University of Michigan Law School
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Case Name Aguilar-Ayala v. Ruiz IM-TX-0008
Docket / Court CA-B-88-12 ( S.D. Tex. )
State/Territory Texas
Case Type(s) Immigration
Case Summary
On January 27, 1988, two detained aliens filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus and class action complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, challenging the federal government's practice of detaining them and other similarly situated aliens as material witnesses ... read more >
On January 27, 1988, two detained aliens filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus and class action complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, challenging the federal government's practice of detaining them and other similarly situated aliens as material witnesses for the criminal prosecution of those persons charged with transporting them across the border. Plaintiffs claimed that their continued detention violated their constitutional rights. The plaintiffs sought class certification and an injunction barring the government from detaining alien-witnesses for longer than ten days where a deposition would adequately preserve the criminal defendant's right to confrontation under the Sixth Amendment.

The petitioners had been arrested in Falfurrias, Texas, on November 14, 1987, shortly after they entered this country illegally. They were allegedly detained as material witnesses in connection with the criminal prosecutions of their smugglers. The petitioners objected to their detention and the Justice Department was ordered to depose them or release them from custody. Before they were released, their custody was transferred to the INS for deportation proceedings. Plaintiffs then filed this action. Shortly thereafter, they were released from custody, but they continued the lawsuit.

The government moved to dismiss the case, maintaining that the aliens had been detained for deportation under Immigration and Nationality Act and not as material witnesses.

The District Court did not rule on the government's motion. Instead, on July 15, 1988, the District Court entered an order in the case, which was adopted as a standing order governing the handling of all material witnesses in the Brownsville Division of the Southern District of Texas. The order was patterned after the one entered in In re Class Action Application for Habeas Corpus ex rel. All Material Witnesses in the Western District of Texas, 612 F.Supp. 940 (W.D.Tex.1985) [IM-TX-26] and set procedures including: (1) that the witness, government, or criminal defendant could move to depose a material witness; (2) that the deposition would be taken within 10 days of a magistrate's order to do so; (3) that a detention order by a magistrate be reviewable by a district court and (4) that the witness be released after 45 days absent a district court ruling that further detention is necessary.

Following that order, plaintiffs moved for an award if attorney fees. The District Court denied the request and plaintiffs appealed. The Firth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed. Aguilar-Ayala v. Ruiz, 973 F.2d 411 (5th Cir. 1988).

Katie Goodenberger - 08/27/2007


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
General
Habeas Corpus
Immigration
Constitutional rights
Criminal prosecution
Detention - criteria
Detention - procedures
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action Habeas Corpus, 28 U.S.C. ยงยง 2241-2253; 2254; 2255
Defendant(s) Department of Justice
Plaintiff Description A group of undocumented aliens who challenged the practice of detaining alien witnesses rather than deposing and releasing them
Indexed Lawyer Organizations None on record
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Unknown
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Form of Settlement None on record
Order Duration 1988 - n/a
Case Closing Year 1988
Case Ongoing No
Case Listing IM-TX-0026 : In re Class Action Application for Habeas Corpus on Behalf of All Material Witnesses in Western Dist. of Texas (W.D. Tex.)
Additional Resources
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Case Studies Threats to the Future of the Immigration Class Action
Washington University Journal of Law and Policy
By: Jill E. Family (Widener University School of Law)
Citation: 27 Wash. U. J.L. & Pol'y 71 (2008)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
1:88-cv-00012 (S.D. Tex.) 07/17/1990
IM-TX-0008-9000 PDF | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Opinion 09/25/1992 (973 F.2d 411)
IM-TX-0008-0001 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Judges Davis, W. Eugene (W.D. La., Fifth Circuit)
IM-TX-0008-0001
Goldberg, Irving Loeb (Fifth Circuit)
IM-TX-0008-0001
Higginbotham, Patrick Errol (N.D. Tex., Fifth Circuit)
IM-TX-0008-0001
Vela, Filemon Bartolome (S.D. Tex.)
IM-TX-0008-9000
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers White, Carter C. (Texas)
IM-TX-0008-0001
Defendant's Lawyers Ayala, David (Texas)
IM-TX-0008-0001
Tomecek, Marianne (Texas)
IM-TX-0008-0001
Woods, Ronald G. (Texas)
IM-TX-0008-0001
Other Lawyers None on record

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