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
Special Collection COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)
Attorney Organization Southern Poverty Law Center
Case Summary
COVID-19 summary: On May 7, the plaintiffs sought a temporary restraining order in response to COVID-19, directing the defendants to remove access barriers and ameliorate dangerously punitive conditions at the detention facilities at issue, such as providing detainees with access to free and ... read more >
COVID-19 summary: On May 7, the plaintiffs sought a temporary restraining order in response to COVID-19, directing the defendants to remove access barriers and ameliorate dangerously punitive conditions at the detention facilities at issue, such as providing detainees with access to free and private phone calls. They claimed that the defendants had restricted access to legal visitations due to COVID-19, but failed to accommodate remote communications. The court granted in part the temporary restraining order on June 17, ordering the defendants to provide plaintiffs adequate telephone access, ensure that phones are in proper working order, ensure attorney-client confidentiality on all phone calls, among other things. The case is ongoing.


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.

On May 4, 2018, the SPLC moved for preliminary injunction. On July 26, 2018 the parties filed a status report indicating that they had negotiated a full resolution of the motion and that a corresponding settlement agreement would be forthcoming. The parties filed their notice of settlement on September 5, 2018 regarding the LaSalle detention facility. Per the settlement, the defendants were to stop limiting confidential legal calls to under two hours and stop preventing or interrupting legal in-person visits or phone calls. The defendants were also to provide an adequate attorney consultation room, game room, Skype room, and pre-hearing room. The settlement provided for alternative dispute resolution should any issue arise over its implementation.

Litigation continued. On October 31, 2018, SPLC filed an amended complaint. SPLC added a count alleging violations of the Administrative Procedure Act for ICE's failure to comply with its own agency rules. On August 28, 2019, SPLC filed a second amended complaint, replacing several government defendants with new government defendants.

On March 18, 2020, the defendants filed a motion for mediation, also requesting to stay discovery pending mediation.
SPLC agreed to mediate, but objected to staying discovery, arguing that SPLC needed some of the requested information from the defendants for the mediation to be effective. SPLC also requested that the court grant limited and expedited discovery for the purpose of mediation.

On March 19, 2020, Judge Kollar-Kotelly granted the motion for mediation, referring the case to circuit court mediators for settlement proceedings from March 20, 2020 through June 1, 2020. In addition, the court denied a further stay of discovery pending mediation as well as request for limited discovery on April 7, 2020, stating that the limited discovery could take weeks if not months.

On May 1, 2020, the parties filed a joint status report stating that the mediation has been put off until the discovery disputes are resolved.

On May 7, the plaintiffs sought a temporary restraining order in response to COVID-19, directing the defendants to remove access barriers and ameliorate dangerously punitive conditions at the detention facilities at issue, such as providing detainees with access to free and private phone calls. The plaintiffs claimed that the defendants had restricted access to legal visitations due to COVID-19, but failed to accommodate remote communications.

The defendants responded that they have implemented COVID-19 protocols necessary to reduce the risk of COVID-19, such as providing protective equipment, expanded hours for video teleconferencing attorney-client visits. They further claimed that the court lacks jurisdiction to grant the TRO.

The court granted in part the temporary restraining order on June 17, 2020. Specifically, the court ordered the defendants to provide plaintiffs adequate telephone access, ensure that phones are in proper working order, ensure attorney-client confidentiality on all phone calls, among other things. 2020 WL 3265533.

The case is ongoing.

Virginia Weeks - 04/05/2018
Virginia Weeks - 11/02/2018
Bogyung Lim - 06/07/2020
Averyn Lee - 06/28/2020


compress summary

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Due Process: Procedural Due Process
Due Process: Substantive Due Process
Freedom of speech/association
Defendant-type
Law-enforcement
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
Medical/Mental Health
COVID-19 Mitigation Granted
COVID-19 Mitigation Requested
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 Southern Poverty Law Center
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Private Settlement Agreement
Filed 04/04/2018
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
  Southern Poverty Law Center v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security, et al.
https://www.splcenter.org
Date: May 7, 2020
By: Southern Poverty Law Center
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
1:18-cv-760 (D.D.C.)
IM-DC-0046-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/24/2020
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]
Settlement Agreement on Plaintiffs's Motion for Preliminary Injunction Regarding the Lasalle ICE Processing Center [ECF# 42]
IM-DC-0046-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/05/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
First Amended Complaint [ECF# 57]
IM-DC-0046-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/31/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Second Amended Complaint [ECF# 70]
IM-DC-0046-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/28/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Plaintiff's Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order [ECF# 105 (& 105-1 to 105-11)]
IM-DC-0046-0007.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/07/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Defendants' Corrected Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion for Temporary Restraining Order [ECF# 112 (& 112-1 to 112-21)]
IM-DC-0046-0008.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/17/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Plaintiff's Reply in Support of Motion for Temporary Restraining Order [ECF# 113, 113-1]
IM-DC-0046-0009.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/18/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 123] (D.D.C.)
IM-DC-0046-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/17/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion [ECF# 124] (2020 WL 3265533) (D.D.C.)
IM-DC-0046-0005.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 06/17/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Kollar-Kotelly, Colleen (FISC, D.D.C.) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0046-0005 | IM-DC-0046-0006 | IM-DC-0046-9000
Meriweather, Robin Michelle Court not on record [Magistrate] show/hide docs
IM-DC-0046-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Agarwal, Shalini Goel (Florida) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0046-0007 | IM-DC-0046-0009 | IM-DC-0046-9000
Bergin, John Timothy (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0046-0001 | IM-DC-0046-0002 | IM-DC-0046-0003 | IM-DC-0046-0004 | IM-DC-0046-0007 | IM-DC-0046-0009 | IM-DC-0046-9000
Cincone, Gia L. (California) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0046-0002 | IM-DC-0046-0003 | IM-DC-0046-0004 | IM-DC-0046-9000
Crow, Melissa E. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Davidson, Jared (Louisiana) show/hide docs
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Dorris, William E. (Georgia) show/hide docs
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Fisher, Jeffrey (Georgia) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0046-0002 | IM-DC-0046-0004 | IM-DC-0046-0007 | IM-DC-0046-0009 | IM-DC-0046-9000
Gaffney, Conor S (Louisiana) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0046-0007 | IM-DC-0046-0009 | IM-DC-0046-9000
Graybill, Lisa S. (Louisiana) show/hide docs
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Henel, Christian F. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0046-0001 | IM-DC-0046-9000
Johnson, Jamila A. (Louisiana) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0046-0002 | IM-DC-0046-0003 | IM-DC-0046-0004 | IM-DC-0046-9000
Johnson, Elissa F (Mississippi) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0046-0004 | IM-DC-0046-9000
Lyons, Natalie (Georgia) show/hide docs
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Pangborn, Susan W (Georgia) show/hide docs
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Rivera, Laura G. (Georgia) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0046-0009
Sheehy, Maureen A. (California) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0046-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Burch, Alan (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0046-9000
Byerley, David J (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0046-0008 | IM-DC-0046-9000
Davila, Yamileth G. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0046-0008 | IM-DC-0046-9000
Hunt, Joseph H. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0046-0008
Liu, Jessie K. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0046-0002
Lyerla, Christopher Thomas (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0046-9000
Mueller, Ruth Ann (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0046-0008 | IM-DC-0046-9000
Peachey, William Charles (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0046-0008
Schaefer, Daniel Patrick (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0046-0002 | IM-DC-0046-9000
Van Horn, Daniel F (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0046-0002
Walker, James Joseph (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0046-0008 | IM-DC-0046-9000
Wall, Sheetul Sheth (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0046-9000

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