solitary confinement solely on account of disability.  We are currently working to stop staff misconduct targeting people with disabilities at CDCR.  On July 30, 2020, Judge Claudia Wilken entered a preliminary injunction to protect two incarcerated witnesses from retaliation by prison guards for making statements to RBGG lawyers about previous guard violence against incarcerated people with disabilities; the witnesses were transferred away from the prison where they had faced assault, threats and other retaliation by guards pursuant to a temporary restraining order.  Armstrong v. Newsom, 475 F.Supp.3d 1038 (N.D. Cal. 2020).  On September 8, 2020, Judge Wilken granted in part our Motion to Stop Defendants from Assaulting Abusing and Retaliating Against People with Disabilities at R.J. Donovan Correctional Facility, finding that the systemic abuses against incarcerated people with disabilities at the prison violate the ADA and prior court orders.  As a remedy, the Court required Defendants to develop a plan to install security cameras and use body worn-cameras throughout the prison, reform the staff complaint and disciplinary process, and increase supervisory staffing on all prison yards, and appointed an expert to oversee implementation of the mandated reforms.  Armstrong v. Newsom, — F.Supp.3d –, 2020 WL 5511523 (N.D. Cal. 2020).  We are also currently working to ensure that people with disabilities are safely and accessibly housed and receive accommodations for their disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic, to end discrimination in assignments to valuable jobs and programs in prison, improve the difficult transition from prison to parole, and facilitate access to education and programs to people with learning disabilities.
  • EEOC v. Pan American World Airways, Inc.:       After representing a class of Pan Am pilots on age discrimination claims in a two-month jury trial, we secured a $20 million dollar settlement, which was affirmed by the Ninth Circuit. See EEOC v. Pan Am. World Airways, Inc., 796 F.2d 314 (9th Cir. 1986), and 897 F.2d 1499 (9th Cir. 1990). Mr. Nolan, along with Sanford Jay Rosen, drafted an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of the Pan Am class in Commissioner of Internal Revenue v. Schleier, 515 U.S. 323 (1995), which concerned the taxability of damages awards received under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).
  • Gates v. Deukmejian: We secured a consent decree requiring California to improve medical and mental health care, treatment of HIV prisoners, and conditions of confinement for certain California prisoners. Over the course of four appeals (one unreported), we successfully defended the scope of the remedy, our entitlement to fees for litigation and monitoring, and an enforcement order prohibiting the use of certain riot-control guns on mentally ill prisoners confined to their cells. See Gates v. Deukmejian, 987 F.2d 1392 (9th Cir. 1993), Gates v. Rowland, 39 F.3d 1439 (9th Cir. 1994), and Gates v. Gomez, 60 F.3d 525 (9th Cir. 1995).
  • Armstrong v. Davis: After a contested trial, RBGG secured a federal court order requiring the Board of Prison Terms to remedy its shocking failure to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act during parole hearings. The court issued the order after RBGG presented testimony from, among others, a prisoner who required the use of a wheelchair was forced to crawl upstairs to attend his hearing, a deaf prisoner who could not communicate with his sign language interpreter during his hearing because he was forced to remain shackled, and a blind inmate who was offered no help with understanding complicated written materials regarding his rights. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the injunction. See Armstrong v. Davis, 275 F.3d 849 (9th Cir. 2001).
  • Valdivia v. Davis: RBGG secured a permanent injunction against the State based on a federal court’s finding that delays in its parole revocation process violated due process protections. The State agreed to improve the timeliness of parole revocation proceedings, to provide probable cause hearings, and to appoint attorneys to represent all parolees facing revocation proceedings, among other fundamental due process protections. See Valdivia v. Davis, 206 F. Supp. 2d 1068 (2002). The injunction remained in place until 2013, when parole revocation proceedings were turned over to the county courts by statute.  
  • Hecker v. California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation: RBGG brought this disability discrimination class action on behalf of all California prisoners with serious mental illness.  On March 2, 2015, the court approved a final settlement in the case, which includes several statewide policy changes to end discriminatory practices and gives the federal court the power to enforce implementation of the changes as necessary.
  • Schindler Elevator Corporation v. City and County of San Francisco: RBGG submitted a brief in the California Court of Appeal on behalf of the San Francisco Human Rights Commission, minority contractors, and business associations encouraging the court to uphold an affirmative action provision in the San Francisco Administrative Code seeking to increase participation by minority- and women-owned subcontractors in City contracting.

Published Decisions

Coleman v. Brown, 938 F. Supp. 2d 955 (E.D. Cal. 2013)

Publications

  • “Seeking environmental justice for minorities and poor people,” co-author Sanford Jay Rosen, Trial, May 2021
  • “Seeking environmental justice for minorities and poor people,” co-author Sanford Jay Rosen, Trial, May 2021

Presentations

  • “Why Is California’s Prison System So Dysfunctional,” California Appellate Project (June 14, 2012). 
  • “California Prisons: Barriers to Treatment and Problems with Excessive Use of Force Against Prisoners Highlighted in the Coleman v. Brown case,” People With Disabilities Foundation Seminar (November 10, 2014). 
  • “Mental Health Care in the CDCR and on Death Row: What We Learned From The 2014 Enforcement Proceedings in Coleman v. Brown,” California Appellate Project Presentation (February 12, 2014). 
Full list of presentations »
  • “Why Is California’s Prison System So Dysfunctional,” California Appellate Project (June 14, 2012). 
  • “California Prisons: Barriers to Treatment and Problems with Excessive Use of Force Against Prisoners Highlighted in the Coleman v. Brown case,” People With Disabilities Foundation Seminar (November 10, 2014). 
  • “Mental Health Care in the CDCR and on Death Row: What We Learned From The 2014 Enforcement Proceedings in Coleman v. Brown,” California Appellate Project Presentation (February 12, 2014). 
  • “New Tools for Competency and Prison Mental Health: Understanding Gonzales, Coleman and the Prison Receivership to Develop your Appeals and Claims,” with Sarah Chester and Tim Brosnan, California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, 2014 Capital Case Defense Seminar, Monterey, California (February 14, 2014).