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Case Name Wright v. Anderson IM-NJ-0015
Docket / Court 2:20-cv-03704 ( D.N.J. )
State/Territory New Jersey
Case Type(s) Immigration and/or the Border
Special Collection COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)
Attorney Organization Human Rights First
Case Summary
COVID-19 Summary: This habeas petition was filed on April 6, 2020 by a group of immigration detainees with underlying medical conditions housed in the Essex County Correctional Facility or the Elizabeth Detention Center, seeking release in light of COVID-19. On April 17, the Court granted a ... read more >
COVID-19 Summary: This habeas petition was filed on April 6, 2020 by a group of immigration detainees with underlying medical conditions housed in the Essex County Correctional Facility or the Elizabeth Detention Center, seeking release in light of COVID-19. On April 17, the Court granted a temporary restraining order for five of the petitioners and ordered their release. On April 28, the Court severed all petitioners from the case except the first named petitioner.


This habeas petition was filed by ten individuals in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) awaiting the resolution of their removal proceedings against the wardens of Essex County Correctional Facility and Elizabeth Detention Center, ICE, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the Attorney General of the United States. Represented by Human Rights First and several private firm attorneys, the petitioners filed their petition on April 6, 2020 in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey. On the following day, the petitioners also filed an emergency motion for a temporary restraining order, requesting that the Court order their immediate release. The petitioners, each of whom have underlying medical conditions that make them particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, argued that their continued detainment exposes them to the risk of contracting the virus and thus violates the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment by amounting to a punishment without a conviction. The case was assigned to Judge Brian R. Martinotti.

On April 17, 2020, Judge Martinotti granted the motion for temporary restraining order (TRO) for five of the petitioners and ordered their immediate release from custody for fourteen days. The Court found that these five petitioners had a reasonable probability of eventual success in the litigation. In light of the petitioners' medical conditions, the Court found that the close quarters of petitioners' living conditions, combined with lack of sanitation supplies and cleaning, amounted to a reasonable probability of success on the Fifth Amendment due process claim. The Court also found that these five petitioners were more likely than not to suffer irreparable harm absent immediate release due to the dangerousness and contagiousness of COVID-19 along with the petitioners' underlying medical conditions. While Judge Martinotti found that ICE has a legitimate interest in ensuring that petitioners do not flee and that the public is protected, the Court noted that the public also has a strong interest in preventing the spread of COVID-19 and that risks to the public can be curtailed by fashioning conditions of release. In weighing these factors, in addition to the extraordinary circumstances posed by the pandemic, the Court exercised its discretion to grant the TRO for these five petitioners. The Court ordered that each released petitioner submit to electronic bracelet and telephone monitoring. As for the remaining five petitioners, two had been released prior to the Court's order on the motion for a temporary restraining order, so the motion was denied as moot as to these petitioners. For the remaining three petitioners, the Court requested additional briefing because these petitioners were presumptively COVID-19 positive. 2020 WL 2121118

Also on April 17, 2020, the District's Chief Judge, Freda Wolfson, entered a general "standing order"--noting that dozens of habeas petitions like this one had been filed, seeking release from immigration detention because of the COVID pandemic. The Standing Order directed that going forward, all petitions would be required to be individual, and that judges already sitting over group petitions, like this one, could use their discretion to sever the cases into multiple individual matters.

On April 28, 2020, Judge Martinotti cited that standing order and exercise his discretion to separate this case into several individual cases; this case was left with just the first-named petitioner as its only petitioner. He directed the clerk to file all documents in the originally opened case into those separate individual actions, so the TRO remained operative for those other cases as well. Oddly, we have been unable to locate any of these cases, using the filing date or names. (Perhaps the individuals didn't pay the filing fees?)

In any event, this case continued, with just the one petitioner. On May 1, the Court extended the April 17 TRO until May 15, 2020. The Court continued to grant extensions of the TRO. The petitioner moved to convert the TRO to a preliminary injunction on August 14. Briefing continued over the next months. On May 20, 2021, the Court deemed its previous TRO to be a preliminary injunction, due to a Third Circuit opinion which held that two orders directing the release of immigration detainees from detention in light of the risks of COVID-19 were appealable preliminary injunctions rather than TROs, regardless of the district court's characterization. See 956 F.3d 156. The Court directed the parties to confer and notify the Court within 30 days as to whether they agree to extend the preliminary injunction.

On August 13, 2021, the petitioner moved to extend the preliminary injunction. The Court has yet to rule on this motion. The case is ongoing.

Nicholas Gillan - 10/02/2021


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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 granted
COVID-19
Release Granted
Release granted-group
Release Requested
Crowding
Crowding / caseload
Defendant-type
Corrections
General
Conditions of confinement
Habeas Corpus
Sanitation / living conditions
Totality of conditions
Immigration/Border
Constitutional rights
Detention - conditions
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Special Case Type
Habeas
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action Habeas Corpus, 28 U.S.C. ยงยง 2241-2253; 2254; 2255
Defendant(s) Elizabeth Detention Center
Essex County Correctional Facility
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
U.S. Department of Justice
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Plaintiff Description Ten medically vulnerable individuals in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Human Rights First
Class action status sought No
Class action status outcome Not sought
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Mixed
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order
Habeas relief
Source of Relief Litigation
Order Duration 2020 - n/a
Filed 04/06/2021
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)
Court Docket(s)
D.N.J.
09/17/2021
2:20-cv-03704-BRM
IM-NJ-0015-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
D.N.J.
04/17/2020
Opinion [ECF# 22] (2020 WL 2121118)
IM-NJ-0015-0001.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D.N.J.
04/17/2020
Order [ECF# 23]
IM-NJ-0015-0002.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D.N.J.
04/28/2020
Order [ECF# 27]
IM-NJ-0015-0003.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D.N.J.
05/20/2021
Memorandum & Order [ECF# 59]
IM-NJ-0015-0004.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Martinotti, Brian R. (D.N.J.) show/hide docs
IM-NJ-0015-0001 | IM-NJ-0015-0002 | IM-NJ-0015-0003 | IM-NJ-0015-0004 | IM-NJ-0015-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Hughes, Anwen (New York) show/hide docs
IM-NJ-0015-9000
Johnson, Ingrid Dahlman (New York) show/hide docs
IM-NJ-0015-9000
Smith, Tracey Salmon (New Jersey) show/hide docs
IM-NJ-0015-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Dauenheimer, David E. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-NJ-0015-9000
Hajdarpasic, Enes (New Jersey) show/hide docs
IM-NJ-0015-9000
Jolley, Lance Lomond (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-NJ-0015-9000
Ruymann, John Andrew (New Jersey) show/hide docs
IM-NJ-0015-9000

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