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Case Name Rodriguez Alvarado v. United States IM-NJ-0010
Docket / Court 2:16-cv-05028 ( D.N.J. )
State/Territory New Jersey
Case Type(s) Immigration and/or the Border
Attorney Organization Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization (Yale)
Case Summary
On August 17, 2016, an individual plaintiff and her minor child filed this civil rights lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey. The plaintiffs, refugees from Honduras, alleged that they were wrongfully detained and subjected to inhumane treatment and unlawful conditions ... read more >
On August 17, 2016, an individual plaintiff and her minor child filed this civil rights lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey. The plaintiffs, refugees from Honduras, alleged that they were wrongfully detained and subjected to inhumane treatment and unlawful conditions of confinement pursuant to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) policies and practices. The plaintiffs sued the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act for the tortious acts of its employees (specifically, employees of DHS and its constituent units). Represented by private counsel, the Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization, Morningside Heights Legal Services, and the Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project, the plaintiffs sought compensatory damages. The case was assigned to Judge Madeline C. Arleo and Magistrate Judge Michael A. Hammer.

In their complaint, the plaintiffs claimed that they fled Honduras after facing threats and abuse from the police due to their political activity. After crossing into the U.S., the plaintiffs stated that they were quickly apprehended by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents and placed in a holding facility, known as an “icebox" because of its cold temperatures. The plaintiffs alleged that the conditions in the holding facilities were inhumane--they were asked to sleep on the wet and cold floor in a crowded place, despite the minor child's asthma; the only food they were provided were cold sandwiches; and their sleep was constantly interrupted by agents.

The plaintiffs also claimed that during their stay, despite the fact that the mother informed CBP that she feared returning to Honduras, the agents pressured and threatened her to get her to sign papers accepting a removal order. Furthermore, she claimed that ICE attempted to separate her from her minor child.

Despite passing their credible fear interviews, the plaintiffs alleged that they were detained from January to May 2015, even though they posed no danger or flight risk and both were eligible for immediate release. The plaintiffs also alleged that this practice violated the Flores consent decree, which requires ICE to expeditiously place minors in licensed facilities and prioritizes the prompt release of minors held in immigration detention. The plaintiffs eventually were granted withholding of removal by an immigration judge and released.

The plaintiffs made the following legal claims in their complaint: abuse of process, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent supervision, and negligence.

On November 18, 2016, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss the case or have the case transferred to what it believed to be a proper venue--either the Southern or Western District of Texas, as the plaintiffs had been detained in Texas.

On December 16, the case was reassigned to Magistrate Judge Steven C. Mannion.

On May 25, 2017, the court denied the defendant's motion to dismiss or transfer, finding the venue was proper in New Jersey. 2017 WL 2303758.

The parties then engaged in discovery and settlement negotiations for many months. On August 3, 2018, the parties notified the court that they had reached an agreement in principle to settle all of the plaintiffs' claims. And on October 24, the parties participated in a settlement hearing before Magistrate Judge Mannion.

In the proposed settlement agreement, the United States did not admit liability but agreed to pay $125,000 in full satisfaction of all the plaintiffs' claims, with 75 percent going to the minor child and the remaining 25 percent to the mother. The parties were to bear their own costs, fees and expenses, and any attorneys' fees owed by the plaintiffs were to be paid out of the settlement amount.

The plaintiffs then moved for the court's approval of the settlement and voluntary dismissal of the case. On December 17, 2018, the court issued a letter order-opinion, finding the settlement to be fair and reasonable, but disagreeing with the plaintiffs regarding the disposition of the minor child's portion of the settlement proceeds. The plaintiffs had requested that the funds be placed in a private trust to be used for the child's maintenance until he turned twenty-one, but the court denied the request and instructed that the funds be deposited with the Surrogate's Court for Hudson County, New Jersey.

On December 22, 2018, the plaintiffs moved for partial reconsideration, or in the alternative partial relief, from the court's judgment as to the denial of the plaintiffs' motion to deposit the minor child's settlement funds into a private trust. The plaintiffs also moved for a partial stay of the judgment to prevent the funds from being deposited with the Surrogate's Court while the court reconsidered its judgment.

On February 21, 2019, the parties jointly filed a proposed consent order. The court approved the settlement on February 22, dismissing the action and vacating its earlier judgment. Thus, the terms of the parties' initially proposed agreement were approved. The plaintiffs were awarded $125,000, with $93,750 to be deposited into a trust in the name of the minor child.

The case is closed.

Sihang Zhang - 12/28/2016
Taylor Brook - 03/21/2018
Sam Kulhanek - 03/28/2020


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
General
Assault/abuse by staff
False arrest
Immigration/Border
Asylum - procedure
Detention - conditions
Detention - criteria
Detention - procedures
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), 28 U.S.C. § 2674
Defendant(s) United States of America
United States of America
United States of America
United States of America
Plaintiff Description A refugee mother and son who had been detained in the United States.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization (Yale)
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Damages
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Voluntary Dismissal
Filed 08/17/2016
Case Closing Year 2019
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
Court Docket(s)
D.N.J. 2:16-cv-05028-MCA-MAH
IM-NJ-0010-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/05/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
D.N.J.
Complaint [ECF# 1]
IM-NJ-0010-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/17/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D.N.J.
Opinion [ECF# 34] (2017 WL 2303758)
IM-NJ-0010-0002.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 05/25/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D.N.J.
Letter Order-Opinion [ECF# 85]
IM-NJ-0010-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/17/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D.N.J.
Consent Order Approving Settlement and Dismissal of Action [ECF# 97]
IM-NJ-0010-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/22/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Arleo, Madeline Cox (D.N.J.) show/hide docs
IM-NJ-0010-0002
Mannion, Steven C. Court not on record [Magistrate] show/hide docs
IM-NJ-0010-0003 | IM-NJ-0010-0004
Plaintiff's Lawyers Ahmad, Muneer I. (Connecticut) show/hide docs
IM-NJ-0010-0001
Lasdon, Douglas (New York) show/hide docs
IM-NJ-0010-0001
Loyo, Ruben (Connecticut) show/hide docs
IM-NJ-0010-0001 | IM-NJ-0010-9000
Lustberg, Lawrence S. (New Jersey) show/hide docs
IM-NJ-0010-0001 | IM-NJ-0010-9000
Mukherjee, Elora (New York) show/hide docs
IM-NJ-0010-0001 | IM-NJ-0010-9000
Parikh, Reena (Connecticut) show/hide docs
IM-NJ-0010-9000
Wishnie, Michael J. (Connecticut) show/hide docs
IM-NJ-0010-0001
Defendant's Lawyers Dharia, Kruti D. (New Jersey) show/hide docs
IM-NJ-0010-9000
Meyler, Daniel W (New York) show/hide docs
IM-NJ-0010-9000

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