Historic Settlement Reached in Class Action Suit Challenging the Shackling of Immigrants in Court

On January 23, 2014, a historic settlement was reached in a class action lawsuit between immigration authorities and immigrants who are held in custody during their civil immigration proceedings in San Francisco. The settlement ends the federal government's practice of forcing detained immigrants to go through their civil immigration hearings in handcuffs, leg irons, and chains. Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, and the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area filed the case in 2011 against the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Executive Office for Immigration Review on behalf of adult immigration detainees who, prior to the litigation, had been unnecessarily and painfully shackled at the waist, wrists, and ankles in every hearing before the immigration court, regardless of individual circumstances.

Under the settlement agreement, individuals appearing for bond or merits hearings will no longer be shackled absent an emergency situation. Only those appearing for mass hearings, known as "master calendar" hearings, on the court's detained docket will have to wear restraints. Even in these hearings, individuals will be given the opportunity to request that their restraints be removed or at least reduced if they are suffering from a physical, psychological, or medical condition that would prevent the application of restraints in a safe and humane manner.

The settlement applies to all current and future adult immigration detainees who have or will have proceedings in San Francisco's immigration court, which serves over 2,000 immigration detainees a year. The case is also a model for litigation and policy across the United States that sets a new standard for government treatment of individuals held in custody pending their immigration cases.

The Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati pro bono team providing representation in the matter includes David Berger, Catherine Moreno, T.J. Martin, Savith Iyengar, Angie Kim, Briza Sanchez, Moira Rueda, and Fred Saulo.

For more information, please see the ACLU's press release. In addition, please click here to access the legal documents in the case.