On December 10, 2010, Hispanics who were restrained and interrogated by law enforcement agents filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio against the U.S. Border Patrol and several Ohio police departments, accusing the defendants of racial profiling. Individual plaintiffs along with the organizational plaintiffs (Ohio Immigrant Worker Project and the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, AFL-CIO), were represented by private counsel and Advocates for Basic Legal Equality. Although the complaint was brought as a class action, the plaintiffs never sought class certification.
The plaintiffs alleged that they were restrained and interrogated by the defendants about their immigration status because of their Hispanic appearance, in violation of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments. These claims were brought against federal defendants as Bivens claims and against local defendants under Section 1983. The plaintiffs also alleged that the defendants had conspired to violate their right to equal protection in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3) and § 1986. They requested injunctive and declaratory relief.
In their first amended complaint, filed on March 1, 2010, the plaintiffs added claims pursuant to the Administrative Procedure Act and alleged violations of the Immigration Nationality Act and the Fourteenth Amendment. The plaintiffs also added requests for compensatory relief.
A settlement conference was held in May 2010, but did not lead to a settlement. On September 29, 2010, the District Court (Judge Jack Zouhary) denied without prejudice defendants' motions to dismiss and for summary judgment. The court, however, questioned whether subject matter jurisdiction was proper in this case.
There followed a long period of discovery. The plaintiffs filed a second amended complaint adding factual allegations against federal defendants and attempted to file a third amended complaint to add claims under the Federal Torts Claims Act, but leave to file was denied by the court on June 16, 2012.
Over the course of six months in 2012, the plaintiffs settled with the local defendants and dismissed all claims against the local defendants with prejudice. The settlement agreements were not publicly released. These settlements left only the claims against the federal defendants.
However, on October 19, 2012, the court held that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction over those claims, finding that plaintiffs' claims were barred by sovereign immunity. Muniz-Muniz v. U.S. Border Patrol, No. 3:09 CV 2865, 2012 WL 5197250 (N.D. Ohio Oct. 19, 2012). The court, therefore, dismissed the plaintiffs' case in its entirety on November 15, 2012.
The plaintiffs then appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. On December 20, 2013, the Sixth Circuit reversed the district court's decision and remanded the case for further proceedings. The Sixth Circuit held that the waiver of sovereign immunity in the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) applied to all non-monetary claims against federal agencies. 741 F.3d 668 (6th Cir. 2013).
After the case was remanded, the parties engaged in further discovery. The defendants moved to dismiss the claims for lack of standing and moved for summary judgment. On May, 28, 2014, the district court (Judge Zouhary) denied the defendants' motion to dismiss and motion for summary judgment.
Discovery continued for the next year and a trial date was set for the summer of 2015. The court held the two-week bench trial in June 2015. After the trial, the court had the parties submit post-trial briefs. After reviewing these briefs and the evidence presented at the trial, on February 24, 2016, the district court (Judge Zouhary) found for the defendants. Judge Zouhary held that the plaintiffs alleged an injury in fact sufficient to establish standing, but that they failed to demonstrate that CBP maintained a policy or custom that had a discriminatory effect on Hispanics that was motivated by a discriminatory purpose. Judge Zouhary also held that the plaintiffs failed to establish that CBP had a policy or practice of escalating consensual encounters through immigration interrogations or encouraging local law enforcement officers to unconstitutionally prolong their investigations. 2016 WL 726901 (N.D.Ohio, Feb. 24, 2016).
On April 19, 2016, the plaintiffs appealed the district court's decision. As of May 16, 2016, that appeal is pending before the Sixth Circuit. Jennifer Bronson - 10/26/2013
Jessica Kincaid - 05/16/2016