University of Michigan Law School
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Case Name Rios-Diaz v. Butler IM-MT-0001
Docket / Court 2:13-cv-00077-SEH-CSO ( D. Mont. )
State/Territory Montana
Case Type(s) Immigration and/or the Border
Case Summary
On October 7, 2013, a group of Latino men and the Montana Immigrant Justice Alliance (MIJA) filed this putative class-action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana. Plaintiffs sued the Montana Highway Patrol (MHP) and Montana Department of Justice under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ... read more >
On October 7, 2013, a group of Latino men and the Montana Immigrant Justice Alliance (MIJA) filed this putative class-action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana. Plaintiffs sued the Montana Highway Patrol (MHP) and Montana Department of Justice under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The plaintiffs, represented by private counsel, claimed violations of the Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment; the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments' prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures; and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. § 2000d et seq.). Plaintiffs sought injunctive and declaratory relief, as well as attorney’s fees.

Plaintiffs sought class status to represent “[a]ll Latino persons who, since October 7, 2010, have been or will be in the future, stopped, detained, questioned or searched by Montana Highway Patrol officers while driving or sitting in a vehicle on a public roadway or parking area in the State of Montana.”

Plaintiffs alleged that Defendants had a pattern and practice of seizing Latino residents and visitors of Montana and “prolonging their detention” for the sole purpose of contacting the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) based on suspicions of immigration status violations, which was not within the authority of MHP. Plaintiffs alleged MHP used racial profiling to form their suspicions regarding immigration status and used deceptive practices to detain Latino residents and visitors.

Specifically, one of the named plaintiffs in this case alleged he was pulled over for a speeding violation, then asked repeated questions regarding his citizenship and whether he was in the country legally. He was a U.S. citizen, but was subjected to prolonged detention during which members of the MHP contacted U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), even after production of a valid Montana driver’s license. A second named plaintiff alleged he was asked to produce identification as the passenger of a vehicle. He and the driver were detained for two hours while DHS was contacted to inquire about their immigration status; no traffic violation or any other citation was issued for this stop.

On December 3, 2013, Judge Sam E. Haddon recused himself from the case. The case was reassigned to Judge Dana L. Christensen.

On December 6, 2013, the defendants moved to dismiss the complaint. They argued that the state law claims were barred by Eleventh Amendment immunity; that Title VI did not apply to individuals, yet plaintiffs were suing individuals; and that plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment claims were “doubled up” with the equal protection claims. Based on an April 1, 2014 report issued by Magistrate Judge Carolyn S. Otsby, on July 25, 2014, Judge Christensen dismissed the state law claims but denied the motion to dismiss the Title VI and Fourth Amendment claims.

The parties proceeded to discovery, but on April 3, 2015, Judge Christensen approved a settlement agreement. Under the terms of the settlement, MHP would adhere to its policy GR-9, which stated that Highway Patrol officers cannot detain individuals solely for the purpose of verifying immigration status or stop individuals on the basis of race or national origin, among other descriptors. The settlement further provided for training for MHP officers on this policy and also began requiring officers to log when and if they contacted DHS during the course of a traffic stop. In addition, the defendants agreed to pay for racial profiling studies done by an independent authority over a five year period; to post annual reports regarding racial profiling and steps taken to address it on the Montana Department of Justice website; and to establish an Independent Police Auditor to review investigations of complaints. Finally, the consent decree stated that the defendants would pay the plaintiffs' attorneys fees, but there was no later order as to the exact amount.

The consent decree ended on April 3, 2020 without any motions for enforcement.

Rachel Czwartacky - 06/03/2020

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Due Process: Substantive Due Process
Equal Protection
Unreasonable search and seizure
Content of Injunction
Discrimination Prohibition
Implement complaint/dispute resolution process
Required disclosure
Immigration status
National origin discrimination
Race discrimination
Disparate Impact
Disparate Treatment
Incident/accident reporting & investigations
Over/Unlawful Detention
Pattern or Practice
Racial profiling
Search policies
Constitutional rights
Detention - criteria
Detention - procedures
National Origin/Ethnicity
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Race, unspecified
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
State law
Title VI, Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d et seq.
Defendant(s) Montana Highway Patrol
Plaintiff Description Four Latino men detained in traffic stops to check their immigration status as representatives on behalf of a putative class of all Latino/a persons who may have been unlawfully detained in Montana, and the Montana Immigrant Justice Alliance.
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status outcome Denied
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Attorneys fees
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 2015 - 2020
Filed 10/07/2013
Case Closing Year 2020
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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  See this case at (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
  Rios-Diaz, et al. v. Colonel Tom Butler, Montana Highway Patrol, et al.
American Immigration Council
Date: February 17, 2016
By: American Immigration Council
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Court Docket(s)
D. Mont.
IM-MT-0001-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
D. Mont.
Complaint (Class Action) [ECF# 1]
IM-MT-0001-0001.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D. Mont.
Findings and Recommendations of U.S. Magistrate Judge [ECF# 19] (2014 WL 12591682)
IM-MT-0001-0002.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D. Mont.
Order [ECF# 22] (2014 WL 12591836)
IM-MT-0001-0003.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D. Mont.
Judgment [ECF# 39]
IM-MT-0001-0004.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Christensen, Dana Lewis (D. Mont.) show/hide docs
IM-MT-0001-0003 | IM-MT-0001-0004 | IM-MT-0001-9000
Ostby, Carolyn S. (D. Mont.) [Magistrate] show/hide docs
Plaintiff's Lawyers Farris−Olsen, Robert (Montana) show/hide docs
Haque, Arif (Missouri) show/hide docs
Haque-Hausrath, Shahid (Montana) show/hide docs
IM-MT-0001-0001 | IM-MT-0001-9000
Miller, Brian J. (Montana) show/hide docs
Peterson, Scott L. (Montana) show/hide docs
Defendant's Lawyers Cox, Randy J. (Montana) show/hide docs
Crowley, William L. (Montana) show/hide docs
Tanner, Randy J (Montana) show/hide docs

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