University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Benavides v. Gartland IM-GA-0015
Docket / Court 5:20-cv-00046 ( S.D. Ga. )
Additional Docket(s) 4:20-cv-0069  [ 20-69 ]  Southern District of GA (U.S.)
State/Territory Georgia
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: This is a habeas and injunctive action brought on behalf of immigration detainees in the Folkston ICE Processing Center. The detainees requested release, arguing that continuing detention would violate their constitutional rights because they suffered from underlying medical ... read more >
COVID-19 Summary: This is a habeas and injunctive action brought on behalf of immigration detainees in the Folkston ICE Processing Center. The detainees requested release, arguing that continuing detention would violate their constitutional rights because they suffered from underlying medical conditions that made them especially vulnerable to COVID-19. The court refused to issue preliminary relief, and the plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed the case in August 2020, however the case remains ongoing to resolve procedural issues.


On April 8, 2020, three detainees in the Folkston ICE Processing center brought this action in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia. Represented by the Southern Poverty Law Center and private counsel, the plaintiffs sued Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the ICE Field Office, and the Folkston ICE Processing Center. The plaintiffs sought a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 and alleged violations of their Fifth Amendment Due Process rights. Specifically, they alleged that the conditions at Folkston, including the failure to provide adequate medical care, housing in close quarters, and unsanitary living spaces put the plaintiffs at a severe risk for contracting COVID-19. They alleged that their underlying medical conditions made them particularly vulnerable to serious illness or death from the virus, and that release was the only appropriate remedy.

The plaintiffs also filed a motion for a temporary restraining order to secure their immediate release at the same time they filed their complaint.

The original case (No. 4:20-cv-0069) was transferred in-district and received a new docket number (No. 5:20-cv-00046). The original case was assigned to Judge Christopher L. Ray, but the case was assigned to Judge Lisa Wood and Magistrate Judge Benjamin W. Cheesbro after the transfer.

On April 18, Judge Wood denied the plaintiffs' motion for preliminary relief. She explained that the plaintiffs were unlikely to succeed on the merits of their claims because their evidence did not show that release was the only way to remedy unsafe conditions of detention. Judge Wood also found that the plaintiffs had failed to show that they had a cause of action because circuit precedent suggested that habeas petitions could not be used to challenge conditions of confinement. 2020 WL 1914916.

The defendants filed a motion to dismiss on May 1. On May 7, the plaintiffs filed an amended complaint with more detail about the legal theories behind their Fifth Amendment claim, which the defendants moved to dismiss on May 18. On May 8, the plaintiffs filed a motion for a preliminary injunction and an emergency writ of habeas corpus.

On July 8, Judge Wood denied the plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction and writ of habeas corpus, finding that the plaintiffs were unlikely to succeed on their constitutional claims. The order reiterated that a habeas petition could not be used to challenge conditions of confinement and questioned whether any other cause of action existed. Assuming that one did, Judge Wood denied relief because the evidence about the Center's COVID response (or lack thereof) was conflicting, no evidence suggested that officials had been deliberately indifferent to the detainees' needs, and the plaintiffs had not established that the defendants had failed to comply with ICE guidelines that the plaintiffs said ICE had agreed to follow. 2020 WL 3839938.

Five days later, Magistrate Cheesbro took a "preliminary peek" at the defendants' motion to dismiss and found it contained sufficient merit to warrant granting a stay of discovery until the court ruled.

The plaintiffs filed a notice of voluntary dismissal on August 12, 2020, and the court dismissed the case the next day. The Clearinghouse does not know whether the parties settled out of court around the same time. But the case did not end: Judge Wood stayed the case for 60 days for the parties to submit motions or agreements about docket filing restrictions. On October 13, she extended the stay to November 11 at the parties' request. The case is ongoing as the parties address these procedural loose ends.

