University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Southern Poverty Law Center v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security IM-DC-0046
Docket / Court 1:18-cv-00760-CKK ( D.D.C. )
State/Territory District of Columbia
Case Type(s) Immigration and/or the Border
Attorney Organization American Immigration Council's Legal Action Center
Case Summary
This suit, filed on April 4, 2018, challenged the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) policy and practice of deliberately keeping detainees in immigration prisons from access to legal resources. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) brought the suit, arguing that DHS created and maintained ... read more >
This suit, filed on April 4, 2018, challenged the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) policy and practice of deliberately keeping detainees in immigration prisons from access to legal resources. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) brought the suit, arguing that DHS created and maintained substantial barriers for detainees in immigration prisons to meaningfully access and communicate with attorneys. SPLC argued that in so doing, DHS violated Fifth Amendment due process with respect to SPLC's clients as well as SPLC's First Amendment right to represent civil detainees. SPLC sought declaratory and injunctive relief. This suit was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia and assigned to Judge Colleen Kollar−Kotelly on the same day.

The SPLC brought this on behalf of itself and its clients detained in three detention facilities located in Louisiana and Georgia. The SPLC is a nonprofit organization that litigates and advocates on behalf of vulnerable populations. The SPLC specifically argued that "[t]he totality of barriers to accessing and communicating with attorneys endured by detainees in these prisons deprives SPLC’s clients of their constitutional rights to access courts, to access counsel, and to obtain full and fair hearings," as well as "SPLC’s rights to represent civil detainees." The complaint stated that noncitizens in these prisons were detained for civil and not criminal reasons, and that many had claims that would lead to release on bond or parole if they were granted removal proceedings, while many others had claims that would allow them to remain in the United States. The complaint further stated that these detainees were over 10 times more likely to win their cases, almost seven times more likely to obtain bond, and almost 20 times more likely to win their cases after release if they had legal representation during their detention.

The problem, the SPLC argued, was that these prisons were in geographically remote and isolated areas, making it "often...impossible to secure counsel." Even if a detainee could secure counsel, DHS prevented meaningful communication in various ways, including by restricting access to interpreters. Moreover, the prisons were so crowded that effective attorney-client meetings were often near impossible, and DHS permitted the prison operators to "enjoy virtual impunity in engaging in [unjustified] obstructive conduct." The SPLC also argued that attorneys trying to visit their clients often faced harassment, including facing verbal harassment for supporting "illegal immigration," forcing attorneys to remove their undergarments before entering the prison, and keeping them confined to locked areas of the prison for hours.

The case is ongoing.

Virginia Weeks - 04/05/2018


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Freedom of speech/association
Discrimination-basis
Immigration status
General
Access to lawyers or judicial system
Bail/Bond
Conditions of confinement
Confinement/isolation
Over/Unlawful Detention
Quality of representation
Visiting
Immigration/Border
Constitutional rights
Detention - conditions
Detention - procedures
Immigration lawyers
Plaintiff Type
Non-profit NON-religious organization
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
Defendant(s) U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Plaintiff Description Southern Poverty Law Center
Indexed Lawyer Organizations American Immigration Council's Legal Action Center
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None yet
Source of Relief None yet
Case Ongoing Yes
Docket(s)
1:18-cv-760 (D.D.C.)
IM-DC-0046-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/04/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
IM-DC-0046-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/04/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Kollar-Kotelly, Colleen (FISC, D.D.C.)
IM-DC-0046-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Bergin, John Timothy (District of Columbia)
IM-DC-0046-0001 | IM-DC-0046-9000
Crow, Melissa E. (District of Columbia)
IM-DC-0046-0001 | IM-DC-0046-9000
Davidson, Jared (Louisiana)
IM-DC-0046-0001
Dorris, William E. (Georgia)
IM-DC-0046-0001
Graybill, Lisa S. (Louisiana)
IM-DC-0046-0001
Henel, Christian F. (District of Columbia)
IM-DC-0046-0001 | IM-DC-0046-9000
Pangborn, Susan W (Georgia)
IM-DC-0046-0001

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