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Case Name Ortuño v. Jennings IM-CA-0158
Docket / Court 3:20-cv-02064 ( N.D. Cal. )
State/Territory California
Case Type(s) Immigration and/or the Border
Special Collection COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)
Attorney Organization ACLU Chapters (any)
Case Summary
COVID-19 summary: This is an action brought on March 24, 2020 by 13 immigration detainees in California, seeking release from ICE detention in light of the grave threat of infection. Six plaintiffs with underlying medical conditions were granted a TRO, and were later granted preliminary injunctive ... read more >
COVID-19 summary: This is an action brought on March 24, 2020 by 13 immigration detainees in California, seeking release from ICE detention in light of the grave threat of infection. Six plaintiffs with underlying medical conditions were granted a TRO, and were later granted preliminary injunctive relief.
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On March 24, 2020, thirteen immigrants detained in California at the Mesa Verde Detention Center and at the Yuba County Jail sued ICE, alleged violations of their Fifth Amendment rights to substantive due process by subjecting them to a heightened risk of contracting COVID-19. The plaintiffs sought attorneys’ fees, declaratory judgment that the detention conditions posed an unreasonable risk of contracting illness, and a writ of habeas corpus for their immediate release or, in the alternative, injunctive relief ordering the plaintiff’s immediate release. The plaintiffs were represented by the ACLU, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, and private counsel. The case was assigned to Judge Maxine Chesney.

The plaintiffs argued that the defendants cannot justify subjecting the plaintiffs to this increased risk of illness with any legitimate government objective, and therefore their detention violates their constitutional right to safety in government custody. Each of the plaintiffs’ age or underlying health conditions make them particularly vulnerable to COVID-19. The plaintiffs alleged that their detainment with the general population without CDC-recommended “social distancing” practices increases their risk of contracting COVID-19. The plaintiffs further alleged that the defendants exacerbated the risk by conducting pre-dawn raids and adding new detainees to the facilities without quarantine. Other jails around the country, including multiple within California, have released prisoners in the interest of protecting individual and public health.

Concurrently, the plaintiffs filed a motion for a temporary restraining order. They claimed that they are likely to succeed on the merits of their claim since the increased risk of COVID-19 contraction amounts to a punishment in violation of the Fifth Amendment. They contended that the court’s authority to order the plaintiffs’ release is the sole effective remedy for this constitutional violation since it is impossible to implement preventative measures like social distancing and frequent disinfection in the detention centers. They argued that the alleged violation of the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights constitutes irreparable harm and also tips the balance of equities in their favor. The plaintiffs also argued that their release would support the broader public interest by reducing the health and economic burden on the surrounding community.

Of the thirteen plaintiffs originally included in the suit, two were released and one was voluntarily dismissed.

On April 8, 2020, Judge Chesney ruled on eight of the remaining ten petitioner's motion for temporary restraining order. 2020 WL 1701724. Adjudication of two plaintiffs was deferred in order for the parties to file additional relevant information. For the other eighth plaintiffs, Judge Chesney rejected the defendant's claim that the plaintiffs lacked Article III standing. Although the defendants argued that no plaintiffs were alleged to have contracted COVID-19, Judge Chesney found that the confined nature of the jail made the risk of contraction sufficient to support standing. Turning to the factors considered in a TRO motion, Judge Chesney found four plaintiffs were unlikely to succeed on their claim because the record lacked evidence of a medical condition placing them at a higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19. Four other plaintiffs, however, were found to have met this standard. These plaintiffs had underlying medical conditions, such as asthma or diabetes, that put them at higher risk of severe illness given the inability to effectively social distance in the detention facility. Judge Chesney found that these detainment conditions were excessive to their purpose, and therefore the four plaintiffs with sufficient evidence supporting their medical conditions were found likely to succeed on the merits of their claims. For many of the same reasons, Judge Chesney found that these four plaintiffs likely to suffer irreparable harm if the TRO were not granted. The balance of hardships also tipped in the four plaintiffs' favor, and the "highly unusual circumstances" presented by the global pandemic supported a finding that the public interest was served by the TRO. Therefore, Judge Chesney granted the TRO for the four plaintiffs who presented sufficient evidence of underlying medical conditions elevating their risk of severe illness if they contracted COVID-19, and denied the TRO for the other four. Judge Chesney ordered the plaintiffs to be transported to an alternative residence and to remain their except to receive medical care, to appear at immigration court proceedings, or to obey an order issued by the Department of Homeland Security. In addition to these conditions, Judge Chesney added two more on April 13 as requested by the defendants. In addition to the conditions stated above, the released petitioners would also be subject to ICE's usual orders of release, and the petitioners would be subject to GPS monitoring if elected by ICE.

For three of the petitioners denied relief in the April 8 order, plaintiffs filed a motion for reconsideration. The plaintiffs provided a declaration from a physician for each petitioner demonstrating that each had at least one health condition that placed them at an increased risk of contracting a severe illness if infected by COVID-19. On April 20, though, Judge Chesney denied the motion. She found that the evidence did not show that the medical records did not exist prior to the original motion, nor did it show that plaintiffs could not have obtained the evidence before filing their original motion. Therefore, Judge Chesney denied the motion for reconsideration without prejudice as to the filing of a motion for a preliminary injunction.

