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.

On May 4, 2018, the SPLC moved for preliminary injunction. On July 26, 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 Sept. 5 regarding the LaSalle detention facility. Per the settlement, the defendants were to stop limiting confidential legal calls to under tow 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 Oct. 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.

The case is ongoing.

Virginia Weeks - 04/05/2018
Virginia Weeks - 11/02/2018


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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 Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Filing Year 2018
Case Ongoing Yes
Docket(s)
1:18-cv-760 (D.D.C.)
IM-DC-0046-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/02/2018
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]
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]
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-0046-0002 | IM-DC-0046-0003 | IM-DC-0046-9000
Cincone, Gia L. (California)
IM-DC-0046-0002 | IM-DC-0046-0003 | IM-DC-0046-9000
Crow, Melissa E. (District of Columbia)
IM-DC-0046-0001 | IM-DC-0046-0002 | IM-DC-0046-0003 | IM-DC-0046-9000
Davidson, Jared (Louisiana)
IM-DC-0046-0001 | IM-DC-0046-0002 | IM-DC-0046-0003 | IM-DC-0046-9000
Dorris, William E. (Georgia)
IM-DC-0046-0001 | IM-DC-0046-0002 | IM-DC-0046-0003 | IM-DC-0046-9000
Fisher, Jeffrey (Georgia)
IM-DC-0046-0002 | IM-DC-0046-9000
Graybill, Lisa S. (Louisiana)
IM-DC-0046-0001 | IM-DC-0046-0002 | IM-DC-0046-0003 | IM-DC-0046-9000
Henel, Christian F. (District of Columbia)
IM-DC-0046-0001 | IM-DC-0046-9000
Johnson, Elissa F (Mississippi)
IM-DC-0046-9000
Johnson, Jamila A. (Louisiana)
IM-DC-0046-0002 | IM-DC-0046-0003 | IM-DC-0046-9000
Lyons, Natalie (Georgia)
IM-DC-0046-0002 | IM-DC-0046-0003 | IM-DC-0046-9000
Pangborn, Susan W (Georgia)
IM-DC-0046-0001 | IM-DC-0046-0002 | IM-DC-0046-9000
Sheehy, Maureen A. (California)
IM-DC-0046-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Liu, Jessie K. (District of Columbia)
IM-DC-0046-0002
Schaefer, Daniel Patrick (District of Columbia)
IM-DC-0046-0002 | IM-DC-0046-9000
Van Horn, Daniel F (District of Columbia)
IM-DC-0046-0002

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