Caitlin Kierum - 07/20/2020
Timothy Leake - 10/28/2020


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Due Process: Substantive Due Process
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief denied
Crowding
Crowding / caseload
Defendant-type
Law-enforcement
General
Bathing and hygiene
Conditions of confinement
Habeas Corpus
Over/Unlawful Detention
Sanitation / living conditions
Totality of conditions
Immigration/Border
Constitutional rights
Detention - conditions
Medical/Mental Health
COVID-19 Mitigation Denied
COVID-19 Mitigation Requested
COVID-19 Release Denied
COVID-19 Release Requested
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Special Case Type
Habeas
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action Ex parte Young (federal or state officials)
Habeas Corpus, 28 U.S.C. §§ 2241-2253; 2254; 2255
Defendant(s) Folkston ICE Processing Center
Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Plaintiff Description Detainees in the Folkston ICE Processing Center
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Southern Poverty Law Center
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Defendant
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None
Source of Relief None
Filed 04/08/2020
Case Ongoing Yes
Case Listing IM-GA-0014 : Thompson v. Tsoukaris (N.D. Ga.)
Additional Resources
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Docket(s)
4:20-cv-00069-RSB-CLR (S.D. Ga.)
IM-GA-0015-9001.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/13/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 and Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief [ECF# 1]
IM-GA-0015-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/08/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum of Law in Support of Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and Emergency Writ of Habeas Corpus [ECF# 4-1 & 4-3 to 4-6]
IM-GA-0015-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/08/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 32] (2020 WL 1914916) (S.D. Ga.)
IM-GA-0015-0005.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 04/18/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Amended Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 and Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief [ECF# 36]
IM-GA-0015-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/07/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Petitioners-Plaintiffs' Motion for Preliminary Injunction and Emergency Writ of Habeas Corpus [ECF# 41 & 41-1]
IM-GA-0015-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/08/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 89] (2020 WL 3839938) (S.D. Ga.)
IM-GA-0015-0006.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 07/08/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 90] (S.D. Ga.)
IM-GA-0015-0007.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/13/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Cheesbro, Benjamin W. Court not on record [Magistrate] show/hide docs
IM-GA-0015-0007 | IM-GA-0015-9001
Wood, Lisa Godbey (S.D. Ga.) show/hide docs
IM-GA-0015-0005 | IM-GA-0015-0006 | IM-GA-0015-9001
Plaintiff's Lawyers Brouillette, Amanda Nicole (Georgia) show/hide docs
IM-GA-0015-0001 | IM-GA-0015-0002 | IM-GA-0015-0003 | IM-GA-0015-0004 | IM-GA-0015-9001
Caldas, Tamara S. (Georgia) show/hide docs
IM-GA-0015-0001 | IM-GA-0015-0002 | IM-GA-0015-0003 | IM-GA-0015-0004
Cassler, Rebecca (Georgia) show/hide docs
IM-GA-0015-0001 | IM-GA-0015-0002 | IM-GA-0015-0003 | IM-GA-0015-0004 | IM-GA-0015-9001
Chavez, Paul R (California) show/hide docs
IM-GA-0015-0001 | IM-GA-0015-0002 | IM-GA-0015-0003 | IM-GA-0015-0004 | IM-GA-0015-9001
Crow, Melissa E. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-GA-0015-0001 | IM-GA-0015-0002 | IM-GA-0015-0003 | IM-GA-0015-0004 | IM-GA-0015-9001
Isted, Kathryn E (Georgia) show/hide docs
IM-GA-0015-0001 | IM-GA-0015-0002 | IM-GA-0015-0003 | IM-GA-0015-0004 | IM-GA-0015-9001
Li, Hillary (Georgia) show/hide docs
IM-GA-0015-0001 | IM-GA-0015-0002 | IM-GA-0015-0003 | IM-GA-0015-0004 | IM-GA-0015-9001
Mesa-Estrada, Victoria (Florida) show/hide docs
IM-GA-0015-0001 | IM-GA-0015-0002 | IM-GA-0015-0003 | IM-GA-0015-0004 | IM-GA-0015-9001
Nguyen, Phi U. (Georgia) show/hide docs
IM-GA-0015-0001 | IM-GA-0015-0002 | IM-GA-0015-0003 | IM-GA-0015-0004 | IM-GA-0015-9001
Reeves, Mark Howard (Georgia) show/hide docs
IM-GA-0015-0001 | IM-GA-0015-0002 | IM-GA-0015-0003 | IM-GA-0015-0004 | IM-GA-0015-9001
Sandley, Caitlin J. (Alabama) show/hide docs
IM-GA-0015-9001
Williams, Lorilei (Georgia) show/hide docs
IM-GA-0015-0001 | IM-GA-0015-0002 | IM-GA-0015-0003 | IM-GA-0015-0004 | IM-GA-0015-9001
Willis, Gracie Harper (Georgia) show/hide docs
IM-GA-0015-0001 | IM-GA-0015-0002 | IM-GA-0015-0003 | IM-GA-0015-0004 | IM-GA-0015-9001
Defendant's Lawyers Leithart, Otto Woelke (Georgia) show/hide docs
IM-GA-0015-9001

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