On April 14, Judge Chesney granted the motion for TRO for the two deferred petitioners as well. 2020 WL 1866122. Those two plaintiffs presented evidence documenting their hypertension, a condition that the CDC had recognized as putting individuals at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Judge Chesney imposed the same conditions noted above on the release of these two petitioners as the other four.

After granting the aforementioned TRO relief, Judge Chesney directed the respondents to show cause why a preliminary injunction should not be ordered for the six petitioners. The respondents asserted that the Court lacked jurisdiction to grant such relief, and argued that the increased provision of soap and cleaning supplies weighed against granting injunctive relief. The Court found that it had jurisdiction since the defendant (Acting Field Director for the San Francisco Field Office of ICE) was within the Court's territorial jurisdiction. The Court also determined that the additional sanitation measures may alleviate some of the concerns, but the plaintiffs' medical conditions still place them at an increased risk of contracting a severe illness if they were to be detained. Therefore, on March 7, the Court granted the preliminary injunctive relief. 2020 WL 2218965. The Court did not specify a date on which the injunction would expire.

As of May 9, the case is ongoing.

Justin Hill - 05/09/2020


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process: Substantive Due Process
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief denied
Preliminary relief granted
Defendant-type
Law-enforcement
General
Conditions of confinement
Habeas Corpus
Sanitation / living conditions
Immigration/Border
Detention - conditions
Medical/Mental Health
COVID-19 Release Denied
COVID-19 Release Granted
COVID-19 Release Requested
Medical care, general
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Special Case Type
Habeas
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action Habeas Corpus, 28 U.S.C. §§ 2241-2253; 2254; 2255
Defendant(s) Acting Director of the San Francisco Field Office of ICE
Deputy Director of ICE
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Plaintiff Description Thirteen ICE detainees.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU Chapters (any)
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted Moot
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Mixed
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order
Source of Relief Litigation
Filed 03/24/2020
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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Docket(s)
3:20-cv-2064 (N.D. Cal.)
IM-CA-0158-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/07/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Notice of Motion and Motion for Temporary Restraining Order; Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support Thereof
IM-CA-0158-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/23/2020
Source: ACLU
Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 and Complaint for Injunctive and Declaratory Relief
IM-CA-0158-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/24/2020
Source: ACLU
Order Re: Petitioners' Motion for Temporary Restraining Order; Directions to Parties [ECF# 38] (2020 WL 1701724) (N.D. Cal.)
IM-CA-0158-0003.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 04/08/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Re: Deferred Portion of Petitioners' Motion for Temporary Restraining Order; Directions to Petitioners [ECF# 51] (2020 WL 1866122) (N.D. Cal.)
IM-CA-0158-0004.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 04/14/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Denying Petitioners' Motion for Leave to File Motion for Reconsideration [ECF# 60] (N.D. Cal.)
IM-CA-0158-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/20/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Granting Preliminary Injunction as to Petitioners Medina Calderon, Lavrus, Joseph, Solorio Lopez, Torres Murillo, and Quinteros [ECF# 71] (N.D. Cal.)
IM-CA-0158-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/07/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Chesney, Maxine M. (N.D. Cal.) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0158-0003 | IM-CA-0158-0004 | IM-CA-0158-0005 | IM-CA-0158-0006 | IM-CA-0158-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Beier, Genna Ellis (California) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0158-0001 | IM-CA-0158-0002 | IM-CA-0158-9000
Bernwanger, Bree (California) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0158-0001 | IM-CA-0158-0002 | IM-CA-0158-9000
Freeman, William S. (California) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0158-0001 | IM-CA-0158-0002 | IM-CA-0158-9000
Gonzalez, Matt (California) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0158-0001 | IM-CA-0158-0002
Kaufman, Michael (California) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0158-0001 | IM-CA-0158-0002 | IM-CA-0158-9000
Lakin, Judah Ben (California) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0158-0001 | IM-CA-0158-0002 | IM-CA-0158-9000
MacLean, Emilou (California) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0158-9000
Padilla, Stephanie (California) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0158-0001 | IM-CA-0158-0002 | IM-CA-0158-9000
Raju, Manour (California) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0158-0001 | IM-CA-0158-0002
Ressl−Moyer, Tifanei (California) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0158-0001 | IM-CA-0158-0002 | IM-CA-0158-9000
Riordan, Sean Connor (California) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0158-0001 | IM-CA-0158-0002 | IM-CA-0158-9000
Rodarte, Hayden (California) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0158-0001 | IM-CA-0158-0002 | IM-CA-0158-9000
Salceda, Angelica H. (California) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0158-0001 | IM-CA-0158-0002 | IM-CA-0158-9000
Ugarte, Fransisco (California) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0158-0001 | IM-CA-0158-0002 | IM-CA-0158-9000
Wells, Jordan (California) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0158-0001 | IM-CA-0158-0002 | IM-CA-0158-9000
Wille, Amalia Margarete (California) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0158-9000
Willie, Amalia (California) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0158-0001 | IM-CA-0158-0002
Defendant's Lawyers Winslow, Sara (California) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0158-9000

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